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.

I've been here since the first race, been betting all day but I am just about betted out already. I'm 77 years old. My parents were sharecroppers at a plantation in Louisiana. I was working the farm when I was eight, nine years old. There's no room for laziness where I come from. I moved to New York after I got out of the army and raised my family here. I miss the animals though sometimes. I come to the track to be around the horses." - Willie Dunne
“I’ve been here since the first race, been betting all day but I am just about betted out already. I’m 77 years old. My parents were sharecroppers at a plantation in Louisiana. I was working the farm when I was eight, nine years old. There’s no room for laziness where I come from. I moved to New York after I got out of the Army and raised my family here. I miss the animals though sometimes. I come to the track to be around the horses.”
– Willie Dunne
"I'm from Long Island so I've been coming here since I was a little kid. I can't remember a Belmont Stakes I've missed over the last 40 years. I love it more than anything even though I'm clean out of money already." - Bill Lynch.
“I’m from Long Island so I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid. I can’t remember a Belmont Stakes I’ve missed over the last forty years. I love it more than anything, even though I’m clean out of money already.”
– Bill Lynch.
3T1A4328_1
A horseplayer places a bet on Belmont Stakes day.
3T1A4432
A bettor studies the racing program.
Abuba Sommube. "I have never missed a Belmont Stakes since I came here from Jamaica in 1979. I'm putting $100 to win on Lani in the Belmont. I've bet every race today. I'm breaking even, can't ask for more than that."
“I have never missed a Belmont Stakes since I came here from Jamaica in 1979. I’m putting $100 to win on Lani in the Belmont. I’ve bet every race today. I’m breaking even, can’t ask for more than that.” – Abuba Sommube.
Abuba Sommube. "I have never missed a Belmont Stakes since I came here from Jamaica in 1979. I'm putting $100 to win on Lani in the Belmont. I've bet every race today. I'm breaking even, can't ask for more than that."
Belmont Park grandstand r the 148th running of the Belmont Stakes.
The 148th running of the Belmont Stakes was one of the quieter Triple Crown races in recent memory.
3T1A4657
A fan watches the big race from the stands.
Lenny Rampersaud. "I just got a huge winner! I come here every day. This is my place, these are my people."
“I just got a huge winner! I come here every day. This is my place, these are my people.”
– Lenny Rampersaud
3T1A4502
A pair of exhausted attendees after the Belmont Stakes.
3T1A4505
We went to the Derby, Preakness and now the Belmont this year. It’s been a dream for us to do this together, definitely up there on the bucket list. We tried to do it last year when there was actually a Triple Crown winner but I’m in the military and I got called to duty and we had to cancel the trip even after we bought all the tickets. It’s OK, we’re living the dream, man.” – Matthew Jackson (right), with Dickey Scott.
A handful of racegoers wait in line to place their bets.
Short lines full of racegoers waiting in line to place their bets.
Kirk Henry. "I used to be a NYRA teller but I'm still not a very good handicapper. I come back here all the time though. It's not about making money it's about having fun!"
“I used to be a NYRA teller but I’m still not a very good handicapper. I come back here all the time though. It’s not about making money, it’s about having fun!”
– Kirk Henry.
3T1A4355_1
With no Triple Crown on the line, the crowds trickled in on Belmont Stakes day.
3T1A4561
Horses sprint to the finish.
Aubrey Gibbons. "I'm from Guyana. I had horses back home but after the British left my country it became a broken place, a place that is no place to live. I work in a hotel in Manhattan five days a week but I come here on the weekends to see the horses and feel closer to home."
“I’m from Guyana. I had horses back home, but after the British left my country it became a broken place, a place that is no place to live. I work in a hotel in Manhattan five days a week but I come here on the weekends to see the horses and feel closer to home.” – Aubrey Gibbons.
3T1A4577
Although the day started quietly, crowds began to gather as post-time for the big race approached.
3T1A4682
A bettor uses his racing program to shield his face from the setting sun after Saturday’s $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

* * *

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.