The 156th Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the U.S. Triple Crown, will be run at Saratoga Race Course this spring, according to an announcement by racing officials and New York State Governor Kathy Hochul.
The change follows a $455-million loan to the New York Racing Association (NYRA) by New York State to completely rebuild Belmont Park in Nassau County on Long Island. Once the new facility is complete, racing is expected to end at nearby Aqueduct Race Course in Queens and the Belmont stakes to return to Belmont Park.
The Belmont Stakes is slated to run on Saturday, June 8, with a Racing Festival to begin on Thursday, June 6 and continue through Sunday, June 9.
The four-day Festival at Saratoga Race Course will include 23 stakes races in total with purses totaling $9.7 million, the highest purse levels and number of stakes offered since the launch of the multi-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival in 2014.
The Belmont, the oldest of the three Triple Crown races, named in honor of August Belmont Sr., was first held at Jerome Park Racetrack in 1867 (located in a part of Westchester County that was annexed into the Bronx in 1874). It ran there until 1890 when it was moved to nearby Morris Park Racecourse. In 1905 the race moved to Belmont Park.
While 2024 will mark the first time the Belmont Stakes is held at Saratoga, the race was moved to Aqueduct Racetrack from 1963-1967 when Belmont Park last underwent significant renovations.
Racing at the current Saratoga Race Course began in 1864, the year before racing was run across the street at what is now called Horse Haven, where the original track can still be seen. The oldest stakes race in America, the Travers Stakes, was first run in 1864 at Saratoga. (You can learn more about the history of racing at Saratoga here)
The Belmont Stakes has provided fans with some of the most exciting moments in horse racing history, including Secretariat’s 31-length victory in 1973 (learn more and watch it here) to American Pharoah’s ending of the a 37-year Triple Crown drought in 2015.
Secretariat was defeated later that season in the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga on August 4, 1973. American Pharoah was defeated at Saratoga, “the Graveyard of Champions,” on August 29, 2015.
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) will increase the purse of the Belmont Stakes from $1.5 million to $2 million in 2024, which is the first significant increase since 2014.
In addition, pending the approval of the North American Graded Stakes Committee, the Belmont Stakes will be contested at 1 1/4 miles in 2024 rather than the traditional 1 1/2 miles due to the configuration of Saratoga’s main track. The distance has been adjusted throughout history.
Following the conclusion of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga, the NYRA circuit will return to Aqueduct Racetrack for the remainder of the spring meet before racing shifts to Saratoga for the annual 40-day summer meet beginning Thursday, July 11.
Prior to the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, the Belmont spring/summer meet will be conducted at Aqueduct. The fall meet customarily held at Belmont Park will again be shifted to Aqueduct Racetrack in 2024 while construction of a new Belmont Park continues.
The sport of horse racing sustains 19,000 jobs across the state and has an estimated $3 billion annual economic impact.
Information and details on tickets will be available in early 2024.
Illustrations, from above: Horse racing at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, NY (photo by Chelsea Durand courtesy NYRA); and Secretariat winning the 1973 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park (Virginia Historical Society).