Commentary

Attending the Belmont Stakes

Updated: June 4, 2008, 6:16 PM ET
By Jeremy Plonk | Special to ESPN SportsTravel


Date of Inception: 1867. The Belmont Stakes was held in the Bronx (at Jerome Park and at Morris Park) until Belmont Park was opened in 1905.

Racetrack: Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y.

Racetrack Location: 15 minutes northeast of JFK airport on Long Island

Address: 2150 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont, NY 11003

Official Web Site: http://www.nyra.com/Belmont/

Race Dates:
2008: June 7
2009: June 6

Racetrack Info: Belmont Park is the largest track in the United States. It has three racing ovals — one, grand 1-mile main track and two generous turf courses.

A symbol of the track is the tree located in the center of the paddock. The Belmont logo represents that tree.

Tickets: Reserved seats are taken by application only, which must be submitted by the end of March. (For future reference, consult the Belmont Web site.)

Unlimited general admission is available for $10 in the grandstand and $20 in the clubhouse, which provides access to the spacious paddock gardens areas as well as the underbelly of the huge grandstand, where food, wagering and other amenities are available.

Fan Experience: Easily the most cavernous and fan comfortable of the Triple Crown host sites, Belmont's spaciousness provides relative comfort, even in the presence of more than 80,000 fans. When the Triple Crown is on the line, excitement and headcount rises dramatically, spawned by the chance to see history in the making.

Expansive paddock area provides much green, parklike area, with tables for those quick enough to claim.

Belmont is the only Triple Crown race without an infield hosting a mosh pit. It is, however, the only Triple Crown race where general-admission fans can pile onto the track apron and actually be lucky enough to see the race.

Fashion: Varied, from the shirt and shoes minimum requirements of the grandstand to suits/sports jackets and dresses required in the boxed seats and Garden Terrace restaurant.

Belmont is generally the most casual of the Triple Crown races, but once again, use the thumbnail of: dress up if you have a seat, dress casual if you're milling about for the day.

Drink: The Belmont Breeze has been the "traditional" drink of the Belmont Stakes since it was created in 1998. This drink contains Seagram's 7, Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry, lemon juice, orange juice, cranberry juice, 7-Up and a simple syrup of sugar and water.

Traditions: "New York, New York" welcomes the horses on the track for the post parade, a racing tradition which incidentally was invented with 1871 Belmont Stakes. Belmont often brings out multiple celebrities, including past presidents and stars of the large and small screen.

The Belmont Stakes winner receives a blanket of white carnations, consisting of 300 to 400 carnations glued onto a green velveteen spread.

Other Events: The nearby towns of Garden City and Floral Park host versions of the Belmont Stakes Festival, with Friday night parades and entertainment that includes live bands, floats, antique cars, the Budweiser Clydesdales and more.

Parking/Hotels: There is ample parking available on site for $10 general and $25 preferred. The Long Island Railroad also has a stop directly at the admission gates for Belmont Park. Click here for detailed directions by car, bus, subway, or railroad.

As for hotels, the JFK airport hotels are a practical option, but for less commotion, luxury hotels like the Garden City Hotel are popular, as well as those in surrounding, smaller Long Island communities like Uniondale and Rockville Centre.

Nightlife Area: Belmont Park is located 15 miles from Manhattan, and most race visitors make their way to the city's plethora of social venues.

The big post-Belmont Stakes party takes place at Trinity Restaurant & Bar (190 Jericho Turnpike, Floral Park). Those not wanting to head into the city also may venture east of Belmont Park to Mirage (737 Merrick Ave., Westbury), voted Long Island's top danceclub.

Other Attractions: Short drives to Shea Stadium, USTA National Tennis Center and Coney Island, as well as easy public transportation access to all of Manhattan.

Restaurant: Italian rules the roost nearby Belmont, led by Villa d'Este (186 Jericho Turnpike, Floral Park) and Arturo's (246-04 Jericho Turnpike, Bellerose). B.K Sweeney's Pub (55 New Hyde Park Road, Garden City) is well-known for food and nightlife. Those Manhattan-bound should check out Mesa Grill (102 Fifth Ave.), owned by celebrity chef and horse racing fan Bobby Flay.

Cheap eats: Umberto Pizzeria and Restaurant (633 Jericho Turnpike, New Hyde Park).

Jeremy Plonk is the editor of Horseplayer Magazine and contributes regularly to ESPN.com

This is an updated reprise of a previously published article.

In addition to being a longtime contributing writer to ESPN.com's Horse Racing section, Jeremy Plonk is the editor of The HorsePlayer Magazine.

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