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Belmont bettor to skip the track on Stakes day

Brooklyn cabbie Peter Andreana, who has been coming

Brooklyn cabbie Peter Andreana, who has been coming regularly to Belmont Park two or three times a week for the last 30 years, sits in his regular seat and watches a race at Belmont Race Track in Elmont, NY. (June 1, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Ed Betz

For 30 years, Peter Andreana has been coming to Belmont Park two to three days a week to gamble.

"Same pattern, same action and excitement. I'll have two good days and 20 bad days," he said with a grin and a shrug.

From Monday through Thursday, Andreana, who lives in Brooklyn, drives a cab 12 hours a day. That's so the cabbie, single and 53, can spend $200 to $300 a day at the track the rest of the week.

"It's my only vice," he said.

Saturday's Belmont Stakes and the prospect of I'll Have Another snatching a Triple Crown for the first time in 34 years have thrown his pattern awry.

Andreana is not planning to come to the track. Instead, he said, he'll place a bet from his home phone.

But he's excited nonetheless. "It's great for the game," he said. "I'm the last generation to come here. There's nobody here in their 20s and 30s. A hundred thousand people will come out of the woodwork. Maybe some of them will come back on other days."

He started coming to the track as a teenager with his grandparents and quickly became hooked. Although he bets only on Thoroughbreds, he's not interested in the horse flesh per se. Other regulars may saunter out to the paddock before a race, but not Andreana.

"I don't look at the horses," he said. "It's a numbers game."

Instead, from shortly after the time the track opens at 11:30 a.m. until around 5 p.m., he sits in his reserved carrel -- number 35 -- in the semidark Simulcast area behind potted plants, staring at the computer screen. He also has reserved carrel 37 for his mother, Cecilia, 72, who comes to bet with him about once a week.

"Once I sit down, I don't get up," he said.

On a recent Friday the room was almost empty. Andreana carried his snacks in a plastic bag to his seat. There was no alcohol, not even a cup of coffee, in evidence.

Before the national anthem was played, signaling the beginning of the daily betting, Andreana was all business, marking a racing form for the next day's races. He had already decided on this day's wagers.

As soon as the anthem was done, he began punching on the screen, betting on races on tracks from Canada to the Finger Lakes to Florida. Seconds after one race was done, he punched in bets for another. He rarely talked and appeared to glance at the screen only when the horses neared the finish.

All of his wagers were exotic -- no amateur bets on just the winner for him. Instead, they were a dizzying array of daily doubles, exactas, trifectas, pick threes, pick fours and win-and-place bets.

His best day, he said, was three years ago when he won $44,000 in a superfecta, betting on the top four horses in a turf race.

Even then, he said, he barely registered the win.

"The only thing that would make me jump for joy is if I won a million dollars," he said.

Maintaining control is Andreana's badge of honor. When two men behind him began to yell during one of the Belmont races, he grumbled, "I don't like that."

After he won $95, he said, "You see how calm I was? You know what I do? I forget all about it and go on to the next one."

Yet for all his sangfroid, he has a sentimental streak.

"I'm hoping the horse wins the Triple Crown," he said of I'll Have Another.

So will he break with his customary practice and just bet on the winner?

"No," he said. "I'll probably play him on top and then bet on who comes in second, third and fourth."

    Belmont trivia

  • The betting favorite has won 61 of the 143 previous Belmont Stakes, or 41.9 percent.
  • The biggest long shot to win was Sarava in 2002, who went off at 70-1 odds and defeated Triple Crown hopeful War Emblem. Sarava paid $142.50.
  • A record total of $4,331,463 was wagered on track by the record crowd of 120,139 at the 2004 Belmont Stakes, when Smarty Jones was vying for the Triple Crown. Long shot Birdstone beat him by a length.
  • Since the beginning of mutuels in New York in 1940, there have been six times when no place or show betting was taken on the Belmont Stakes. The most recent was 1978, when Affirmed and Alydar battled to the finish. Affirmed won by a head and became the last Triple Crown winner.
  • New York Sports