Since my Kentucky Derby Party was foiled due to a stomach bug, and I was out of town for the Preakness, I decided to have a Belmont Stakes party instead. When Zeke and I tied the knot 17 years ago at Ocean Reef, it happened to fall on the same day as the Belmont Stakes. It was a big deal that year because the horse Smarty Jones had won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and if he won the Belmont Stakes he would be a winner of the Triple Crown, something that doesn’t happen very often.
After the ceremony at the Point on the water, all the wedding guests piled into the Men’s Locker Room at the Ocean Reef Golf Club and went to watch the race and root for Smarty Jones. Smarty Jones, alas, didn’t win the Preakness, foiling his attempt at the Triple Crown. My friend Susie Culmo said:
Don’t take this as a bad sign for your wedding.Susie.
I agreed not to and Zeke and I are still married 17 years later; this was why I decided to have a Belmont Stakes/Anniversary Party. I invited the original wedding guests to the party. It ended up being a very small party, due to: people being out-of-town, sick, injured and otherwise engaged. Emma, my flower girl, actually had a wedding to attend that day.
There were eight guests and eight horses running in the Belmont Stakes, so it turned out perfectly. Kelley brought the horses she had Cricketed for the Kentucky Derby Party and we let the guests pick their horse, with a $10 bet. My mother, whose father was a Race Horse Trainer, had taken notes and picked her horse- Known Agenda– first. Kelley had wanted that horse, but got her second choice, Essential Quality, which turned out to be a lucky break. I, being the gracious hostess that I am, got some unheard of horse (France Go de Ina) with horrible odds.
I painted the dates of the Belmont Stakes (2004/2021) on the mirror in the entry way in green paint and drug out my photo albums from our wedding and honeymoon for guests to take a trip down Memory Lane along with us on our anniversary. The colors of the Belmont Stakes are green, gold and white, so I went with that theme, with white tablecloths with gold runners.
I found the ring pillow carried by Rachel as Ring Bearer, some straw fans we’d passed out on that hot June day, our wedding invitation and the menu from our wedding, and set these out on display, as well. I also printed out a “Here’s to the Ones that We Lost” list of people at our wedding who had passed away, with photos of them. Zeke thought it was morbid, but Bob, my Mom’s boyfriend said:
It’s a club we’re all going to have to join eventually.Bob
While I’d gotten beautiful long-stemmed red roses for my Kentucky Derby party at Berkley’s, the Belmont’s flower is the white carnation; the equine winner of the race is covered in a blanket of white carnations. White carnations are the type of flower that you seem to find everywhere, until you’re trying to find them for your Belmont Stakes Party and then they are scarce as hen’s teeth. I ended up finding a small bunch at Trader Joe’s, another at Publix and then just got some other white flowers to fill in the gaps.
The flowers at our wedding were tropical, with each table having a different arrangement, so I made a couple tropical arrangements, with Birds of Paradise from our yard and Hydrangeas. Our wedding cake had two little Hawaiian People atop it and was decorated with real orchids, so I put out my cake-topper hula girl, with a photo from our honeymoon in Maui at the Grand Wailea.
While all the food I’d prepared for my Kentucky Derby Party was Southern-themed, the Belmont Stakes takes place in New York, so I pivoted to New York treats. I made homemade Hot Pretzels from a pretzel Kit I’d bought (Farm Steady) and served it with three different types of mustards. Guests snacked on it before the race, as well as a Hot Crab Dip with Pita Bread I’d planned for my original party.
Instead of Mint Juleps, I served Belmont Jewels, the official drink of the Belmont Stakes. It’s made with lemonade, pomegranate Juice and bourbon. It tasted pretty good, but I think I’m just not a big Bourbon fan. We sat down to watch the pre-race at 6 p.m., learning about the backgrounds of the horses, trainers and owners participating in the Belmont Stakes. My Mom also offered insight into the horse racing world she was once a part of, like where the silk colors and designs come from, before the race started at 7.
Instead of “My Old Kentucky Home”, we heard the classic Frank Sinatra song “New York, New York” and then, Riders Up! and the race was on. It was an exciting race and we were all rooting for our respective horses. My horse, a long shot, was actually a contender for a red hot second in the race. The Belmont differs from the first two races in the Triple Crown, as it is longer (1 1/2 miles) so is a real test of endurance for the horses; apparently that quarter mile really makes a difference. Although it was neck-in-neck at the finish line, Essential Quality pulled off the win and the blanket of white carnations. Kelley collected her $80 and then…
It was time to eat! I made it easy on myself with Hebrew National Hot Dogs, with traditional toppings, plus New York Hot Dog cart-style onions, my Mom’s Baked Beans (Elise brought), Shorty’s Coleslaw and Potato Chips. Dessert was a Trader Joe’s New York Cheesecake, served with fresh strawberries and homemade Strawberry Sorbet. I had ordered horse-shoe shaped cookies from Tia Luly’s as party favors, with our initials (G & Z) intertwined at the bottom. Emma arrived home from her wedding just in time for dessert.
I feel confident in saying a good time was had by all. I did miss the friends and family who weren’t able to make it, but really enjoyed the intimate, low-key party with my family to celebrate our 17 years of marriage. I think it takes many Essential Qualities- patience, forgiveness, compromise- to have a successful marriage, so it was the perfect horse to win that day. I also think there’s another essential quality to picking the right partner, like picking the winning horse, which is more elusive- it takes a bit of Luck!
Never found a four leaf clover to bring good luck to me. No rabbit’s foot, no lucky star, no magic wishing tree. But I got lucky, yes I got lucky when I found you.Elvis Presley
Up Next: Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip