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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Belmont Stakes 2013: A Sure Bet

Garden City and Floral Park are holding their annual Belmont Stakes Festivals on the day before, and the day after, the Saturday, June 8, running of the Belmont Stakes in Elmont.

Garden City’s Seventh Street will closed to traffic, and jammed with pedestrians, on Friday, June 7, between 6 and 10 p.m., for the Garden City Belmont Festival, an evening of live music, food, and family-friendly activities.

Held annually on the eve of the third and final race in thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown series, the festival will feature the Fivestone Rock Band, Jerry and the Newcomers, the New Vintage Orchestra, Nor’easter and The Village Music Makers. The Broadway Bound Dance Center’s dancers will also perform.

All of the proceeds from this year’s Wing-Off Competition, which offers local restaurants the chance to be crowned Garden City’s chicken wing champion, will benefit the American Red Cross’ Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. A $5 donation entitles festival-goers to judge the competition’s entries. Moreover, the Garden City Belmont Festival also includes face painting, pony rides, and carnival games for younger attendees.

Meanwhile, the Floral Park Belmont Stakes Festival will take place on Sunday, June 9, closing Tulip Avenue, the village’s main thoroughfare, from 2 to 7 p.m. The Floral Park Art League is on that same Sunday afternoon sponsoring an Exhibit to Celebrate Thoroughbred Horse Racing in Floral Park’s Memorial Park. The Art League will be at the same park, situated along Tulip Avenue, on June 8, too.

Tens of thousands will make their way to Belmont Park on Saturday, June 8, for the big race itself. Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner, and Oxbow, who won the Preakness Stakes, are two of the nine horses scheduled to compete in The Test of Champions. The one and one-half mile race is perhaps the longest one any of these three-year-olds will ever run.

Seats to the Belmont Stakes are available via Ticketmaster, but entrance can also be bought on race day. Grandstand general admission ($10) and clubhouse admission ($20) tickets can be purchased at the door.

When it comes to getting to Belmont Park, the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) is an option, with the LIRR providing extra service to its Belmont Station on Saturday, June 8. That station is a short walk from the Belmont Park grandstand. Check for further details.

Besides taking in the scene, young adults attending their first Belmont Stakes should look for the America’s Best Racing (ABR) recreational vehicle. ABR ambassadors will interact with fans throughout the day in an ongoing effort to promote thoroughbred horse racing to the next generation of fans.

I will offer from personal experience a warning to those lining up to place a Belmont Stakes win bet on Oxbow, given his front-running victory in the Preakness Stakes, which is contested each year in Maryland at a shorter (one mile and three-sixteenths) distance than the Belmont. I had a win wager on Star Standard in the 1995 Belmont Stakes. The decision remains an unhappy, albeit distant, memory. Star Standard was in first place at just about every point in that race, except for the one that mattered: the finish line. He came in second to Thunder Gulch. The moral of the story: find a horse that wants another horse to rush to the front, and leaves something in the tank for the end of race, when handicapping the Belmont Stakes.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: