Omar Martinez, left, and O'Neal Williams wash a horse in...

Omar Martinez, left, and O'Neal Williams wash a horse in the backstretch of Belmont Park in Elmont. (May 1, 2010) Credit: Yana Paskova

It's 11 a.m., and, as on the other six days of the week, it's time for Leah Gyarmati to wheel out the feed.

As she walks through her barn at the Belmont Park racetrack with a medley of oats, barley, corn and molasses, she's greeted by neighs, snorts and whinnies.

"You're not hungry, are you?" Gyarmati jokes as she passes the loudest of the bunch.

"Don't worry. Here you go," she says to Alarmist, one of the 20 horses she trains on a daily basis, as she places the feed in his stall.

While the horses eat, Gyarmati retires to her office - a square space in the middle of the barn that's no larger than a college dormitory room.

Surrounded by pictures of horses she's either ridden or trained in more than 25 years in racing, Gyarmati removes the wraps from her ankles that reduce the strain as she trains and rides horses.

The bulk of her workday is done.

"It's definitely not your normal workday, or workweek for that matter," Gyarmati, 46, said of her daily routine.

"My team and I usually get here before the sun comes up and then go through our training for the next six or so hours."

With the 142nd running of the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, approaching, Gyarmati and the dozens of other horse trainers at Belmont Park go about their daily business as usual.

And she expects Saturday - Stakes day - to be routine.

"I don't think the atmosphere will be much different than it is today because there's no Triple Crown contender this year," Gyarmati said.

On any given day, the racetrack is full of trainers, exercise walkers, grooms and hot walkers. Most of them work seven days a week - some, 365 days a year - and arrive at Belmont Park between 4:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. Training runs from 5:30 a.m. to around 10:30 a.m., Gyarmati said.

First, the trainers and exercise riders take some or all of their horses onto the track for their daily workout, a blend of trotting and galloping, for about 20 minutes each.

When the horses are returned to the barn, they're greeted by hot walkers, who take them walking in circular paths to cool them down to prevent injury.

Once that routine is finished, the grooms step in.

"We wash them, brush them, bandage them and clean the mud off their feet," said Rogelio Martinez, 46, one of Gyarmati's four grooms. "We keep them as clean and injury-free as possible."

One of the ways grooms prevent injuries is by spraying the horses' feet and legs with cold water to prevent swelling. And once the horses are back in the their stalls, the grooms wrap bandages around the horses' shins to provide cushioning in case they kick in their stalls, he said.

"This is the type of care and training horses go through," Gyarmati said.

"And it's typically the same whether they're competing in a Triple Crown race, a stakes race, or one of the daily Belmont races."

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