My Belmont Experience By: Shannel Cacho The Belmont Stakes, also known as “The Test of the Champions,” the last leg of the Triple Crown, and my last big race trip for now. Friday morning when we got to the track, I walked through the tunnel to the track with my team and saw Belmont’s sign that says “Where Champions Are Made”, and it just kind of hit me where I was. I knew where I was of course, but it hit me that not only was I at Belmont Park for the Belmont Stakes, but that I did the Triple Crown all in one year. From 2014-2016 my Dad and I did our Triple Crown, however for me now to be fortunate enough to be able to make it to all three races in one year. The thing that I think really got me is the fact that I attended those races not just as a spectator but as a member of the media, and that made something resonate within me. That feeling made me even more excited for the two days of racing that I was attending. My Belmont experience started out a little bit differently than it did for the previous two legs of the Triple Crown, because there is no walkover for the Belmont. Approximately fifteen minutes before the horses made their way to the paddock, our ground crew made our way to the paddock. I immediately sought out a clear spot at the front of the paddock that would allow me to get clear photos of the horses while they were in the paddock. Once the horses started arriving in paddock I did my best to get a couple photos of each of them. War of Will was my biggest challenge, because Mark Casse had him circling in the little opening on the far left side of the paddock. Once riders up was called and the jockeys started getting up on their mounts, I did my best to get clear photos of the horses with their jockeys although that can be a bit challenging. The tough thing about getting photos of the horses with their jockeys, is that as soon as “riders up” is called, the media swoops in and starts getting coverage of the horses. As soon as all of the horses passed by me, I joined in behind the crowd and started walking through the tunnel. From there, I had a bit of trouble getting into the winner’s circle. Of course they had a lot more security for this race lined up on the path to the winner’s circle, but two different cops saw my winner’s circle credential and they wouldn’t let me in. They told me to go up top, where most of the horse’s connections view the race from. Admittedly, I did argue a little with them by telling them that I was with NBC and had my reporters down there, but they still wouldn’t let me through, so I frustratedly walked up top. My view from up top was absolutely horrid because I had no clear view of the track, and with me taking pictures that was absolutely unacceptable. With a few minutes before post, I decided to try and get down into the winner’s circle because I saw several people with the exact same credentials as me down there. As I looked around, I saw some cops near the trophy presentation area, so I decided to try and get into the winner’s circle from there. I went up to the gate, showed my credential, and had no problem whatsoever getting down into the winner’s circle. As I walked down into the winner’s circle and found a nice spot along the wall I spotted the rest of my ground crew coming toward me. Next thing I know, the horses are getting loaded into the gate, and as the bell goes off, the gate opens and the horses race by in front of me as they make their way past the grandstands for the first time. I was watching through the lens of my camera as usual until the horses were out of sight, then I quickly turned my attention to the big screen to watch the race. As I watched the race, I could feel myself getting more and more anxious as the race unfolded. Joevia kept catching my attention, because he was up front and was maintaining his position for longer than I expected. Tacitus along with a couple other horses were not getting the trip that I expected, but I knew that that is just a part of the game. As the horses made their way into the stretch, I kept trying to get a view of them on the track. However due to the way the track is set-up that was very hard to do. My eyes were glued to the TV as I tried to line up my camera and get my timing right to capture photos of the horses as they crossed the wire. I did manage to get a couple of decent photos as the horses crossed the finish line with Sir Winston leading the pack. The Belmont Stakes played out differently than I had expected, but it was still an incredible race. Joel Rosario had a great trip on Sir Winston, and I was very happy for him and Mark Casse for their win. After all the horses crossed the wire, we all jumped into action getting photos and interviews. I was on the track as they started to lead Sir Winston into the winner’s circle. After they lead Sir Winston out of the winner’s circle, we took a picture of all of us in our ground crew and then we made out way back up to our booth to wrap up our night and coverage of the Triple Crown.