By Mike Kane
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The next two runnings of the GI Belmont S. could be held at Saratoga Race Course, New York Racing Association President and CEO David O'Rourke said Sunday.
NYRA would make the temporary switch of the oldest race in the Triple Crown series to America's oldest track during a massive re-construction undertaking at Belmont Park. In mid-June, Patrick McKenna, NYRA's vice-president for communications, said that the 2025 Belmont S. might be held at Saratoga Race Course. While noting that a final decision has not been finalized, O'Rourke said Saratoga could host the race next June and again in 2025.
“With Belmont, you're looking at just under a three-year project, including demolition,” he said. “Our preferred course of action is to get moving on the abatement and the demolition early this winter. If we are successful, we will not be back to Belmont until the Belmont S. of '26.
“I won't have a definitive answer on that until a month from now, maybe a month and a half. In terms of our preferred path forward, that would be it.”
Saratoga Race Course would be a suitable host site because it can accommodate large crowds. NYRA still operates Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, but its once-massive grandstand is gone.
Moving the Belmont S. would be a huge economic boon for the city of Saratoga Springs and the Capital Region of upstate New York. The annual 40-day Saratoga meeting is a key economic driver and adding more days in June for the Belmont Stakes festival would be a very big deal in the marketplace.
Thoroughbred racing debuted in Saratoga in 1863 on an existing track on the north side of Union Avenue. The experiment launched by John Morrissey was so successful, that land was purchased across the street and a track was ready for the 1864 season. The first race held on the new grounds, where the current track is located, was the Travers Stakes, named after William Travers, the president of the racing association. For 3-year-olds, it is the most-important race of the season.
The annual Saratoga racing, season, now 40 days, is the highest-profile, most-popular meet in North America. NYRA officials said that total attendance for this year's meet, which conclude Monday, will again top 1 million.
Saratoga Race Course would be the fifth track in New York to host the Belmont S. It was first run in 1867 at Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx. The Belmont was staged at Morris Park in Westchester County from 1890 until Belmont Park was opened in 1905. The race was held at Aqueduct Racetrack between 1963 and 1967 when Belmont Park was being rebuilt.