The Belmont Stakes is returning to more of its normal traditions this year amid the coronavirus pandemic; its usual mile-and-a-half distance has been restored and so has its traditional standing on the calendar as the final leg of the Triple Crown. Fans are also back — though fewer than usual because of pandemic restrictions — with about 11,000 expected to be in attendance.
At Belmont Park, that means a return of big hats, cigars, patrons lined up at betting windows and of course the rail with cheering fans as horses cross the finish line.
The pandemic restrictions for fans show how sporting events have adjusted their rules as vaccinations in the United States have risen. Guests are not required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative virus test, and masks are mandatory for those who are unvaccinated.
There is no Triple Crown at stake on Saturday but there is still plenty of excitement around the race. The morning-line favorite is Essential Quality, ahead of Rombauer, who won the Preakness. Essential Quality’s last race was the Kentucky Derby where it finished fourth.
Our photographers, Victor J. Blue and Hiroko Masuike, will be on the ground capturing the energy of the day bringing live updates from the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes.
Even the youngsters at the track are dressed to the nines at Belmont Park, where fashion is an enormous part of race day.
There are 10 races before the running of the Belmont Stakes.
Track workers cool down the horses after they come back from their morning workouts.
The morning begins with workouts around the track.