Arlene Brooks traveled all the way from Seymour, Connecticut, to watch American Pharoah's bid for the Triple Crown. What Brooks, who uses a motorized scooter, didn't expect, is that the trip from the ground floor at Belmont to her spot in the grandstand would be her most arduous journey of the day.
"It's not at all friendly for anyone who has a disability," said Brooks, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. "It was like a horror story trying to get out of here. There were perfectly good elevators that I could have used in the clubhouse and I couldn't get out of here."
Saturday morning, there were no elevators marked for general use in the grandstand, which is on the third floor of Belmont Park. There are a number of elevators in the clubhouse, which is on the same floor, but that is restricted to those who have clubhouse tickets, which Brooks didn't have.
The result: She was able to come up to her seat on a clubhouse elevator (there was no one on the first floor monitoring it, she said) but when she tried to go downstairs to purchase a sweater, she was stopped by security and told she would not be able to access the clubhouse.
With the help of Belmont officials, Brooks ended up riding down on a freight elevator. She managed to squeak into a press elevator to get back to her seat.
Told about the issue, Belmont officials immediately addressed the situation.
"We take ADA access very seriously at Belmont and those with disabilities are able to utilize freight elevators," said John Durso Jr., director of communications and public affairs. "We will be clarifying our signs to ensure that any guest with disabilities is able to use them within the grandstand."
Still, Brooks, who came to Belmont last year, considers herself a huge horse racing fan, and regularly attends races at Saratoga, said she wished there were other options. Confining handicapped individuals for freight elevators used for food carts and beverages "doesn't sit well with me," she said.
We've been here other times, [and at the end of the night] the freight elevators are all used by the people with the food, and they tell you to use the clubhouse elevators," said her boyfriend, John Christensen, 65.
Still Brooks, dressed in the Belmont sweatshirt she was able to purchase ("it's cold up here," she said) and an American Pharoah baseball cap, seemed determined not to let her morning exploits ruin the rest of the day. She had horses as a child, she said, and when she stopped being able to ride, she learned to make her love a spectator sport.
"I am a big fan, but I also think we all need a Triple Crown winner," she said before the big race. "I've just wanted to see one forever. Don't you think we could use something nice happening? Something exciting?"