And they're off at Belmont


Belmont Park’s 56-day Spring/Summer Meet got under way last Friday, with Read the Research winning the track’s opening race of 2013, taking a one-mile dirt event by five lengths with jockey Javier Castellano aboard.

Read the Research established control out of the gate and was hardly pressured in the allowance optional claiming event, which had a purse of $64,000. She pulled away down the stretch and paid $7 to win. Peggy Jane completed the exacta, and Haldane finished third. The trifecta paid $120.

“It was a beautiful trip,” Castellano said. “She broke on the lead and controlled the pace. I’m very proud of the way she ran. When I asked her for a little more in the stretch, she gave it to me.”

Castellano, one of the top jockeys in the country, said it was exciting to be back at Belmont. “It’s wonderful to be here,” he said. “It’s my favorite track in the world. I love everything about it.”

The 145th running of the Belmont Stakes, on Saturday, June 8, is the glittering centerpiece of the meet, which runs through July 14. The oldest and longest leg of horseracing’s Triple Crown, the 1½-mile Belmont will be supported by four additional graded stakes.

The Belmont Stakes Festival begins on Saturday, June 1, with Elmont’s Belmont Stakes Parade kicking off a week of community events that includes the Belmont Stakes Blue Ribbon Run for Prostate Cancer on June 2, a special Triple Crown Q&A with renowned New York jockeys Ramon Dominguez and Richard Migliore on June 4 at the Elmont Library, the Garden City Belmont Festival on June 7 and the Floral Park Belmont Festival on June 9.

But there’s no need to wait until June for special events at Belmont. This Sunday, the New York Racing Association will host a Cinco de Mayo party in the backyard, featuring Mariachi Loco de NY. And May 11 marks the beginning of an indoor farmers’ market at Belmont, which will be held weekly on Saturdays throughout the meet (except Belmont Stakes Day) on the first floor of the Grandstand.

Memorial Day weekend signals the start of the Grade 1 season with a trio of top races on May 27: the $750,000 Met Mile, the $400,000 Ogden Phipps for fillies and mares, and the $300,000 Acorn for 3-year-old fillies. Rounding out the graded stakes action is the Grade 2, $300,000 Sands Point for 3-year-old turf fillies.

In addition to world-class racing, Belmont will host its first ever Food Truck Festival on May 25. Fans will be able to purchase diverse and delectable items from 10 of New York’s finest food trucks, including MacTruckNYC, TacoBite, Chinese Mirch and others. The backyard will be home to Family Fun Days on Sundays and Mondays, with the Memorial Day edition featuring games and races, an inflatable gladiator joust and a petting zoo.

Party at the Park returns for five Fridays beginning June 14, with a special first-race post time of 3 p.m. and a party that includes food and drink specials along with a live concert following the conclusion of racing. Billy Joel tribute band Michael DelGuidice and Big Shot kicks off the action on June 14, followed by Bon Jovi tribute band Bad Medicine on June 21 and ’80s tribute band Decadia on June 28. Noche de Latina is set for July 5, featuring New York Latin rock band Seguida, while The LP’s will close out the Party at the Park series on July 12.

From start to finish, family activities abound, including the popular Breakfast at Belmont program weekend mornings from 7 to 9:30 a.m. and Family Fun Days on Sundays, presented by Coca-Cola, except for Belmont Stakes weekend.

First-race post time is 1:05 p.m. except for Party at the Park, when racing starts at 3 p.m., and Belmont Stakes Day (11:35 a.m.). Live racing generally takes place Wednesday through Sunday, with free parking, general grandstand admission of $3 and clubhouse admission of $5.