By Michael Fenrich
The breakfast program at Belmont Park in New York is "the best kept secret in Elmont" in the words of Stephen Travers, vice president of hospitality for the New York Racing Association.
But with a Triple Crown bid on the line this year, the program saw an explosion of public interest early the morning of May 31, when a few hundred people showed up to watch California Chrome in his final workout before the June 7 Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
The California-bred colt is shooting for a sweep of the three-race classic series--a feat not accomplished in 36 years--after winning the first two jewels in the Triple Crown: the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I). His presence on the track provided the weekend breakfast program some priceless promotion.
The "Breakfast at Belmont" program is held every Saturday, Sunday, and holiday from 7-9:30 a.m. EDT throughout the spring meet with the exception of June 7-8. Visitors can watch horses train, take a tram tour of the stable area, and participate in a paddock show hosted by Mary Ryan.
Owners, trainers, jockeys, and jockey agents often are on hand.
"It's a great way to get young and new people to the track and into the game," said Ron Anderson, agent for jockey Joel Rosario. "It's a great forum."
"I like the opportunity to bring the public closer to the horses," trainer Gary Contessa said. "I think even more can be done to give the public a glimpse of the horses, trainers, and jockeys at work. Anything that brings the fans closer to the participants is going to be a real positive for NYRA."
"I think the breakfast is great," jockey Mylan Studart said. "I invite friends and fans to see the horses train and to meet jockeys and trainers."
The final weekend of racing at Belmont is July 12-13. Saturday, July 5, will feature the Stars and Stripes Festival, which will feature five graded stakes including the $1.25 million Belmont Derby Invitational and $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational (both gr. IT); and the $500,000 Suburban Handicap (gr. II).