Horse-racing fans from all over the country will be watching the final leg of the sport’s fabled Triple Crown on Saturday as American Pharoah is led onto the Belmont racetrack to see if he will be the first horse to win the coveted title since Affirmed crossed the finish line in 1978.
American Pharoah’s jockey, Victor Espinoza, has been in this position two other times with War Emblem in 2002 and California Chrome in 2014. This year the 43-year-old, 5’2’’ Mexican will be racing his horse against seven other horses and American Pharoah is the favorite with 2-3 odds.
The 147th running of the Belmont Stakes follows the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, where American Pharoah already beat the competition. Unlike the other two, this race is a mile and half, lasting about two and a half minutes.
If you’re looking to spend the day at the track in Elmont, here is what you need to know before you arrive.
Although the gates open at 8:30 a.m., the first of the day’s 13 races won’t kick off until 11:35 a.m. The Belmont Stakes will be the 11th one out of the gate. The post time for the Stakes is set at 6:50 p.m.
General Admission tickets start at just $15. You must buy them beforehand because none will be sold on race day. To purchase them, either visit ticketmaster.com or call 1-800-745-3000. This year Belmont Park will only admit 90,000 people instead of allowing more than 100,000 like last year.
After the 2014 Belmont Stakes ended, some fans took two hours to leave the facility. Officials want to speed it up this year.
“After last year, we promised to make things better,” said Patrick Nowakowski, president of the Long Island Rail Road.
The LIRR and the New York Racing Association have spent $5 million combined to make it easier to leave Belmont Park. The improvements include making the trains 10-cars long, raising train level platforms, installing new staircases and adding more lighting. The new trains will carry 25 percent more customers than past years.
Despite these changes, Nowakowski said it will still be impossible to transport everyone from Belmont at the same time. He warned that the wait may still be over two hours.
“We are working hard to do better,” he vowed.
The MTA and Belmont Park will be enforcing a “no alcohol” policy. Bags and coolers may be searched before people enter trains at Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal or Jamaica Station. According to the MTA’s press release, the NYRA has issued other restrictions at the track including: no coolers, backpacks, umbrellas, folding chairs, cameras with detachable lenses, camcorders, selfie sticks and drones.
During the day the NYRA will host live entertainment. The USMA West Point Cadets will sing the National Anthem. They will also hold a special tribute to thank the men and women of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
At track side, the cast of the Tony award-winning Broadway musical “Jersey Boys” will perform songs from the show, featuring hits made famous by Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons such as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Oh, What A Night.”
The NYRA will also host a short pre-race set and a longer post-race concert featuring the Goo Goo Dolls, led by New York’s own Johnny Rzeznick and Robby Takac, whos sold millions of albums in the 1990s.
For the first time ever Belmont Park will feature two Food Truck Villages, which will be held in the Backyard and near the Top of the Stretch, with more than 15 of the most popular food trucks in New York City. Included in the list are Andy’s Italian Ices, Trusty Truck Corp, Hibachi Heaven, Crepes Truck and Mike n’ Willies so there will be a wide variety of food on hand.
To avoid the congestion after the Belmont Stakes, fans are urged to stay at the park and enjoy the remainder of the racing card as well as the Goo Goo Dolls’ concert.
And celebrate what could be an historic day if American Pharoah wins the Triple Crown.