As Grand Champion won a stretch duel with Americanus in the first race at Belmont Park Saturday, Belmont Stakes day got off to a solid start under mostly cloudy skies.
The first post was at noon and the crowd could look forward to the final leg of the Triple Crown, scheduled for a 6:25 p.m. post time. There are two races after the Belmont, meaning more than seven and a half hours from first post to the last.
The apron filled with fans as the field in the first race came down the stretch, and the picnic area behind the paddock was full of patrons well before the live racing began.
A small rain shower hit the area the night before but it had no affect on the racing surface. To prove that, Grand Champion, a 4-year-old son of Two Punch trained by Jimmy Jerkens, ran six furlongs in 1:08.81.
There are no changes in the Belmont field, with seven set to go postward led by Preakness (gr. I) winner Curlin; the filly Rags to Riches, who won the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I); and Hard Spun, who ran second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and third in the Preakness.
The Belmont will be part of a two-hour telecast on ABC from 5-7 p.m.