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Light Rain,54°
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
They're off at Belmont Park
Tony Bellissimo/Herald
Mei Ling, with jockey Jose Ortiz aboard, romped to victory in the first race of the Belmont Park Spring/Summer meet on May 1.

Belmont Park’s 54-day Spring/Summer Meet got under way on the first day of May, with Mei Ling winning the racetrack’s opening race of 2014, taking a one-mile dirt event in muddy conditions by almost six lengths with jockey Jose Ortiz aboard.

Mei Ling established control out of the gate and was hardly pressured in the Maiden Special Weight event, which had a purse of $75,000. She pulled away easily down the stretch and paid $9.10 to win. Make It Anywhere completed the exacta, and Kate Greenaway finished third. The trifecta paid $145.50.

“I’ve been on this horse before, and she has a lot of talent,” Ortiz said. “She came out strong and kept going.”

Ortiz added that it was exciting to be back at Belmont and to be the first jockey in the winner’s circle for 2014. “I love the NYRA circuit,” he said of the New York Racing Association. “Belmont is great and Aqueduct is great.”

The track boasts a wide array of improvements, including 131 new high-definition televisions as well as new HD screens in second-floor box seats for improved viewing of live and simulcast racing. Near the paddock, a new 8-x-15-foot video display wall has been installed by the walking ring, offering enhanced, HD picture quality.

The 146th running of the Belmont Stakes, set for Saturday, June 7, is the glittering centerpiece of the meet, which runs through July 13. The oldest and longest leg of horseracing’s Triple Crown, the 1½-mile Belmont will be supported by an incredible nine additional graded stakes, including five prestigious Grade 1 events: the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap, the $1 million Ogden Phipps, the $1 million Manhattan, the $750,000 Longines Just a Game and the $750,000 Acorn. In total, the 13-race card will be worth $8 million, making New York’s Spring Championships the second-richest day on the North American racing calendar, behind only Breeders’ Cup Saturday.

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