Fourteen miles east of New York City, the bustle of the Big Apple dissolves to a verdant, laid-back setting that shapes the beauty and splendor of the Belmont Park race track. It is here where the region's wealthy horse owners, avid gamblers, and leisure pursuers are brought together to experience some of the biggest events in North American horse racing, including the prestigious Belmont Stakes.
Belmont Park is known as "The Championship Track" as many Thoroughbred champions, such as Secretariat and Man o’ War, have had their fair share of glory at the track. Adding more than a century's grandeur to American horse racing, the Belmont race track is also recognized as one of the most supreme racetracks in the country today, together with the Saratoga, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Del Mar and Santa Anita racecourses
Belmont Park Track Layout
Belmont's main track (known as "Big Sandy among fans) comprises a 1 1⁄2 miles dirt oval, making it the longest dirt Thoroughbred track in North America. The distance from the beginning of the homestretch to the finish line measures 1,097 feet. The section covering the wire and the start of the first turn extends 843 feet.
The main track encloses a Widener Turf Course that measures a distance of 1 5/6 miles and 27 feet, and is used for races of 1 mile and 1 1⁄16 miles. The Widener Turf, in turn, surrounds an Inner Turf Course with a circumference of 1 3⁄16 miles and 103 feet, used for races of 1 1/16.
Upcoming Races at Belmont Park
The Belmont Park schedule includes some of the most anticipated races of the New-York Racing Calendar. After its first event taking place in 1867 at Jerome Park, The Belmont Stakes has, since 1905, with exceptions, become a permanent annual feature at Belmont Park.
The race is the most prestigious event on the calendar as the 1½ mile dirt track race for 3-year-olds which fetches a pot of $1.5 million and is the final race in the Triple Crown bid, taking place after the Preakness Stakes and the Kentucky Derby (5-weeks prior).
Some of the most memorable Belmont Stakes races of all time include when Secretariat set an undefeated world record (2 minutes, 24 seconds) in his 1973 victory. Also, in 2004 a record-sized crowd of 120,139 witnessed Birdstone defeat Sandy Jones for the Triple Crown (watch the action here:
The 2017 Belmont Stakes, aka The Test of the Champions, looks to be an equally great display of international talent and fierce competition. On the 10th of June, we will be able to see Thunder Snow, winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas and the 2016 Criterium International, and More Than Words (a Kentucky-bred son of More Than Ready) and other eligible 3-year-olds compete in the 2017 Triple Crown races.
Prestigious Races to look out for: (those with a pot over $1 million highlighted in the table below):
- Jun 10: Woodford Reserve Manhattan a 1 ¼ mile turf race for a pot of $1mil.
- Jun 10: Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap a 1 ½ mile dirt race for a pot of $1,2mil.
- Jun 10: Belmont Stakes 1 ½ mile dirt race for a pot of $1, 5mil.
- Jul 08: Belmont Oaks Invitational a 1 ¼ mile turf race for a pot of $1mil.
- Jul 08: Belmont Derby Invitational a 1 ¼ mile turf race for a pot of $1, 2mil.
Upcoming Belmont Track Races
In 1902, August Belmont II and former Secretary of the Navy William C. Whitney, began looking for land that would serve as home to the most extravagant racecourse in America; a track whose character would be influenced by the conventions of Europe's greatest race courses. Foster's Meadow, a 650 acres estate on the border of Queens County and Nassau County, eventually became the site of the original Belmont race track, Turf and Field Club.
When the track held its first race meet on May 4, 1905, more than 40,000 supporters tried to get to Belmont Park before the first post, leading to the first traffic jam on Long Island.
When Belmont Park opened in 1905, it also became the new home of the Belmont Stakes (previously held at the Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx). The inaugural race at the track was won by Tanya, whose victory set a record as the second filly to cross the finish line first at the Belmont Stakes.
Belmont Park adopted a racing style in the English tradition for more than a decade after its inception. The track featured clockwise racing in order to provide the elite members of the racing association and their guests with a close-up view of the race finish in front of the clubhouse.
The Belmont Stakes
Despite enjoying success from the start, the Belmont race track faced uncertain times in its early years. The wave of anti-gambling laws that hit the United States at the time resulted in a two year closure of the track. When Belmont Park reopened in 1913, the track underwent many significant renovations in the years that followed. After a devastating fire at the track in 1917, the original building was entirely reconstructed and opened again in 1920. The last race at the old Belmont Park took place in 1962, after which the track was closed yet again from 1963 to 1968 due to structural defects. The structure was demolished to make way for a new $30.7 million grandstand which still stands today.
The 2004 Belmont Stakes attracted a record crowd of 120,139, who all came out to see Smarty Jones attempt to conquer the Triple Crown but was instead defeated by Birdstone.
Excited for race day? Belmont Race Course (Belmont Park; 2150 Hempstead Turnpike: Elmont, NY 11003) is simple to get to via car, bus, subway or railway (for more information go to https://www.nyra.com/belmont/visit/map-and-directions).
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