Belmont Stakes block party set for I.F.

Exercise rider Willie Delgado gallops California Chrome on a second lap during a workout at Belmont Park, Wednesday, June 4, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 when he races in the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race on Saturday. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)

California Chrome’s victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness caught the attention of sports fans who most days don’t give horse racing a second thought.

It also caused a pretty serious change of plans for Jim Bernard.

The general manager of Ida Racing at Sandy Downs in Idaho Falls had hoped to open his new off-track betting venture — Double Down Betting Bar and Grill at the One16 Bar and Grill off Sunnyside Road — in late July or early August, just before the local season kicks off at Sandy Downs.

But with California Chrome’s Triple Crown chances — and it’s ties to Idaho — Bernard and his staff worked hard to get things ready for Saturday’s 146th running of the Belmont Stakes.

“This is a little earlier than we had planned, but we knew it would be a great time to get the exposure,” Bernard said. “Horse racing needs a hero right now. (A Triple Crown winner) would be great for the sport.”

California Chrome has several local ties to Idaho. The Williams family in Parma owns California Chrome’s sire, Lucky Pulpit. And Ririe native Judd Fisher has served as a farrier for California Chrome, and his modification of a horse shoe has helped spark the Triple Crown run.

Double Down will feature parimutuel betting at tracks across the country through a self-serve window while One16 is open. On Wednesdays through Sundays, there will be a teller on hand to take bets during business hours.

And it all kicks off with California Chrome’s Triple Crown run Saturday. The Belmont Stakes Block Party will feature betting, food and live music. The Belmont Stakes is scheduled to go off at approximately 4 p.m.

Bernard said the new venture should help promote the local horse racing scene through extra funding and exposure. Proceeds from Double Down will help support racing at the smaller tracks in Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Blackfoot, Malad, Jerome, Rupert, Burley and Emmett.

“People don’t realize that the horses that come from Idaho can compete anywhere,” he said.

Sandy Downs will feature a shortened racing season later this summer, with racing scheduled for Aug. 17, Aug. 23, Aug. 24 and Sept. 7.