The Belmont is heading to Saratoga for the first time — but almost certainly not the last.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that the 2024 Belmont Stakes will be run at Saratoga Race Course, with the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown shifting upstate from Long Island because of the massive renovation of Belmont Park.
The move has been expected for some time since the New York Racing Association unveiled plans for the $455 million Belmont Park project. Construction is expected to last into 2025, so there’s a good chance of the Belmont at Saratoga two years in a row.
“This is likely a two-year endeavor,” NYRA president and CEO David O’Rourke said by phone Wednesday. “We’re going to get it right, and we’re going to improve on it each year.”
Pending the approval of the North American Graded Stakes Committee, the Belmont will be run at a distance of 1 1/4 miles, shorter than the race’s traditional 1 1/2 miles because of the shape of the dirt track at Saratoga. It was 1 1/8 miles in 2020 when the Belmont led off the Triple Crown run out of order because of the pandemic.
That Belmont had no fans. A crowd of up to 50,000 is expected this time to witness history.
“The ability to have the Belmont up at Saratoga, a bunch of circumstances would have to come into alignment,” O’Rourke said. “It’s the most historic venue in the country. It’s one of the coolest sporting venues on the planet, and it’s one of the greatest tourist towns in the nation. Everyone’s excited.”
The purse will increase from $1.5 million to $2 million and the race will be part of a special four-day run at Saratoga a month before the usual summer meet there begins July 11.
The 2023 Belmont Stakes FULL RACE
“It’s a win for horse racing 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,” Hochul said in a statement.
Racing in New York is currently happening at Aqueduct in Queens, which was home to the Triple Crown finale from 1963-67, the last time Belmont Park was renovated.
The race is expected to return to Belmont Park in 2026. O’Rourke said expanding the annual Saratoga meet beyond 40 days is “not in any of our current thinking.”
“Something like this is just kind of a unique thing to know that it’s going to happen for a couple years up there,” he said. “We’re really just trying to program our racing calendar through the development. Bringing the Belmont up there was kind of an obvious move in some ways, in terms of potential for the actual event.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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