What to Know About the 153rd Belmont Stakes

All have returned to their regular spots on the calendar with limited fans this year. The announced crowd for the Kentucky Derby on May 1...


All have returned to their regular spots on the calendar with limited fans this year. The announced crowd for the Kentucky Derby on May 1 was 51,838, close to a third of the venue’s usual capacity, but at the time it was the biggest crowd at a sporting event since the pandemic began. Attendance for the Preakness on May 15 was capped at 10,000. That is a little less than 10 percent of the track’s usual capacity.

When tickets went on sale for the Belmont in May, attendance was capped at 11,000 fans based on New York State guidance that outdoor sports and entertainment venues operate at 33 percent capacity and all spectators submit proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test result.

Since then, that guidance has been relaxed and organizers have released some more tickets, but still expect about 11,000 people. (The Belmont’s attendance record of 120,139 was set in 2004, when Birdstone denied Smarty Jones a Triple Crown sweep.) Proof of vaccination or a negative test is no longer required, and masks are mandatory only for unvaccinated guests. There are no general admission tickets, and socially distanced seating is limited to reserved seats and hospitality areas (some sections are designated for vaccinated people only). Belmont’s signature backyard picnic area — usually covered with blankets and camping chairs — will instead be filled with picnic tables that were sold in groups of six at more than $100 each.

In 2020, Tiz the Law became the first New York-bred horse to win the Belmont Stakes in 138 years, but he did so at the shorter distance, not the punishing mile and a half that inspires the race’s nickname, the Test of the Champion. He finished second in the Derby, ending his modified Triple Crown hopes.

Rombauer defeated Midnight Bourbon by three and a half lengths in the Preakness, but he is not the morning-line favorite in the Belmont. That distinction goes to Essential Quality, the Derby favorite who was bumped at the gate, ran wide around both turns and finished a fast-closing fourth for his first loss in six starts.

Essential Quality is owned by the controversial ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, has tactical speed and should have no problem with the mile and a half as his sire, Tapit, has produced three Belmont winners. Rombauer, who did not race in the Derby, picks up the veteran New York jockey John Velazquez, who won his fourth Derby aboard Medina Spirit.

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Newsrust - US Top News: What to Know About the 153rd Belmont Stakes
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