#HORSERACING: MR. WILL AT BELMONT PARK!
To say that the Belmont Park experience is anything short of breathtaking is an understatement. It has long been a dream of mine to witness the World-famous Home of the Belmont Stakes, the third jewel in America’s celebrated, yet illusive Triple Crown. While we await whether or not this year’s phenomenal Kentucky Derby Winner California Chrome, will go on the achieve the greatness of the likes of Affirmed, Seattle Slew and Secretariat, only the gorgeous mile-and-a-half Oval knows what fate holds for that West Coast Star.
I had the honour of visiting the 109-year-old Elmont, New York Track on my recent New York visit. A 200 year-old White Pine Tree is the Centerpiece of the Paddock, where a Longines (a major Sponsor and Partner of the Racetrack) Clock greets Visitors. Lush greenery is a pronounced theme, visible even in the Track’s Logo. The cuppy Dirt course parked up against the Track’s Grandstand made me feel as though I was in the thick of the Race. I mean, after all this is the place where Racing History has been made – where Secretariat in 1973 won the Belmont Stakes by an unheard-of 31 lengths, that moment commemorated at the Track with a Pole marking his distance of victory on the Infield in the famous blue and white colours of The Chenerys. Some sadder memories also are honoured too and it was something special to see in-person the beautifully-maintained Shrine located on the Infield in memory of legendary Filly Ruffian, buried at the same Race Course which made her a National Heroine. Her tragic life-ending injury in 1975 forever is remembered as one of the darkest moments in the Sport.
The Track manages to draw a Crowd of 10k-plus on weekends, proving that the spirit of Thoroughbred Racing is v. much alive and well among New Yorkers. The fact that an easily-accessible Train Station is situated at the Track makes it convenient to commute to, only a quick ride away from Penn Station and the heart of Manhattan.
Dining options are plentiful at Belmont‘s Food Court with ever many convenient choices from Paninis to Burgers. Judging by traffic alone, the most popular dining option is the Belmont Café, where quick and easy sandwiches are a hit not only with Racing Fans, but Staff too. I had the privilege of dining at the ultra-exclusive Belmont Room, it being famous for its phenomenal Prime Rib and Entrées – a Hotspot for Horsepeople. I fell in love instantly with their New York-Style Cheesecake and Chocolate-Banana Cake, all reminiscent of an Era when Carbs and Fat weren’t counted. Delectable. I will say though as a Sidebar, that Woodbine Racetrack‘s Favourites Dining Room still holds its own when compared to other A-List Tracks across North America like Santa Anita and Belmont.
The talents of World-Class Jockeys including Rising Stars like Taylor B. Rice, Jose Ortiz and Irad Ortiz to Veterans like John Velazquez all are on display at Belmont – Racing Fans new and old passionately cheering them on in the Paddock as they head on-track, placing them right in the moment. Seen in the Paddock Area also is The New York Racing Association‘s bubbly resident Expert Maggie Wolfendale, who more often than not can accurately predict a Horse’s performance based on his or her pre-race appearance. Follow her here.
Belmont Park is a Must-See for any Racing Fan planning to visit New York. Its Season pauses in July before heading three hours away to historic Saratoga, before commencing once again in the Fall. The 146th edition of the Belmont Stakes will be run on Saturday, June 7, 2014.
To learn more about Belmont Park, click here.
(Photo/video credit: Mr. Will Wong)