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History of Belmont

“The 37-year wait is over,” proclaimed track announcer Larry Collmus as American Pharoah swept across the finish line in the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes to become just the 12th Triple Crown winner in history. A sold-out crowd of 90,000 was on hand to witness history as the Zayat Stables color-bearer added the “Test of the Champion” to his earlier victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. His triumph was a fitting conclusion to the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, expanded to three days, featuring 17 stakes races worth nearly $10 million and anchored by the 1 1/2- mile Belmont, which this year will be run on Saturday, June 11.

American Pharoah joined 11 other winners of racing’s most prestigious, and elusive prize. Since 1919, when Sir Barton was the first to sweep the spring classics, only Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978) have achieved racing immortality.

Along with the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival from June 9-11, the second “must-see” event of Belmont’s spring/summer meet will be the third edition of the Star & Stripes Racing Festival on July 9, a spectacular day of racing featuring elite competitors from around the world, highlighted by the Grade 1, $1.25 million Belmont Derby Invitational and the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational, both at 1 1/4 miles on the turf.

For more than a century, Belmont as been the stage for many of racing’s greatest legends, from Man o’ War to Curlin,
Beldame to Rachel Alexandra, and Seabiscuit to Cigar. It began in 1902, when 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, attracted more than 40,000 fans who witnessed August Belmont
II’s Blandy, at 7-1, hold off 100-1 shot Oliver Cromwell in the $1,500 Belmont Inaugural. Later, James R. Keane’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.

Closed in 1963 due to structural defects, Belmont Park was rebuilt and re-opened in 1968. Since 2012, numeous
improvements have been made to enhance the guest experience while preserving its historic architectural elements,
including the installion of hundreds of HD televisions across the property and new video display boards in the Paddock,
installing Trakus technology for horseplayers and enhancing and expanding the Belmont Cafe and the Top of the
Stretch picnic area. Last year, guests were be greeted by $5 million in improvements to the transit rotunda on the west
end of the Grandstand, as well as new rail station platforms, which increased the Belmont Station train capacity from
eight to 10 cars and improved egress from the track on major racing days.

 

 

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
   
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
63 Barns (1 Receiving Barn, 1 Pony Barn)
Stabling Capacity 2,500 Stalls
Dormitory Capacity
(455 rooms)
1155 personnel
   
FACILITIES PROVIDED
Total Capacity 90,000+
Trackside Dining 2,300
Other Dining 700
Total Seating Capacity (including picnic tables
and benches)
32,941
   
TRACK ATTENDANCE AND HANDLE RECORDS
   
One-Day Attendance 120,139, June 5, 2004
One-Day Handle $19,200,102 on Belmont Stakes Day on June 7, 2014