Racing enthusiasts and casual fans alike know Belmont Park as the home of the Belmont Stakes, the third race in the Triple Crown.
When history is made, it happens at this New York racetrack. Historians know the track as an early 1900s venue for aviation shows.
Its races are famed; its location holds 114 years of history, and its tracks have hosted the best horses, jockeys and trainers in the industry.
Belmont Park Racetrack
- Address: 2150 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont, NY 11003
- Owner: State of New York
- Operator: New York Racing Association
- Main track: 1 1/2 mile oval track
- Course type: Dirt
- Live racing available: Yes
- Racing season: April to July, and September to October
Belmont Park in the News
About Belmont Park
The busiest day of the year at Belmont Park is the first week of June. The Belmont Stakes brings the best of the best horses from the first two legs of the Triple Crown to its main track.
Every year, the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival offers two days of exciting races.
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) runs Belmont, as well as Aqueduct and Saratoga racecourses, on a nonprofit basis.
The NYRA was created more than 60 years ago to provide top horse racing opportunities for thoroughbreds in New York.
Belmont Park sits on 445 acres of land.
The property is dedicated to parking for about 18,500 vehicles and races, horse care and fans. There are more tracks at Belmont than other racecourses, with three primary courses, along with a training track and pony track.
Fans can choose to watch races or bet from the grandstand area or the clubhouse.
In all, the facilities can hold more than 90,000 people, with seating for nearly 33,000.
From restaurants to trackside dining, from fast food to eat at picnic tables to luxury meals, there are many options for patrons at Belmont.
Many records have been made at Belmont, however, two in recent decades that have yet to be broken:
- June 5, 2004: One-day attendance record of 120,139 people to see if Smarty Jones would win a Triple Crown.
- June 7, 2014: One-day handle record of $19,200,102 on Belmont Stakes Day when California Chrome attempted a Triple Crown.
Over the years, Belmont Park has made many improvements to the facilities for the comfort of fans, horses and workers alike.
In the past seven years, the venue installed hundreds of HD televisions around the property, new video display boards in the paddock area and expanded restaurant options, including the picnic area.
More than $5 million in improvements happened within the last two years, with new rail station platforms at the train station and improved egress from the track.
The main Belmont Park dirt track is also known as “the Big Sandy.”
Its length of 1 1/2 miles (2.4 kilometers) and depth make it a tiring track, but one that showcases the strength and stamina of thoroughbreds. It is the longest dirt thoroughbred track in North America.
The main course is also sometimes called the “Championship Track“ because nearly every major champion in the history of horse racing ran the course.
The main track is topped with between 4-5 inches of sandy loam cushion over 10 inches of a mixture of clay, silt and sand. The sand drainage then tops the natural soil underneath.
The distance from the stretch to the finish line is 1,097 feet, and the start of the first turn covers 843 feet. A straightaway chute leads to the backstretch of the main track to allow races on the dirt up to 1 1/8 miles to run with only one turn.
The track just on the inside of the main track is the Widener Turf Course, named for the Widener family of horse racing lore. That turf course is 1 5/16 miles, plus an extra 27 feet. This course contains two chutes for races of one mile and 1 1/16 miles to begin.
Inside of the Widener is the inner turf course, which is 1 3/16 miles plus 103 feet long. There is a chute for races of 1 1/16 miles on that course.
Both turf courses are made of Kentucky bluegrass covering 8 inches of sandy topsoil over natural soil.
The training track is one mile in length and is located just east of the main track. Belmont added lights to that training track in 2009.
The Belmont Stakes is the most popular race at Belmont Park, which should go without saying.
The race runs 1 1/2 miles, or 12 furlongs, on the main dirt track.
This flagship race also goes by these nicknames: “Test of the Champion,” “Third Jewel of the Triple Crown” and “Run for the Carnations.”
The 150th Belmont Stakes ran in 2018 when Justify won the Triple Crown.
Secretariat holds the speed record in the race, which was 2:24 flat in 1973. No horse has beat that record since. Secretariat also won that race by 31 lengths, the largest margin of victory in history.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup is an important race, typically the main attraction of the fall meeting.
This 1 1/4-mile race (10 furlongs) is run on the dirt track. Thoroughbreds 3 years or older can run, and the winner automatically qualifies to run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Originally called the Jockey Club Stakes, it ran 1 1/2 miles in 1919 and 1920, then increased to a full two miles through 1975.
It then went back to 1 1/2 miles until 1990, when it was reduced to 1 1/4 miles. The purse had been $1 million but was recently decreased to $750,000.
The Belmont Derby is another signature race at Belmont, though it was originally called the Jamaica Handicap and formerly held in the fall instead of the summer.
It runs 3-year-old thoroughbreds for 10 furlongs on a turf track for a purse of $1 million. It is the first event of the Turf Trinity, a new series launched in 2019.
Events and graded stakes
Grade I Grade II Grade III
Acorn Stakes Beldame Stakes Athenia Stakes
Belmont Derby Belmont Gold Cup Invitational Stakes Beaugay Stakes
Belmont Oaks Bowling Green Handicap Bed O’Roses Handicap
Belmont Stakes Brooklyn Handicap Bold Ruler Handicap
Champagne Stakes Fort Marcy Handicap Dwyer Stakes
Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes Gallant Bloom Handicap Intercontinental Stakes
Frizette Stakes Hill Prince Stakes Miss Grillo Stakes
Jaipur Invitational Kelso Handicap Peter Pan Stakes
Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes Knickerbocker Handicap Pilgrim Stakes
Jockey Club Derby John A. Nerud Stakes Poker Stakes
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes Mother Goose Stakes Runhappy Stakes
Just a Game Handicap New York Stakes Soaring Softly Stakes
Man o’War Stakes Pennine Ridge Stakes Vagrancy Handicap
Manhattan Handicap Ruffian Stakes Victory Ride Stakes
Metropolitan Handicap Sands Point Stakes Westchester Handicap
Ogden Phipps Handicap Sheepshead Bay Handicap Wonder Again Stakes
Woody Stephens Stakes Suburban Handicap True North Handicap Vosburgh Stakes Woodward Stakes
History of Belmont Park
The original Belmont opened on May 4, 1905, courtesy of a group of wealthy investors that included August Belmont and William Collins Whitney.
The idea was so welcomed by racing fans from all over the East Coast that the mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, presented the new track with four stone pillars for the entranceway.
Another feature that made the original Belmont Park stand out, besides the size of the facility and scope of its grounds, was the railroad running alongside it. Access to the park was made simple.
These features made it appealing to the aviation industry. Just a few years after Belmont opened, the Wright brothers hosted an international aerial tournament there in 1910.
Approximately 150,000 people attended, and organizers then replicated the event in 1911 and 1912.
For more than its first decade, the races mimicked those in England, with horses running clockwise. When Belmont died in 1924 and Joseph Widener took over, he reversed the track and devised the Widener Chute for a seven-furlong straightaway through the main track and training track.
That course remained in place until 1958.
Many original features remain at the modern-day Belmont Park, including the stone pillars, which now mark the entrance to the clubhouse. Original iron railings were also incorporated into the modern facility, and original paintings of Belmont Park remain on display in the clubhouse.
The first major race at the track was the Belmont Stakes, named after August Belmont Sr., who personally helped finance the race’s purse.
The Belmont Stakes originally ran at Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx in 1867, but the modern history of the race began in 1905. The only years the race didn’t run at all were 1911 and 1912, when New York temporarily banned gambling.
After the 1962 fall meet at Belmont Park, the grandstand and clubhouse areas were deemed unsafe, and they were demolished in 1963.
Races were then moved to Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens from 1964 through 1967 for the building of the new $30.7 million grandstand, clubhouse and inner turf course.
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The new Belmont Park opened in May 1968 with the capacity to host more than 100,000 people and another 10,000 in the backyard area. And there was seating availability for 33,000 people.
Those boundaries were tested in the years to come when horses like Secretariat ran and won the 1973 Triple Crown and much later in 2004 when Smarty Jones attempted the same. Of course, that did not happen, but American Pharoah did the honors at Belmont Park in 2015.
A statue of Secretariat stands at the center of the paddock to mark the historic and record-setting day in Belmont Park and racing history.