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Horse Racing Fever Hits Area For Belmont, California Chrome

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Horse racing fever has hit the Tri-State Area, and everyone seems to be catching the spark.

Racing fans have been hoping for a historic day at the Belmont Stakes. Hundreds of those fans filled 7th Street in Garden City for the annual Belmont Festival on Friday.

"Because it's so fun and the horses are so fast," said racing fan Riley Hansman of Garden City.

"Now we have a good horse that's going to win the Triple Crown," said Manuel Fajardo of Garden City.

Along with plenty of music, vendors lined the curbs with food, games, face painting and dancing.

"On the eve of this very special Belmont Stakes, we wanted everything to be perfect," said Althea Robinson of the Garden City Chamber of Commerce.

Earlier in the day, as CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reported, some fans who love to dress up met on Friday for a good luck luncheon, toasting California Chrome all the way.


Fans have been turning out with designer hats and fascinators at Belmont Festival luncheon parties and teas. And they have been calling the celebrated California Chrome "pin-up pretty," with a luscious chestnut coat over a body that looks sculpted by a master.

"Victor Espinoza -- saw him briefly, the jockey," one woman said. "It's wonderful seeing them roaming throughout the hotel."

The Garden City Hotel, for one, has been made host to a plethora of racing heroes.

Espinoza said having the eyes of the world on him is "sometimes… not easy -- it can be a little bit tough -- but in the meantime, it's fun."

Chrome's owners were also spotted among those lunching with the women.

"Belmont is iconic in the town, and just to see everybody around is, like, surreal," one woman said.

"This horse has brought a whole lot of joy to a lot of people around the world, and we just want to keep him healthy and happy," said California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn. "And a happy horse going into a race is a good thing."

California Chrome is now the toast of the town. One venue has even named a cocktail after the horse.

"It was great, wonderful," a woman said.

It is filled with gin, vermouth, and house-made bleu cheese olives. It is served stirred, not shaken, and is good enough to be shared as dessert.

A total of 120,000 spectators were expected at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, most hoping the 36-year wait for another Triple Crown will finally come to an end.

And hats are considered lucky. If you forget yours on Saturday, all shapes and sizes are available to purchase at Belmont before the big race.

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