LEWISTON — Even before the horses made their final turn in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, whoops and hollers filled the Winner’s Circle OTB.

More than 200 people crowded into the Lewiston off-track betting parlor in hopes of witnessing — and betting on — history.

“This is probably as close as we’ve been in 36 years to seeing a Triple Crown winner,” said Jay Beck of Lisbon. “It’s hard not to bet on California Chrome.”

But when his horse faded in the stretch — falling to a tie for fourth after winning the crown’s first two races — there were no angry outbursts.

Cold reality sunk in.

Todd Henry of Freeport figured he’d head to the packed parking lot like so many others. He’d been sipping beer, reading the racing forms and visiting with a friend in the windowless space for almost four hours.

“I guess it’s a shame when it’s so nice out,” he said.

Jamilyn and Andy Ellis of Livermore hoped some of the luck in their marriage — they’d watched the movie “Secretariat” on their third date — might win them a bet. But just 15 minutes before the race, they hadn’t decided how much to wager.

“We don’t do this often,” Andy Ellis said.

Pete Bouffard of Randolph read through a racing form and weighed whether he’d place a bet at all.

Other folks would bet, he knew. Nationally, millions of dollars would change hands in moments.

“I know so little about the thoroughbreds,” said Bouffard, who goes to Winner’s Circle every Saturday night for the harness races. “I might just watch.”

Beck bet about $30 on a trifecta. He wanted to win the money, but he also wanted to see the spunky horse win.

“I watched him at Preakness, “ he said. “He looked like he still had something in the tank.”

Halfway through the race, with California Chrome in fourth, Beck told himself there was a plan.

“That’s just where he ought to be,” he said, watching the screen at his table.

A minute later, it was over.

“I have to wait ’til next year,” he said.

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