Belmont Park returns Thursday without spectators – yet

Belmont Park returns Thursday without spectators – yet
Photo: NYRA

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported when fans would be allowed at Belmont Park.

Racing returns to Belmont Park with a nine-race card Thursday, but the Elmont, N.Y. track has not determined when fans will be able to attend.

The New York Racing Association Inc. said in a news release that it will be able to determine when Belmont Park will re-open to spectators after New York State issues detailed guidance concerning health and safety protocols specific to racetracks.

“We are incredibly eager to turn the page on this pandemic and safely open Belmont Park to fans as quickly as possible,” Dave O’Rourke, NYRA president and CEO, said in a press release. “Although Belmont Park will be closed to spectators throughout Opening Weekend, NYRA looks forward to seeing fans in the stands right back where they belong this spring and summer.”

The 48-day meet will offer 59 stakes races worth $16.95 million in purses, highlighted by the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 5. Sixteen graded-stakes races are on tap for the Thursday-Saturday Belmont Stakes weekend, including the $1 million Metropolitan Handicap (G1).

Friday's card features one stakes race, the $100,000 Affirmed Success, a six-furlong sprint for older New York-breds.

Trainers Jim Chapman, Saffie Joseph Jr. and Brittany Russell are among a number of conditioners who will have a presence at Belmont for the first time.

The top trainer of Belmont's fall meet, Chad Brown, is back this year with six horses entered in Thursday races and seven for Friday. The runner-up for the training title, Christophe Clement, has four starters Thursday and one Friday.

Leading rider Jose Ortiz is back with five mounts Thursday and nine Friday. Runner-up Jose Lezcano underwent shoulder and knee surgery in February. His agent, Jason Beides, said the surgery went well, and they are looking next Thursday for him to try riding again to see how his shoulder performs.

Belmont's spring-summer meet runs through July 11. The track's fall meet will begin Sept. 18.

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