NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Martin Panza celebrated California Chrome’s charge to Preakness Stakes victory three weeks ago like most fans at the packed Pimlico Race Course — bumping fists, slapping hands and thinking ahead to Saturday and the possibility of the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.
And then Belmont Park’s director of racing operations thought about everything else: the tens of thousands of additional people who show up for the Belmont Stakes whenever a horse has a chance at history; the millions more in expected wagers; and the need for more of everything, from seating, concessions to bathrooms, security and about 1,000 additional workers.
Local officials and business leaders celebrated too, seeing the race and the added interest of a Triple Crown contender as a boon of sold-out hotel rooms, dinners out and free publicity, so long as the writers and broadcasters were aware the track is actually on Long Island, as NBC’s Bob Costas noted Wednesday, and not in New York City.
“We are anticipating up to 120,000 people,” acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan on Thursday. “This is one of the largest events in the metropolitan New York area.”
If California Chrome triumphs, it will happen on Panza’s turf — or rather, his dirt — at a marquee New York-area event that the track’s new management team reimagined earlier this year as a fusion of sports and entertainment worth attending even when the Triple Crown is not on the line.
“I’ll tell you there is nothing more electric than when a horse enters the stretch with a Triple Crown on the line,” veteran track announcer Tom Durkin told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. “It is a deafening sound, the building will shake.”