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Win or lose, Belmont racegoers call it a fun outing

When Rob Brand accidentally bet on Summer Bird instead of Charitable Man to win the 141st running of the Belmont Stakes Saturday, he figured it was meant to be. And it was: His $5 bet turned into $64. "It worked out, so I can't complain," said Brand, 18, of Sayville, who realized only after he placed his bet that he had put his money down on the "wrong" horse. "It was destiny." For Gonzalo Suarez, however, picking Summer Bird was no accident. The 22-year-old from Woodmere simply liked the jockey. "He's awesome," Suarez, who won $130 on a $10 bet, said of winning jockey Kent Desormeaux. "I heard he was a Mets fan, and I'm a Mets fan." Throughout the day at Belmont Park, thousands watched and bet on races, admired horses in the paddock or simply milled around. Many of them had unusual approaches to betting. Chris Farella, 52, of West Hempstead, uses her dog Charlie's birth date. The golden retriever was born Aug. 19 and for six years has been Farella's lucky charm. She bets the numbers 8, 1, and 9 in various combinations. "I almost didn't bring him home because that was my wedding date and I'm divorced," she said after the fifth race of the day. "It does win a lot. It's amazing," said her betting buddy of nearly 20 years, Tom Gregory, 53, of Brentwood. The track buzz was all about Mine That Bird, the horse that defied 50-1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby and galloped from behind again to place second in the Preakness Stakes. But Denise Titone said she put her money on Chocolate Candy to win the 11/2-mile race. Her explanation was simple: "I like chocolate candy," said Titone, 40, of Port Jefferson Station, as she and her 11-year-old son, Dakota, watched a jockey feed and groom a horse. Even though Vinny Grabinsky and his wife, Kay, placed losing bets on Chocolate Candy and Mine That Bird - and many other losing horses throughout the day - they said it was all worth it. "That was very exciting," said Vinny Grabinsky, 75, of North Babylon, who has attended races at Belmont Park since he was 17. "We'll be here next year." His wife, 77, agreed. "I lost every race," she said, "but I enjoyed it."

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