“And they’re off!”
That’s not exactly the sound you’d be expecting to hear just 30 minutes east of Manhattan, but that’s exactly where you’ll find the Belmont Stakes. Not only is it the biggest horse race in the state, but it’s also the track where thoroughbreds and jockeys compete for Triple Crown glory every year.
You don’t need a bookie to get into the world horse-racing—hell, you don’t even need to know anything about the sport to enjoy an afternoon at the Belmont Stakes. Here are seven reasons why every New Yorker should take a day trip to the big race in nearby Elmont, NY on June 10.
It’s the oldest of the Triple Crown horse races
You probably know the Kentucky Derby—or at least know it as an excuse to drink mint juleps. Not everyone realizes, though, that the Derby is only one of three Triple Crown events: The other two are the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Any thoroughbred that wins all three wins the Triple Crown, a feat that has only happened 12 times since 1875. Think of it the equine equivalent of a finishing a perfect football season or pitching a no hitter. Since the Belmont is always the final race, this is where Triple Crowns champions are born—hence the racetrack’s nickname of the “championship track.”
It’s a New York state institution
The Belmont Stakes also has roots in New York City: The first running was held in Jerome Park in the Bronx in 1867, though the race moved to its current home in Elmont, NY in 1905. It’s by far the biggest horse race in the state, and still draws crowds of 100,000 or more.
It’s an excuse to show off your Sunday best
The official dress code for the race recommends wearing “elegant attire.” Spectators usually take that to mean sport coats or light summer suits for men, and dresses, skirts and big hats for women. Just make sure to leave your shorts, jeans and t-shirts at home—you might not be allowed in. Some swankier areas of the park like the restaurants and terraces have additional fashion requirements, so be sure to check what area you’re sitting in before you plan your outfit.
Like the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes also hosts a best dressed contest. Sartorially minded racegoers can strut their stuff on the catwalk at the Longines Fashion Contest from 11am to 1pm on race day for the chance to win a swanky timepiece from the watch brand.
You might even win a little money
If you’re feeling lucky, why not try your odds at a little gambling? Bids at the Belmont Stakes start at just $1, so you can wager as little (or as much) as you feel comfortable. Just bet on the winning horse, or make things interesting by predicting the Superfecta: the correct order of the first four horses. Classic Empire, Senior Investment and Lookin at Lee have emerged as early favorites so far.
Catch the live performances trackside after the race
Hoping to slow the stampede of people leaving the stadium, the Stakes organizers have started putting on post-race concerts. Pop artist Andy Grammer headlines this year’s racing festival, and he’ll perform a short set before the race and a longer concert after the winner is crowned. The cast of Broadway’s On Your Feet! will also entertain the crowd on Saturday, and Billy Joel tribute band Big Shot has a set during Friday’s festival.
Sip the race’s signature cocktail
What makes betting on horses even more fun? Day drinking. The Belmont Jewel—a bourbon, lemonade and pomegranate juice cocktail—is the official drink of the Belmont Stakes, and you can bet bartenders at the Garden Terrace will be mixing up plenty of this potent punch on race day.
It’s an easy train ride from NYC
Good news: Belmont Park is surprisingly simple to get to from New York City. You can take the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station to the seasonal Belmont station right next to the race track in half an hour, or cobble together a route on the subway and MTA buses that will take about an hour and a half from Midtown Manhattan. A word to the wise: Wait times for a LIRR train home can be hours long if you exit the park with everyone else, so you might want to consider consider leaving a bit early.
You can still score cheap tickets
Even the week before the race, you can still find good deals on tickets online. General admission grandstand tickets are the cheapest (at the time of publishing, they were going for $24) and seats are first come, first served. You can also get grandstand reserved tickets for guaranteed seating on bleachers. Reserved seating in the Clubhouse section will cost you upwards of $100, but offers a much better view of the track.
There’s also the Garden Terrace, the park’s dining hall where you can reserve a table with sweeping views of the finish line. A ticket includes access to the gourmet buffet and a six-hour open bar of draft beer and wine. As you can imagine, though, it will cost you a pretty penny.
Ready to place your bets yet?