Tens of thousands of people are expected to head to the races Saturday for the 2017 Belmont Stakes.
The 149th Belmont Stakes will feature 12 horses for the last race of the Triple Crown series at 6:37 p.m. Other festival attractions Saturday include a full day of races, array of food trucks, fashion contest and performance by singer-songwriter Andy Grammer. Visitors can get a head start on Friday, when the festival will offer food, a craft fair and performance by Billy Joel tribute band Mike DelGuidice & Big Shot.
Getting there could be a challenge, however. More than 60,000 people showed up for the 2016 Belmont Stakes.
“We always encourage our guests to plan ahead and take mass transit,” said Patrick McKenna, New York Racing Association communications director.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or an avid horse racing fan, here’s what you can expect this weekend.
The festival, which officially started Thursday, features 16 graded stakes, including nine on Belmont day. General admission is $30 on Saturday, and is cash only.
The first post Saturday is scheduled for 11:35 a.m., and the signature Belmont Stakes, with a prize of $1,500,000, has a post time of 6:37 p.m.
Parking gates at Belmont Park in Elmont will open at 8 a.m. Saturday, with admission starting at 8:30 a.m.
Several parking lots will be available for use, event officials said, and attendees should plan to arrive early or buy parking passes online. General parking on Saturday will cost $40, with a shuttle running from outer lots to the racetrack. Other reserved lots, including the Silver, Clubhouse and Red lots, will cost more depending on ticket level.
Drivers not attending the event should expect spillover traffic to cause delays in the surrounding area, said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano. Those motorists should avoid Hempstead Turnpike at Belmont Park and note that Plainfield Avenue from Hempstead Turnpike to Vandewater Avenue will be closed from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The Long Island Rail Road will offer expanded service between major transportation hubs and the park.
Yannis Takos, Long Island Rail Road’s general manager for market development, said 21 trains would run into the park from about 9:30 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. Saturday, when return service begins.
Trains from Atlantic Terminal, Penn Station and Jamaica will start as early as 9:12 a.m. and departing trains will run every 15 minutes after the last race through 10 p.m.
Exact timetables are available on the LIRR website.
Passengers should note that alcohol will be banned on train cars and platforms this weekend as part of additional security precautions. Alcohol also cannot not be brought into the park, officials said.
A security team will be stationed at the park’s entrances to screen attendees. Sunscreen, cameras, backless seat cushions and binoculars will be allowed in, but a long list of items, including bags larger than 12 inches in diameter, coolers and drones are prohibited. Food items should be in clear containers, McKenna said. The New York Racing Association’s full list of banned items is available online.
Additionally, Nassau County police will be on site, McKenna said. About 500 officers from a variety of law enforcement agencies are scheduled to patrol the grounds.
“We’re working with all the relevant federal, local and state authorities,” McKenna said.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said county and state police will be at the park and there are no threats or security risks to the race.
“The big change this year is it’s not a triple crown race,” Krumpter said. “Our policy is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
Make sure your outfit includes a layer of sunscreen — sunny skies with the occasional cloud are expected for race day, said Jay Engle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Upton office.
“We’re expecting the weather to be O.K.,” Engle said. “It’ll be seasonably warm.”
Highs for the day will reach the low 80s.