06/04/2010 9:26AM

Word...and Music


For way too long, the field for the Belmont Stakes has sallied forth to a song originally written for a dark, depressing and overwrought Martin Scorcese version of a big budget musical. "New York, New York," written by John Kander and Fred Ebb, was covered by Frank Sinatra in 1980 and soon after appropriated by just about every New York event that required some kind of public display of affection for the Big Apple. Call it a loyalty oath in 4/4 time.

I never quibbled, because I never had a right, coming to town only once in awhile from California. It was enough just to be at Belmont Park, where more East Coast racing history has been made than all the Pimlicos, Gulfstreams and Churchill Downses put together. Anyway, back home, Randy Newman was doing "I Love L.A," over and over and over and over. So we had that going for us.

When "New York, New York" came around for the Belmont Stakes it was replacing "Sidewalks of New York." This meant fans could no longer share lines like "...trip the light fantastic," but were now required to pledge "...if I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere," whether they believed it or not.

But this is not your daddy's Belmont anymore. On Saturday, "New York, New York" hits the bonepile. Meet the new tune, "Empire State of Mind," words and music by Brooklyn's Shawn Corey Carter, better known as Jay-Z. How this will play as the field hits the track is anybody's guess, but at least Ice Box, Fly Down and First Dude are bringing the right names to the game. The chorus alone from the Alicia Keys version was enough to sell the song as a Belmont anthem. Still, I can't wait until they get to the verse that goes:

Mommy took a bus trip, now she got her bust out/everybody ride her just like a bus route...

Have a great Belmont. Here was one of the best:

Alex Belmont