What to Know Before Traveling To the Belmont Stakes

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Author: Lindsay Griffin


A day at the races can be a spectacular experience- as long as proper plans are made and followed.

Without an itinerary, those who are traveling will find themselves sorting out logistics at the last minute. Without knowledge of bets or the horses competing, those who are at the race will find themselves stalling and stammering at the betting window.

As well, either of those situations is extremely likely to cost the traveler money, or at least prevent them from winning any.

How can you minimize hassle and maximize enjoyment while preparing for your trip to the 2023 Belmont Stakes? Read on for some helpful pre-race planning points.

 

Know Your Itinerary

An itinerary is a travel plan. Itineraries can be loose and flexible, or they can be planned down to the minute, depending on the traveler's destination and desires.

 

Travel

The Belmont Stakes takes place at Belmont Park, a race track in the city of Elmont, New York. Although many who choose to attend the race are undoubtedly locals on the hunt for quick entertainment, most who are making plans ahead of time to attend the Belmont Stakes will have to find travel and accommodations.

Whether you choose to fly or drive depends on your budget, available time, and comfort level. Traveling by plane is certainly faster, and more comfortable and convenient for many. However, flying to New York in the early summer can be expensive, and you will find yourself dealing with more crowds than you likely would on a road trip.

 

Accommodations

Unless you or a generous friend or family live close to the track, hotel accommodations will be a must.

Like with Louisville when hosting the Kentucky Derby, Elmont in late May and early June is designed to host many tourists. However, if you do not book your hotel stay early, availability will dry up and prices will skyrocket.

As with most hotel stays, those in Elmont with more conveniences and accommodations are going to be more expensive. However, many hotels closer to Belmont Park will also likely charge higher prices.

 

The Track

If you are a tourist attending any major sporting event, particularly one in or near a big city (Elmont is - miles from New York City), you will want to avoid driving to or parking at the actual venue.

Instead, you will want to make use of public or mass transit options.

Most hotels that are reasonably close to the track will have pre-scheduled shuttle service to and from the track. Often these services are included with hotel booking and so do not cost extra money, although gratuity for the driver is usually a polite expectation. Other options for transport to the track include buses, taxis, and ride sharing apps such as Uber or Lyft.

As far as what to bring to the track, traveling light is typically more convenient. Any trip to the race track is likely to involve a lot of walking, and carrying around several parcels is not only physically cumbersome, but can make one a target for thieves.

In general, not much is needed beyond your money and your identification, although sunscreen would also be a good selection if you are planning to spend most of your day outside of a private owners' box.

Get informed about the history of the competition and the past winners with this guide: twinspires.com/belmont-stakes/winners

 

The Fashion

Fashion is an essential consideration for many hoping to be seen at the race track, and while the June meet at Belmont Park is not as formal as the July-August meet at Saratoga, the Belmont Stakes is still a major sporting event. You will want to pack clothes that are stylish, but light and cool enough to survive the summer heat. Wide-brimmed hats provide both fashion and shade!

Don't forget that most visits to the track involve a lot of walking, so take that into consideration when packing footwear. Heels may be fashionable, but limping and blisters are not.

 

Know Your Bets

Many novice racegoers are surprised to learn that there is more involved in betting than simply selecting one horse and cashing in if that horse wins. There are several different ways to wager, and the savvy bettor knows how to balance risk and reward.

 

Win, Place, Show

These types of bets are “straight” bets. They involve a single horse in a single race, and are generally easier to understand and keep track of than exotic wagers.

A win bet is fairly self-explanatory. The bettor chooses a horse that they think will cross the line first, and if that happens, they collect money.

Payouts for win bets reflect the odds shown on the tote boards and basic betting programs or apps, which makes it easy to calculate how much money a successful wager will bring in. For example, Mage won the Kentucky Derby at odds of 8-1, meaning that a winning bet paid eight dollars for every dollar wagered. National Treasure won the Preakness at odds of 5-2, which meant that a win bet placed on him returned five dollars for every two dollars wagered, or $2.50 for every one dollar.

Place and show bets offer more opportunities to win, although the payouts can be significantly reduced. If you bet a horse to place, you are betting on that horse coming in first or second; show bets are cashed if the horse finishes first, second, or third. The betting pools collected for place and show bets are different from the pools for win bets, meaning that the odds displayed for each horse do not display what will be paid out for a place or show bet.

 

Exotic Wagers

Exotic wagers are wagers that involve either multiple horses in a single race, or multiple (typically pre-selected and consecutive) races. They are much more difficult to win, but can offer a much higher reward. 

Exactas, trifectas, and superfectas are bets that involve picking the first two, three, or four (respectively) finishers in a race. You can choose to play them straight, meaning that you choose each horse's specific finish position, or you can “box” your wager, meaning that the selected horses can finish in any order.

For example, a straight exacta in the Preakness would have involved picking National Treasure to win and Blazing Sevens to finish second. A boxed exacta would have involved picking Blazing Sevens for first or second, and National Treasure for first or second. For this reason, boxed wagers cost more than straight ones, as the bettor is essentially betting on multiple scenarios: one in which National Treasure outfinishes Blazing Sevens, and one in which Blazing Sevens beats National Treasure. Both bets, however, would have paid out the same $15.90 per dollar per scenario.

Tracks also offer Daily Doubles and Pick 3, 4, 5, and 6 wagers, which involve choosing the winners of multiple races. The Preakness was a part of several of these wagers, one of which was a special double with a race for three-year-old fillies called the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. Those who selected National Treasure and Taxed in this particular wager would have received a payout of $93.40 per dollar wagered.

 

Know the Contenders

Of course, knowing how to bet is not very helpful if you do not know who to bet! Here are some of the top contenders looking toward the Belmont Stakes.

 

Forte

The Eclipse Champion Two-Year-Old Male of 2022, Forte was all set to start as the morning-line favorite for the Kentucky Derby, until a foot bruise got in the way.

The son of Violence was not only forcibly scratched from the Derby, but was put on the vet's list by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. This meant that he would have to have 14 days of rest, a panel of blood work, and an observed workout before he would be allowed to start in a race. This timeline also removed him from Preakness contention. Forte worked out at Belmont Park on May 27th, and it would seem that the vets deemed his performance satisfactory; blood work results are still pending.

Trainer Todd Pletcher remains optimistic about Forte's chances in the Belmont, emphasizing and praising his health and fitness level.

 

National Treasure

The Preakness winner exited the race in good order, and while trainer Bob Baffert stopped short of solidly committing to the Belmont Stakes, he has indicated that it will most likely be National Treasure's next start.

Prior to his Preakness win, National Treasure, a son of Quality Road, had placed in several graded stakes races, but he had never actually won anything except for his maiden. However, he showed plenty of promise, and was initially being aimed toward the Kentucky Derby by Tim Yakteen. Those plans dissipated when National Treasure had to scratch from the Grade II San Felipe Stakes and failed to fire in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, but the colt shipped back to Baffert's barn and was fresh for a Preakness run that suited his running style.

 

Angel of Empire

Angel of Empire took over Kentucky Derby favoritism upon Forte's scratch. The son of Classic Empire came running late and was a closing third behind Mage and Two Phil's.

Angel of Empire, who is trained by Brad Cox, started his career inauspiciously. He broke his maiden at Horseshoe Indianapolis and floundered in a Kentucky Downs allowance race before closing out the year with a win in an allowance race at Horseshoe. However, he has blossomed as a three-year-old, finishing second in the Smarty Jones Stakes before winning both the Grade II Risen Star Stakes and the Grade I Arkansas Derby.

 

Tapit Trice

Todd Pletcher may have the champ in his barn, but his stablemate, Tapit Trice, is a horse who many think may be even better suited for the Belmont Stakes. The son of Tapit- who has already produced four Belmont winners- was slow to get away in the Kentucky Derby and could only manage to place seventh, but many think that he would have given a better showing in a smaller field.

Tapit Trice first drew attention with an eye-catching eight-length win in a Gulfstream Park allowance race. He stepped up into graded stakes company next, coming with a late rush to take the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby. He showed a lot of courage in his final Derby prep, the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes, in which he dueled the length of the stretch with the classy colt Verifying. Tapit Trice pushed his head in front in the end, showing that he was a horse of considerable capability.

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