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History of Belmont

In 1902, a syndicate headed by August Belmont II and former Secretary of the Navy William C. Whitney sought land on Long Island to build the most elaborate track in America, one modeled after the great race courses of Europe. They found what they were looking for on the border of Queens County and Nassau County. Originally known as Foster’s Meadow, the 650 acres of land included a turreted Tudor-Gothic mansion owned by William de Forest Manice, which was to serve as the track’s Turf and Field Club until 1956.

The grand opening of Belmont Park on May 4, 1905, prompted the first of countless traffic jams in Long Island history as more than 40,000 fans, in all manner of conveyance, tried to arrive by the first race post time of 3 p.m. Not all of them made it in time to see August Belmont II’s Blandy, at 7-1, hold off 100-1 shot Oliver Cromwell in the $1,500 Belmont Inaugural. Later, James R. Keen’s Sysonby, who would be ranked No. 30 on the Blood-Horse Magazine’s top 100 horses of the 20th century, made his 3-year-old debut against the super filly Beldame, another of Belmont’s charges. In the stretch, Sysonby got unexpected competition from 20-1 Race King, and the two hit the wire in a dead heat.

The most celebrated race at Belmont Park is the Belmont Stakes, the final jewel of racing’s Triple Crown. Since 1919, when Sir Barton was the first to sweep the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont, the “Test of the Champion” has crowned but 11 winners of racing’s most prestigious, and elusive, prize.

Belmont Park holds a place in history in other areas as well. In 1910, Wilbur and Orville Wright staged an international aerial competition at Belmont Park that drew 150,000 spectators. In 1918, the track served as the New York City terminal for the first airmail service between New York and Washington, D.C. Belmont Park was the site of “War Relief Day” in 1940 to benefit the American Red Cross and in 1943 hosted “Back the Attack” Day, wherein fans had to buy a war bond to gain admission to the track. Total receipts that day were between $25 and $30 million.

Closed in 1963, the rebuilt Belmont Park grandstand reopened on May 20, 1968. Over the next decade it rocked to the cheers of thousands as Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978) joined Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), and Citation (1948) as Triple Crown winners. History was made in 2007 when Rags to Riches defeated Curlin to become the first filly in 102 years and one of only three to win the race.
 

 

BASIC PHYSICAL DATA OF BELMONT PARK RACETRACK
 
 
GROUNDS
Area of Site 445 acres
Parking Areas 91 acres (18,500 cars)
Main Course 1 1/2 miles
Widener Turf Course 1 5/16 miles
Inner Turf Course 1 3/16 miles, 103 feet
Training Track 1 mile
Pony Track 1/4 mile
Railroad Terminal - 4 Platforms; City Bus
Terminal with Escalators; Chartered and Tour Bus Parking
Area; 6 CCTV Race Patrol Camera Towers - 40 feet high
   
GRANDSTAND
Length 1,266 feet
Depth Clubhouse and Grandstand 265 feet
Height 105 feet
Floor Area 1,300,000 square feet
Concrete Work 40,000 cubic yards
Structural Steel Framing 13,047 tons
   
STABLE AREA
61 Barns (1 Receiving Barn, 1 Pony Barn)
Stabling Capacity 2,200 Stalls
Dormitory Capacity
(408 rooms)
865 personnel
   
FACILITIES PROVIDED
Total Capacity 100,000+
Trackside Dining 2,300
Other Dining 700
Total Seating Capacity (including picnic tables
and benches)
32,941
Closed-Circuit TV Monitors 1,000+
Kitchens 4
Dining Areas 5
Concession Stands 25
Concession Bars 12
Toilets 96
Elevators 9
Escalators 18
Pari-Mutuel Windows 1,000+
Hospital 5 beds
First Aid Room 1
Ambulances 4
Defibrillators 12
   
TRACK ATTENDANCE AND HANDLE RECORDS
   
One-Day Attendance 120,139, June 5, 2004
One-Day Handle $14,658,559 on Breeders’ Cup Day, Oct. 29, 2005