Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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.

>>fast facts

Belmont Stakes

What: 146th running of the third of the Triple Crown races

When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Ch. 8

Post: 6:52 p.m.

Where: Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y.

Distance: 11/2 miles

Draw: 11 a.m. today

Last Triple Crown winner: Affirmed, 1978

Belmont braces for huge crowds 06/03/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 7:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Rays journal: Jake Odorizzi goes on 10-day DL with back strain

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jake Odorizzi is hoping his struggles this season can be tied directly to the lower-back strain he has tried to pitch through since spring training. Toward that end, the Rays placed Odorizzi on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday retroactive to Tuesday.

    Rays center fielder Mallex Smith smiles after hitting a single advancing runners in the third inning. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with key series at Yankees up first (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Thursday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, July 22, 2017.
  5. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    It is going to get interesting tonight when the Rays begin a four-game series against the Yankees in New York. The Rays feel they are good enough to win the East Division. These next four games and the four that follow in Houston will be a good measuring stick.