Of all the hazards I would have expected, the Aqueduct Flea Market was not one of them.
You look for potential problems, riding a horse in the city. The kids on their ponies who used to wend their way through traffic on the Upper West Side, traversing the most treacherous block and a half of trail ride you’ve ever encountered on their way to the dubious delights of the jogger-infested Bridle Path, these horses were Bomb-Proof with a capital “B.” Old and wise, these horses had no issues with the whooping sirens and blaring horns on the expletive-laced streets of New York.
Two and three-year-old racehorses, on the other hand, they’re just looking for trouble. And there’s plenty of that on the urban backside.
I know that Tampa Bay Downs borders a driving range. And Calder is alongside an interstate. I’ve ridden at stables beneath the glow of theme park fireworks, and been on a Thoroughbred when the sonic boom of a returning space shuttle sent every horse in central Florida into their own special orbit. Horses fit uneasily into our civilized world, the world that would never have been built without their muscle and will.
All that, and the clatter and banging of metal pipes, the flapping of canvas tenting, at six thirty in the morning, from the back of a racehorse, is really more than I could ever have bargained for.
I’m sure it’s a very nice flea market, and it makes good use of the vast asphalt carpet that sits cracking and steaming during the summer months when Aqueduct’s grandstand is closed. It’s just – and I’m sure the horses echo my thought, as they go lurching and bolting around the far turn – so damned unexpected.