A small crowd of racehorse owners and their families gather in the paddock below the stands.
Bottle blondes, here for the first time this season, wearing seven-inch platform heels and stretchy pastel dresses, shiver next to their balding husbands in the unseasonable April chill.
As a teenager, Gaston resented having to leave Jamaica for New York.
But, after growing up accompanying his uncle to the local racetrack in Kingston each weekend, Aqueduct in Queens offered something familiar.
The father and son soon shared a love for betting on racehorses – a national pastime in Jamaica.
“When that bugle blow, everybody there,” says Grant of the horseracing scene in Jamaica. Aqueduct sits adjacent to JFK airport, and the roar of low-flying jets is a constant reminder of Grant’s first dream: being a pilot.
Few notice the seven-year-old whose odds for winning the 0,000 purse, against the four- and five-year-old favorites, are listed at 54-1.
He loaded delivery trucks by day, and spent nights flying small charters carrying dead bodies.Curious weed smoke from a small cluster of Jamaican men, dressed in white suits and Nikes, wafts over the crowd of seersucker and Barbour jackets waiting for the horses to arrive.They have all come to watch the biggest race of the day: the Wood Memorial, a qualifying run for the Kentucky Derby, and the last big race of the season at Aqueduct.This will be Green Gratto’s 53rd career start, about twice as many races as most horses run in a lifetime.He recently lost the Tom Fool Handicap – a less competitive race on this same track – coming in seventh.In 2000, Grant was no longer satisfied just betting on horses and craved the rush he once felt flying. He began working for a local trainer, Peter Chin, walking sweaty horses after a race to cool them off, an entry-level position in the racing world.