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Belmont Stakes 101

Attending in person

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Belmont Backyard

The back yard behind the grandstand at Belmont.

Cindy Pierson Dulay
The best place to watch the Belmont is at home on TV, but watching in person is a lot easier there than at the Derby or Preakness. Belmont Park is huge. It was built for a time with crowds were much larger than they are these days so there is lots of room and more reserved seats than either Churchill Downs or Pimlico. The apron is very wide with lots of benches for free seating, so even general admission people can get right up to the rail if they arrive early to stake out a spot. There is also a huge back yard with picnic tables where many families come to spend the day. In years past, NYRA used to leave ticket prices the same as regular days. In 2004 they started raising prices but they are still cheaper than the other two Triple Crown races. General admission to the grandstand and clubhouse is the same price as any other day and reserved seats are only $20-$100 for grandstand and $45-$110 for clubhouse. If you order by the deadline, you will be entered in a lottery for tickets in the location you desire, but usually there are plenty left over unless there is a Triple Crown possibility. The only restriction to movement is the clubhouse which requires an upgrade, but the paddock, building, and apron are accessible to all patrons for just general admission price. If you wait to see if there is a Triple Crown possibility, expect to have a harder time getting tickets. In that case you will probably have to go to a ticket broker and pay at least $200 for even the worst seats.

Parking is not a problem at the Belmont. There is ample on track parking, even for a crowd of over 100,000, and prices are $10-$15 for the regular lots and $15 more for preferred parking. Traffic can be a nightmare in and out of the track, but there are always lots of cops directing to keep it flowing as well as possible. You can also take the train to the track if you want to avoid driving and parking hassles. There is a LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) station right in the track at the far end of the grandstand.

Because you are in New York City, expect high hotel prices. There is only one hotel close to the track and it is always totally reserved for the horsemen, so the closest places are a good 15-20 minute drive away. Because it is a large city, there are always rooms to be had but location and price may not be ideal. Many people decide to stay in downtown Manhattan hotels and take the train in to the track. If you prefer to drive, selecting a hotel on Long Island, perhaps near one of the airports, will be your best bet. Prices per night will likely run from $100 to $150 or more.

If you want to attend one of the Triple Crown races in person, the Belmont is your best choice for both price of admission and opportunities to actually see the horses. While you will still get the best view on your television at home, you won’t be totally shut out from seeing anything like at the Derby. You will have to deal with long line-ups to bet, surly New York tellers, or the crowds that clog the track, but Belmont is a huge facility so it isn’t too horrible, other than the women’s restroom line-ups. Good luck with your wagers and enjoy the race and your chance to possibly see the next Triple Crown winner take his or her place in history.

Part 1 - History
Part 2 - Handicapping
Part 3 - Attending

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