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belmont stakes

Why This Is the Year for Your First Belmont Trip

New York City Racing Association officials are "hopeful" that the Belmont Stakes will draw around 60,000 people this year. Some perspective: When Smarty Jones ran for the Triple Crown in 2004, twice as many crammed the racetrack. Tucked into a modest Daily Racing Form story about crowd predictions is this comment from Charles Hayward, president of the NYRA: "I still think there's 3,000 to 5,000 people that are going to come out as a result of the closure of New York City OTB." When you're pinning your attendance hopes on 3,000 former OTB diehards, it's an off year.

What this means, of course, is that tomorrow is the perfect day to go to the track. Belmont is a giant place, and there's plenty to see. Get a close-up of the horses in the paddock. Marvel at the fact that Belmont has bathroom attendants and then tip them a quarter. AccuWeather predicts a high of 72 degrees — perfect for drinking Belmont Breezesoutside all day. Learn how to place bets without someone standing behind you getting annoyed as you fumble through the process: race number, amount of wager, type of bet, horse number. (Mine: Race 11, $2 exacta box on 9 and 4.)

Horse racing is the rare high-low mix that allows people in linen suits to share the same dreams as people who can't afford regular dental care. It's a little dirty but maintains a sheen of pomp. It can be kind of sad, but not before it's exciting. The Belmont Stakes is unlike anything else New York City has to offer. And like all good New Yorkers, we know to go when the crowds thin.

NYRA Hopeful Crowd Will Exceed 60,000 [Daily Racing Form]

Photo: Michael Heiman/Getty Images