At retooled Belmont, stars align for Triple Crown

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Jockeys and trainers were out on the Belmont Park track early Friday, June 6, 2014, to prepare for the next day's marquee race. (Photo: PIX11's Allie Yang)

NEW YORK (AP) — The possibility of the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years comes as Belmont Park unveils a new program designed to attract fans even when history isn’t on the line, racetrack officials said.

Racing operations director Martin Panza said Saturday’s marquee race caps a day of high-stakes horse racing and well-known entertainment including LL Cool J.

Officials say ticket sales were brisk before California Chrome became the 12th horse since 1978 to enter Belmont with wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

Now they could approach records.

Having a Triple Crown contender in the field means an average of 30,000 more fans, millions more in wagering and about 1,000 additional workers.

Local officials report area hotels are selling out and businesses are seeing a tourism bump.