Byline: Aileen Mehle
It was Breeders’ Cup Day at Belmont Park, ta-da, and they were all there. Because — did you know? — there are breeders, plain and fancy, of horses and otherwise, who consider this a day like no other in the racing world? Come on. Who doesn’t know that?
The skies were blue, the clouds were puffy, the trees were orange and gold and 53,000 lovers and owners of horseflesh crowded the track at the conclave of thoroughbreds. And don’t forget the excited fans, some of whom even know one end of a horse from the other, all there to watch the lucky winners of eight stakes races collect $13 million in prize money.
Barry Schwartz, chairman of the New York Racing Association, and his lovely wife, Cheryl, were running the show at the track, meeting and greeting the racing flock (and the Racing Form flock) from all over the world. Barry, as the fashion flock knows so well, is also a co-founder and partner of Calvin Klein. That’s his day job, but his avocation is running New York racing, and that he does.
It was a chic crowd sitting in boxes and visiting the paddock — Emilia and Pepe Fanjul of all that sugar; Donna and Bill Acquavella of all that art; Ande and Dinny Phipps of all those horses and all that family name; Cynthia Phipps (likewise); Cornelia Guest of all that family name (she is moving her horses to London for the winter); Josie and Julian Robertson of all that finance; Barbara and Henryk Kwaitkowski of all those horses and all that Calumet Farm; Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber of all those musicals; Kelley and Bill Farish of the famous horsey clan; Virginia Guest Valentine (the Guests have been part of the horse world since somebody translated the word equus); Paul Wilmot of all that worldwide public relations, and, among the younger set, Alejandro Santo Domingo, heir to a Colombian fortune, Ogden Phipps, Samantha Phipps, Emilia Fanjul Jr., Topper Mortimer, Stephane de Kwaitkowski, Jon Ylvisaker and Nick Acquavella.
Along with the day’s festivities, it should be noted that the National Thoroughbred Association, the Breeders’ Cup and the New York Racing Association have created the New York Heroes Fund to aid the families of victims of the World Trade Center catastrophe. Already over $3 million has been raised. Oh, and Prince Ahmed Salman, the owner of Godolphin Stables, was lucky this year with two wins and two place finishes. He donated all his winnings to the Heroes Fund, a tidy sum of just over $2.6 million.
That was Sen. Hillary Clinton anchoring the center box at the Metropolitan Opera’s premiere of its new production of Verdi’s “Luisa Miller” starring Neil Shicoff and Marina Mescheriakova as the doomed lovers. Hillary, looking not a whit doomed, was wearing a three-quarter-length black evening jacket, pants, a twisted rhinestone necklace and shoes with sensible heels. She may be on a diet because, dining in the restaurant with a table of friends, all in black tie, she showed remarkable restraint, touching nothing on her plate. She was really well received and warmly welcomed during the evening. Nary a boo was to be heard. Some Republican sniggered that Hill might be chasing our music-loving Mayor’s opera support, but, please, let’s try to keep politics out of this, shall we?
Santo Loquasto made his Met debut at the premiere, re-creating everything from the wonderful costumes to the realistic Victorian English village and the somber manor house where the lovers intoned their passions and intrigues. The audience rated it a standing ovation. At the opera’s end, Hillary pronounced it “excellent” as she left with her security detail, four in number, following close behind. Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do.
That was the mayor of Bologna, Giorgio Guazzalocca by name, who arrived in New York enthusiastically bearing gifts, Italian style. Signor Guazzalocca — and roll that around on your tongue — not only brought along the keys to the city with heartfelt praise for his paisano Mayor Giuliani but the Opera Company of Bologna accompanied him as well. All of them, singing like uccelli, were here to present the American premiere of “Memet,” an 18th-century chamber opera by Giovanni Battista Sammartini at the Metropolitan Museum’s Temple of Dendur to the delight of music lovers from all over. The adorable Princess Yasmin Aga Khan was there to hear them. Yazzie, as those who love her insist on calling her, at one time studied to be an opera singer. Who else would tell you these things?
Also on hand were Matilda Cuomo; Licia Albanese, diva of song and story, draped in red; Anna Moffo, another famed diva, clad in royal purple; the actress Rita Gam wearing dazzling earrings and looking as lovely as when she was one of Princess Grace’s bridesmaids; Italian consul general Giorgio Radacati, and oh, Charles Gargano, who is Gov. Pataki’s right-hand man. (I thought we were going to keep politics out of this.)