Belmont Stakes History? California Chrome Spreads Triple Crown Fever in Nassau

California Chrome Triple Crown
California Chrome will be racing for the Triple Crown on Saturday June 7 at the Belmont Stakes in Elmont. (Photo credit: Kevin Kane)

If California Chrome becomes the 12th horse to win the coveted Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes Saturday, his breeding value could reportedly reach an estimated $20 million—about the same amount Nassau County hopes to bring in from feverish racing fans gearing up for a potentially historic event—or, rather, a delirious party.

With a driving rain spoiling a planned Triple Crown kickoff event on the grounds of the historic Garden City Hotel Thursday, organizers instead moved the gathering inside, with local officials standing under a grand chandelier as they battled a brief bout of Triple Crown fever, nearly salivating over the potential boon to the local economy.

“This is really a great, spectacular sporting event where the world’s eyes are on Nassau County,” County Executive Ed Mangano told reporters and other onlookers, including a group of women donning extravagant hats ornamented with colorful fascinators.

Mangano said economists typically predict a $10 million windfall for Nassau annually. But with Belmont being the possible sight of California Chrome’s Triple Crown coronation—a feat not accomplished since 1978—officials are hoping visitors will open up their wallets to the tune of $20 million.

Officials expect a capacity crowd on Saturday. Mangano noted that as many as 120,000 spectators could attend the race, which could rival Belmont’s attendance record of 120,139 in 2004—a dramatic contest that saw Triple Crown contender Smarty Jones finish second by a length.

This will be the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes. Only 11 horses with Triple Crown aspirations have completed the feat after beating out the competition in the two proceeding races, the Preakness and Kentucky Derby. The last horse to win all three races was Affirmed, in 1978. Affirmed punctuated a remarkable decade in which three Triple Crown winners were crowned, including Seattle Slew (1977) and Secretariat (1973).

During the press conference, Mangano was unable to say definitively how much it will cost the county to host the race. But he did provide a cautious estimate of $500,000 for security measures.

Officials said spectators should expect a large police presence, which will include Nassau County police, New York State police, the New York Police Department and federal agencies. Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said there would be a “significant” undercover police presence all day.

Police also released a list of items that will not be allowed inside the park. Those include: backpacks, coolers, luggage and duffel bags. Spectators interested in carrying in their own food may only do so if it’s in either a see-through plastic container or bag.

Spectators will also be screened upon entering the park, Krumpter said.

As for transportation, officials are encouraging those attending the race to use the Long Island Rail Road, which will drop off gamblers and strictly spectators alike at the grandstand. LIRR President Pat Nowakowski said the railroad will run 18 additional trains to accommodate an estimated 25,000 people expected to travel by rail. Alcohol will not be permitted on the trains, Nowakowski said.

The county will also be celebrating Triple Crown weekend with the Belmont Festival in Garden City on Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. and in Floral Park on Sunday, from 2 to 7 p.m.

As he capped off the press conference, Mangano offered his own analysis regarding the race, noting that a person has a better chance getting struck by lightning than a horse has of successfully completing the Triple Crown.

With forecasters calling for clear skies on Saturday, the odds appear to be in California Chrome’s favor.