The greatest day in New York sports is here. And you can quote us on this.
It is the Belmont Stakes, this Saturday, the 147th annual running of the third jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown. And as has been the case recently, a horse comes into the race having captured the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, wins that allow American Pharoah a shot to be the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Since 2008, and the letdown that was Big Brown, there have been two other horses that have come into Belmont with a shot at the Triple Crown, only to lose. It might be the hardest feat in all of sports and it is something special to watch in person.
So if you plan on being at the race on Saturday afternoon, here is Metro's primer on just what to experience.
What to see
The racetrack at Belmont Park isn't as beautiful as say Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. It also isn't as expansive as Pimlico with all the vivid colors of the Preakness. The racetrack is a bit old and dated, with vestiges of its construction in 1905 and recent updates that are distinctly 70s and 80s in flavor - a bit tacky. But despite being short on flavor and eye appeal, you can sense the spirit of Secretariat and War Admiral in this place.
Make sure to check out the paddock, where you can watch the horses be trotted out on display prior to their races. The entire backyard area is fun, with food tents as well as vendors, live music and plenty of terminals for watching the races. But make sure to take a stroll throughout the grandstand where you will have some of the best people watching in the greater New York area. From dandies, to trust fund babies, to people who look like they haven't left the track in 13 years, Belmont Stakes day has it all.
There's also a sense that this isn't a place of frills. It is old and feels distinctly institutional in design. But it is purely about the sport, and there is a true roar that rolls through the place. Goosebump stuff.
How to be seen
Gone are the days when horse racing was "The Sport of Kings." But for one day, it will be that way - so get your Sunday suit on! People will get dressed up for the Stakes with their best suits and hats. While it isn't required, feel free to get into the spirit of things by taking on that part. Women wear outlandish hats and sundresses seem to be in among the younger set. Guys wear their hats as well, and spiffy suits.
In certain parts of the track there will be frowns if you're wearing shorts or jeans, so play it safe and get dressed up. It's half the fun. The other half? Making sure your wallet has enough cash to get you home.
What to Watch
So, the day is obviously more than walking around the track in your best clothes, there are actual races to see. There are a total of six Grade I races on Saturday, including the Belmont Stakes, making it one of the richest days of racing in the world. The first race is at 11:35 a.m., with the big one involving American Pharoah at 6:50 p.m.. All this means that there is a full day of races to watch.
If you're a novice, don't jump in right away. Sit back, watch the first couple of races. Get the feel for how a race unfolds, when the jockeys make their push and what type of horses are running well that day. Soak up the paddock to get an eye on these animals. Don't just jump in with a fistful of cash or else you'll be in for a long day at the track – and nothing is worse than a long day at the track.
Metro's List of Incredible Tips That Will Make Your Day:
So you're going to the Belmont Stakes – great decision! There's a shot at history this Saturday with American Pharoah looking to be the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. It will be a memorable day either way. This isn't our first rodeo – errrr, horse race – but it might be yours. Here's a few insider tips on how best to enjoy the day.
Don't Be Left Out – The racing association is capping attendance at 90,000 after last year proved to be a logistical disaster. Get your tickets now or you might make that trip for nothing. Check the NYRA website for what is left. Even the nosebleeds are a good spot if you can get them.
Hydrate – Temperatures for Saturday aren't expected to be as brutal as last year but it is still a long, hot day with lots of walking, waiting...and more walking. Hit that H20 often.
Comfort – Ladies, we get it, high heels are in and go great with that hat you bought. But don't be blistered for a week. Slip on a pair of flip flops or flats into that oversized handbag of yours for comfort.
Wager – For the big one, Race No. 11, place a single bet on American Pharoah to win, nothing else. If he claims history, then don't claim the payout, which will be minimal anyway. Instead, you've got a neat piece of history. Kinda neat to have a wager from a historic moment in sports, no?
SWAG – Get your free on! The race is crawling with vendors looking to plaster you with their logo, so take advantage! Almost every year, some cable network is giving out a commemorative poster. Snag one for posterity. There are also t-shirts and hats galore.
Sunscreen – Your dermatologist says so.
Mass Transit – Don't pay the parking fee. Instead, make sure that you get there safely and with relative ease. Take the Long Island Railroad, the easiest way to get there.
Souvenir – We gave you the type to make a wager on American Pharoah so you can keep the possible winning ticket as a memento, but also grab a wagering guide from the day for a few bucks – one to use and mark up and one to save. It's an authentic bit of fun for the memory box if there is a Triple Crown.