NEW YROK CITY — With I'll Have Another looking to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, the New York Racing Association is expecting crowds of over 100,000 for the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
But for those who don't want to suffer the crowds, there are plenty of places right in the city to enjoy the race.
Continuing their tradition from the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the Courtyard Ale House (40-18 Queens Boulevard, Sunnyside) will be providing free barbecue all afternoon leading up to the race, serving up their own burgers, hot dogs and wings.
But if you want to throw something on the grill, feel free.
"If you bring your own food, you can cook it if you want," said 26-year-old bartender Sinead Curran. "We're known for impromptu barbecues."
Show up early if you want to get a seat at the bar: Curran says the Belmont usually brings a packed house. But there's plenty of standing room, and the bar's eight televisions will have the sound turned up all day.
Another place you might want to show up early to is the Triple Crown Ale House (330 Seventh Ave., Chelsea). Owner Martin O'Shea treats the three legs of the Triple Crown like premier events "up there with the Super Bowl," he says.
Accordingly, be sure to expect a lot of die-hard race fans at this horse-themed Chelsea bar. And while the bar is a safe bet for a good time no matter what time of day you go, it also has the potential for an exciting Belmont after-party, as O'Shea says that jockeys have been known to stop in from time-to-time after the races.
Another Chelsea bar, Mustang Harry's (352 Seventh Ave.) is serving up two-for-one draft specials from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m., and even the famed 21 Club (21 West 52nd St., Midtown) breaks tradition only three times a year — during the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont — to bring TV sets into the bar area.
The Brickyard Gastropub (785 Ninth Ave., Hell's Kitchen) is providing New York-themed food and serving the official drink of the Belmont Stakes, the Belmont Breeze, which is a whiskey-and-juice cocktail. Brooklynites can enjoy their own race-themed drinks at Halyards (406 Third Ave., Park Slope) where they'll be mixing mint juleps all afternoon.
For those looking for an upscale event before the race, the Rubin Museum of Art (150 West 17th St., Chelsea) is holding a Belmont Stakes charity celebration on Thursday, and though it boasts a hefty price tag, this $175-a-ticket cocktail party is for a good cause.
Proceeds from the celebration will benefit two horse racing related charities. The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation helps research horse health, while the Backstretch Employee Service Team works to provide health and welfare services to workers at Belmont Park, Aqueduct and Saratoga.
The party will feature drinks and hors d'oeuvres, with catering by Stephen Starr, the head chef at Buddakan, Caffe Storico and Morimoto.
Of course, if you do find yourself at the Belmont Stakes and it becomes just a little too crowded for your tastes, there's a getaway right near the track.
The Park Place Restaurant and Bar (41 Covert Ave., Floral Park) sits just a few minutes away from Belmont Park. According to 27-year-old co-owner Matt Tesoriero, their special could be a big payoff: if I Have Another wins the Triple Crown, all dinner and drink tabs opened before 6:00 p.m. are on the house.
"We're going to do a little gambling of our own," Tesoriero said with a laugh.