Gold scissors snipped a green-and-white ribbon last week and the new Belmont Park was open, a 430-acre, $30 million demonstration that some degree of unhurried and even gracious civilization can survive in a sporting venue that is part of megalopolis. Some lovers of the old days and the old ways were not satisfied, but The New York Racing Association, its board chairman, James Cox Brady, and Architect Arthur Froehlich have managed to keep much of the charm of the former plant, built in 1905. The magnificent course itself, where so much Thoroughbred history was made, remains, and there were those who thought it prophetic that the first race at the track since 1962 was won by a Calumet Farm colt named Ever On, whose full brother, Forward Pass, will try this week to win the 100th Belmont Stakes and with it the Triple Crown. Opening day brought out most of racing's elite as well as its regulars (following pages), and if their handicapping was no better than it has been for the past six years at Aqueduct, there was consolation at least in a stylish setting.
Perhaps too small for expected crowds, the tree-studded paddock and walking ring can be viewed from both clubhouse and grandstand sides. It serves as starting point for the post parade.
Opening-day visitor was Ogden Phippses' daughter Cynthia.
Greentree's Joan Payson and Jock Whitney were sister-brother act.
June 2, 1968
Chic owner Anne McDonnell Ford contributed to glamour.
Paddock exchange amused horsemen Bull Hancock and E. P. Taylor.
Jockeys awaited prerace orders in the shade of elegant paddock while A. G. Vanderbilt and E. B. Ryan relaxed in Trustees Room.
Amphitheater-type stands (above) provided clear view of walking ring, where the prize landmark is a well-treated 140-year-old white pine.
Scarfed Mrs. Charles Engelhard sat with T. Murray McDonnell.
John Galbreath and George Widener flanked Architect Froehlich.
A longtime patron, Mrs. H. C. Phipps beamed approval.
From front-row box the Alfred Vanderbilts watched opening card.
Behind boxes of geraniums and petunias, grandstand spectators had access to entire 1,266-foot ground floor.
From atop the 112-foot stand, Stewards Potter, Dunne and Rainey could view most of Belmont's 430 acres.
Closer to the action than at most tracks, fans saw races on a mile-and-a-half dirt track and two grass courses.