Why is the 2024 Belmont Stakes in Saratoga springs?

The prestigious Belmont Stakes, the final jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown, is known for its thrilling competition and rich history. This year, the event is making headlines with a change of venue. Traditionally held at Belmont Park in New York, the 156th running of the Belmont Stakes will take place at the iconic Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, June 8th, 2024.

Located in Upstate New York, 200 miles from the Belmont’s home in Elmont, NY, Saratoga Race Course will host the Belmont Stakes for the first time in 118 years.

On December 6, 2023, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the Belmont Stakes would be held at Saratoga Race Course in 2024 to allow for the uninterrupted construction of a new and re-imagined Belmont Park, the Long Island home of the third leg of the Triple Crown. This post dives into the reasons behind this exciting shift, explores the celebratory atmosphere of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, and unveils some key details announced by Governor Hochul.

Why Move the belmont stakes to Saratoga Springs?

Why this change? Well, it’s primarily due to the extensive $455 million upgrade happening at Belmont Park on Long Island. Construction at the Long Island facility is expected to last into 2025, and officials are preparing for the Belmont Stakes to remain at Saratoga for at least two years. The ongoing construction at Belmont Park necessitates a temporary relocation to ensure an optimal experience for both horses and spectators.

Nicknamed “The August Place to Be,” Saratoga Race Course has a history of racing stretching back over 150 years. First opened August 1863, a month after the Battle of Gettysburg, the track has been named one of the world’s greatest sporting venues by ESPN for its unmatched ambience and charm of the historic city of Saratoga Springs. Hosting the Belmont Stakes at this historic track pays homage to its esteemed past and adds a new chapter to Saratoga’s storied legacy.

“Saratoga County continues to grow and thrive because of world-class attractions like Saratoga Race Course,” said Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus. Governor Hochul has long championed Upstate New York as the ideal place to live, work and vacation. That’s exactly what racing fans will find here in Saratoga when they visit for the Belmont Stakes in June.”

But Why Not Move the Belmont Stakes to Aquaduct?

Located only 12 miles from Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack, affectionately known to racing fans as “The Big A,” is a Thoroughbred horse racing facility and casino situated in the South Ozone Park and Jamaica neighborhoods of Queens. The racetrack, which opened on September 27, 1894, by the Queens County Jockey Club, takes its name from the former Ridgewood Aqueduct. It also serves as the headquarters of the New York Racing Association (NYRA).

Notably, Aqueduct is the sole racetrack within New York City limits and Aquaduct’s racing meets typically run from late October through April. However, there’s still racing going through May and June. As you might guess, a full schedule of horse racing would make it difficult to prepare for hosting an event as large as the Belmont Stakes Festsival.

A Four-Day Extravaganza: The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival

Get ready for four days of exhilarating racing! The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will take place from June 6th to June 9th, 2024, culminating with the highly anticipated Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Throughout the festival, top thoroughbreds will compete across 23 high-stakes races, including the prestigious Belmont Stakes, keeping racing enthusiasts on the edge of their seats as they witness thrilling battles for glory.

Governor Kathy Hochul’s announcement regarding the venue change also included some additional exciting news for horse racing fans. The Belmont Stakes purse will be increased to $2 million in 2024, marking the event’s first significant purse increase since 2014. Additionally, to accommodate Saratoga’s track configuration, the race distance will be temporarily adjusted to 1 1/4 miles, pending approval from the North American Graded Stakes Committee.

“As part of the exciting modernization of Belmont Park, Saratoga now adds to its storied history by hosting the 3rd leg of the Triple Crown,” Governor Hochul said. “It’s a win for horseracing and for the Capital Region to have the excitement and the ability to host the four-day Festival in June at America’s most historic track.

The entire four-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will include a total of 23 stakes races with combined purses totaling $10.1 million.

Exciting Enhancements for the 2024 Belmont Stakes

For the final leg of the Triple Crown, the 2024 Belmont Stakes will have some noteworthy changes:

  • Increased Purse: The New York Racing Association (NYRA) is upping the ante! The 2024 Belmont Stakes purse will see a significant increase to $2 million, marking the first major bump since 2014.
  • Distance Adjustment: To accommodate Saratoga’s track configuration, the Belmont Stakes distance will be adjusted to 1 1/4 miles in 2024, pending approval from the North American Graded Stakes Committee. This is a slight change from the traditional 1 1/2 miles.
  • Belmont Park Modernization: Governor Hochul’s plans include a proposal for NYRA to construct state-of-the-art thoroughbred racing facilities at Belmont Park. This project aims to revitalize the 117-year-old track, elevate hospitality offerings, and generate economic growth and job opportunities.

Modernizing Belmont Park: A Look Towards the Future

The relocation also serves as a catalyst for the future of Belmont Park. Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget proposes a project spearheaded by the New York Racing Association (NYRA) to construct new racing facilities at Belmont Park. This modernization effort aims to revitalize the 117-year-old track, enhance hospitality offerings, and generate economic growth through job creation.

History in the Making: The 2024 Belmont Stakes

A precursor to the regular Saratoga Race Course season which begins July 11, the 2024 Belmont Stakes promises to be a historic event, bringing the thrill of Triple Crown racing to the legendary horse racing track. Whether you’re a seasoned racing aficionado or simply curious about this prestigious event, mark your calendars for June 5- 9, 2023. Witness history in the making and be part of an unforgettable celebration of thoroughbred racing!