NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There is still a couple of days before California Chrome hits the track at Belmont for a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years, but the celebration for Saturday’s big race srarted in earnest Thursday.
The official bugler of the Belmont Stakes helped kick off festivities at the Garden City Hotel as New York Racing Association Vice President David O’Rourke hailed the drawing of California Chrome.
“With expectations of as many as 100,000 people attending, we’re looking forward to our greatest day of racing ever in New York,” he said.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said the influx of visitors for the Belmont Stakes has already been a boon to the local economy. Officials said millions of dollars are expected to be poured into area restaurants, hotels and local businesses.
“The world’s eyes are on Nassau County,” he said.
The rich and famous were gathering at hotels near Belmont, with available rooms very hard to come by.
“We have celebrities that I can’t speak of … We have every jockey, every owner; we have every trainer; we have families here, business owners. This is the biggest week of the year for us,” Garden City Hotel general manager Grady Colin said.
It’s a big week for business, and an even bigger week for security.
“Federal partners will be there and we are anticipating up to 120,000 people. This is one of the largest events in the metropolitan New York area,” Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.
Officials said with huge crowds expected, the best way to the track is by train.
“We will be running 18 additional trains specifically to Belmont Park departing Penn Station beginning 9:45 in the morning,” Long Island Rail Road President Patrick Nowakowski said.
Officials reminded the public that no backpacks, coolers, luggage or booze can be brought into Belmont Park. Food and personal items must be in see-through plastic bags.
You may wear hats, and already local milliners are designing Fascinators, Hatinators and more, ranging in price from $100 to $1,000.
“It is a fuller experience to dress the part. So if you don’t come with a hat, you can get one right there at the track. We will be at the 2nd floor clubhouse,” Belmont milliner Christine A. Moore said.
Hats are supposed to bring good luck.
California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn said the horse’s name was pulled out of a cowboy hat, combining his birth place with the term used by horse people for the flashes of white on a horse — his feet and face.
“It is really an honor to be here, with this horse. He is a wonderful gift from the heavens. I honestly believe we are going to win the Triple Crown Saturday,” Coburn said.
Post time for the big race is at 6:52 p.m.
Ahead of the race, the annual Belmont Festival will be held Friday on 7th Street in Garden City from 6 p.m. 10 p.m. The event will include live music, family-friendly activities and much more.
There will also be race festivities on Sunday in Floral Park from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tulip Avenue.
For more information about the race, visit www.belmontstakes.com.
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