Saturday, June 23, 2018
Sports

Belmont braces for huge crowds

With more than 100,000 fans expected to watch California Chrome attempt to win the Triple Crown on Saturday, the Belmont Stakes will provide its annual economic jolt to Belmont Park, which often enough has a relative handful of fans rattling around the huge premises.

But not this Saturday. The industrial-size grandstand will be packed. The lines to wager and eat are likely to be long. And it will be a lot better day for everyone if it doesn't rain.

The park itself is dressing up, with a temporary area on the first floor being converted into the $300-a-head Champagne Room, where former Yankee Bernie Williams will play classical guitar.

Thousands will jostle in the backyard paddock to get glimpses of the horses, especially the Belmont Stakes field. Normally, the paddock is a nicely landscaped, sort-of-bucolic setting where fans in ones and twos can eyeball the entries for each race before the horses head to the track. It's quiet, almost contemplative. The trainers and owners interact with the jockeys. Bettors study the odds. Everyone has elbow room. But not this Saturday.

More than anything, though, the day will be a test of preparedness for the New York Racing Association, which was seized by the state two years ago after the deaths of horses at its tracks and assorted management missteps.

In four of the last five Belmont Stakes, when no horse was seeking the Triple Crown, attendance averaged 50,361. By Belmont Park standards, that in itself is a huge crowd, unmatched by the turnout any other day of the year. But when there is a Triple Crown at stake, that figure gets a whole lot bigger.

In 2008, 94,476 fans braved sweltering weather to watch Big Brown lose his chance to be a Triple Crown winner; four years earlier, Smarty Jones' attempt brought in 120,139.

Christopher Kay, NYRA's president and chief executive since last June, vows that the track will be ready for this onslaught, though no one will really know for sure until early Saturday evening. NYRA will add as many as 1,000 security, concessions and parimutuel workers to cope with additional spectator and bettor demands, and Kay said preparations for Saturday had begun in January.

If nothing else, Saturday will be a compelling day of racing for people who still follow the sport closely, instead of just perking up when a Triple Crown is on the line.

There will be five Grade I stakes races in addition to the Belmont Stakes. The $8 million in purses makes it a very rich day of racing.

Comments
Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

The Lightning is on the board in the 2018 NHL draft, using their first pick — 59th overall in the second round — on Gabriel Fortier, an undersize left wing from Quebec."I spoke with them a couple of times, so I knew there was an interest,...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, looking for two straight

For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, looking for two straight

After hanging on for a 2-1 last night over the MLB-best Yankees, the Rays are looking to make it two in a row today.And their lineup will have a different look, with INF Joey Wendle making his first career appearance,  majors or minors, in the o...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

The Lightning isn't scheduled to pick until the second round, but there's no telling how active they might be with trades, so you'll want to follow our live coverage throughout the NHL draft Friday (Round 1) and Saturday (Rounds 2-7) in Dallas.(funct...
Published: 06/23/18
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

1. SS Willy Adames had a nice night, and there appear to be many more in his future. He had two hits, an RBI and an inning-ending leaping catch on a line drive by Didi Gregorius in the fifth.2. DH C.J. Cron needs to shake things up. Take a different ...
Published: 06/22/18
Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

By Allana BarefieldTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — Latin pop star Marc Anthony visited Tropicana Field on Friday to see his beloved Yankees play the Rays.Anthony spent nearly an hour on the field before the game as fans and players surrounde...
Published: 06/22/18
Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays reinstated INF Daniel Robertson from the 10-day disabled list (left hamstring strain). To make room, RHP Austin Pruitt was sent to Triple-A Durham."It's out of my mind. I don't think about (the hamstring) when I'm bend...
Published: 06/22/18
Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Times wiresOMAHA, Neb.  —Defending champion Florida failed to win a third straight elimination game, losing to Arkansas 5-2 Friday night and departing the College World Series.The Gators (49-21) had to win to force a rematch. The Razorback...
Published: 06/22/18
Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG – Many times this season the Rays' strategy of opening the game with a short reliever and using the bullpen to finish hasn't had much success.Friday wasn't one of those nights.A total of six pitchers held the Yankees and their va...
Published: 06/22/18
Rowdies fall to Penn FC

Rowdies fall to Penn FC

By Darek SharpTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — For the second time this season, Penn FC got two goals from a former Rowdie that led the way to a win over Tampa Bay.Lucky Mkosana doubled his season total Friday in a comeback 2-1 win before an...
Published: 06/22/18