Horse Racing

Why is the Belmont Stakes Moving to Saratoga?

FanDuel Staff
FanDuel Staff
Why is the Belmont Stakes Moving to Saratoga?

The 2024 Belmont Stakes is coming up on Saturday, June 8. However, things will look a little different this year: there will be no talk of who can get 1 ½ miles or who likes it at Big Sandy. After all, the race will not be run at Belmont Park.

For the first time in history, we see the final jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown shifting upstate from Long Island to Saratoga Springs. In 2024 and 2025, the Belmont Stakes will be run over a 1 ¼-mile distance at Saratoga Race Course. This historic track is typically the summer showplace for the New York Racing Association, and the usual summer meet at Saratoga will still happen from July 11 through September 2. But, the upstate track will also play host to the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival from June 6 through 9.

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Belmont Park Renovation

In March of 2024, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the timeline for the current Belmont Park renovation project. The $455 million project is being funded by a loan from the state of New York to the New York Racing Association, approved in the budget for the 2024 fiscal year.

Alongside the timeline, the New York Racing Association unveiled plans for what the grandstand is expected to look like when the project is finished. The new grandstand will feature a smaller footprint, 275,000 square feet, instead of 1.25 million square feet of the old one. The smaller building will feature the amenities of a modern horse racing grandstand, while also opening up significantly more green space for people to enjoy on race days.

Demolition of the grandstand began the next month, with building of the modern grandstand slated to begin in March of 2025. According to that timeline released in March, Belmont Park will be under construction through 2026. Though the new grandstand is not expected to be fully open until September 2026, horse racing is expected to return to the track in June 2026, in time to run the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at its traditional Long Island home.

Belmont Stakes at Saratoga Race Course

During the massive renovation of Belmont Park, most of the thoroughbred racing that would otherwise happen at Belmont Park has been conducted at Aqueduct in Queens, under a meet called Belmont at the Big A. The New York Racing Association has decided to put a special touch on the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown: instead of keeping it at Aqueduct, it will happen at Saratoga Race Course.

This is not the first time fans have seen the final race of horse racing’s Triple Crown shifting to another track due to construction. Between 1963 and 1967, the Belmont Stakes was contested at Aqueduct during a previous grandstand rebuilding project. However, this will be the first time that the Belmont Stakes will be run outside the New York City metropolitan area.

Change in Distance

The Belmont Stakes will be run at Saratoga Race Course three weeks after the Preakness, its usual place on the racing calendar. The biggest difference in the third Triple Crown event, other than the location, will be the change in distance of the Belmont Stakes. The 2024 Belmont Stakes, as well as the 2025 edition, will be contested at 1 ¼ miles, the same distance as the Kentucky Derby.

The change in distance will not be the first in the history of the race. It has been run at distances ranging from 1 ⅛ miles through 1 ⅝ miles. However, its traditional distance is 1 ½ miles. The race has covered that distance from 1874-89 as well as from 1926 through 2023, except for 2020 when it was run at 1 ⅛ miles due to the COVID-era racing schedule changes.

The dirt track at Saratoga cannot handle a race at 1 ½ miles, however. To run that distance, the starting gate would have to be put on the turn. So, the Triple Crown finale has been shortened to 1 ¼ miles. This would probably be more controversial if there were a live Triple Crown run into the 2024 Belmont Stakes, though with Mystik Dan and Seize the Grey winning the first two races of the series, there is not a live bid this year.

Belmont Stakes Racing Festival

Due to the Saratoga track’s differing size, the Belmont Stakes is not the only race that will have to change distance or configuration in 2024 or 2025. For example, one-mile dirt races like the Met Mile (G1) and the Acorn (G1) will be run out of the mile chute instead of at a true one-turn mile, as they are at Belmont Park. Some of the turf races will change distance as well. The Manhattan (G1) will shorten to 1 3/16 miles instead of 1 ¼, and the Jaipur (G1) will cover 5 ½ furlongs on the turf instead of a flat six.

Even with the changes in distance, however, the purses will remain strong and the prestige of the meet is enough to draw many of the best horses to compete at Saratoga Race Course. With that being the case, and the courses and distances remaining similar, the American Graded Stakes Committee is treating the Belmont Stakes and all of the other races at the festival as continuations of the races at Belmont Park. Thus, the races have kept their grades during this visit.

To see 2024 Belmont Stakes post positions and individual horse odds, read more at FanDuel Research.

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