Thousands of New Yorkers head to Long Island for the final leg of horse racing's Triple Crown. For most, this day is their only exposure to the sport. But a hardy few will be back next week, and the week after that...
For one of horse racing’s biggest days, this Saturday was strangely quiet at Long Island’s Belmont Park. Early in the afternoon, bettors huddled together in small groups scribbling notes on their programs; a few families trickled in; a man’s voice echoed through the mostly empty grandstand as he rejoiced that there were no lines for beer. When American Pharoah contested the elusive Triple Crown last year, The New York Racing Association had to cap the Belmont Stakes attendance at 90,000 to ease impossible bathroom lines, lack of food, massive traffic and Long Island Railroad delays. But with no Triple Crown on the line this year, the third jewel of racing’s crown lost some of its shine. Only 60,000 people bought tickets, leaving large swathes of Belmont Park’s noble old grandstand empty. That didn’t stop diehard fans from turning up and enjoying the day. Many racegoers haven’t missed a Belmont Stakes for decades, Triple Crown or no. And many more attend races daily, whether it’s an afternoon of nationally televised sprints or a frigid day of bottom-level runners galloping through the snow at the nearby Aqueduct Racetrack. Some even make a living betting the ponies. It’s a tight-knit community of racing’s mega-fans, the people who are still there when the crowds are gone.
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Lili Holzer-Glier is a photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vogue and The New York Times. Her first book, Rockabye, documents the Rockaways post–Hurricane Sandy and was published in 2015 by Daylight Books.