The bugle was moments from signaling the call to post at one of Belmont’s final races Friday. Army veteran Ernest Trotman, his four grandchildren and daughter watched the horses file through the tunnel and onto the racetrack.
“Here come the horsies!” said Trotman, 57, of northern Virginia, his 11-month-old grandson Jaedai in his arms marveling at the animals and their jockeys.
“My Daddy would bring me,” Trotman explained, speaking on the eve of the Belmont Stakes of a tradition that’s spanned generations.
The family is six of as many as 90,000 fans — the admission cap — who will make a pilgrimage on Saturday to the track, in western Nassau, to watch the stakes’ 148th running.
General admission tickets will be available on race day for $25, which includes a post-race concert by Grammy-nominated Daughtry. Parking gates open at 8 a.m. with admission gates open at 8:30 a.m. The first post race time is 11:35 a.m.
Rene McCormick, 55, of Southlake, Texas, traveled to New York with her husband as an early Father’s Day gift. Wearing a pink dress and “a nice floppy brimmed hat,” she lamented missing last year’s Triple Crown while walking through the clubhouse toward the viewing stands.
“It was historic,” she said of the 2015 race, near the end of a day full of watching races.
McCormick and her husband have attended the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and she says she’s looking forward to returning on Saturday, even if her husband is more interested in the races than she is.
“It’s just a good outing. It’s good people watching. It’s entertaining without being hectic,” she said.
For those who don’t bring their own hats as McCormick did, Blake Seidel of Christine A. Moore Millinery is selling a range of headwear — fedoras, one for $135, and classic derby hats, including one at $940 for a hat of hand-blocked flat straw, dyed pink, blocked and wired around the edges, of silk and satin, with pheasant feathers.
“They’re all handmade here in New York City,” he said.
There won’t be a Triple Crown winner in 2016 — last year’s race ended a 37-year drought when American Pharoah crossed the finish line. Ernest Trotman witnessed the historic race without his daughter Makeda Trotman, who was pregnant with Jaedai. But Makeda says she’s optimistic for another Triple Crown soon.
Smiling at her newest child, she said, “He might be good luck, so we’ll catch another one very soon, I’m sure.”