In another move that should help endear her to residents of Upstate New York, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the 2024 Belmont Stakes will be moving from Long Island to Saratoga Springs to allow for uninterrupted construction at Belmont Park. The 156th edition of the Stakes will take place at Saratoga Race Course during the four-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. Set to begin on June 6, the festival will include 23 stakes races in total with purses totaling $9.7 million overall highlighted by the running of the third leg of the Triple Crown.
“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,” Governor Hochul said in a press release. “As I said during the 2023 Saratoga Meet, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Due to the configuration of Saratoga’s main track, the Stakes, which were first held in 1867 at Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx and moved to Belmont Park in 1905, will be contested at 1 1/4 miles in 2024 rather than the traditional 1 1/2 miles as long as the North American Graded Stakes Committee signs off on the change. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) also plans to increase the purse of the Belmont Stakes from $1.5 million to $2 million in 2024, the first significant increase in prize money since 2014.
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Purists may not like the change of venue and shortening of the track, but they may have to get used to it as work on the $455 million Belmont Park project is expected to last into 2025, making it likely Saratoga will host the Stakes for two years in a row at a minimum. While construction is taking place, the spring and fall races that are typically held during Belmont’s season will be moved to the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. Aqueduct previously hosted the Stakes from 1963 to 1967 while Belmont was undergoing a previous renovation, per The New York Times.
Speaking to The Associated Press, NYRA president and CEO David O’Rourke indicated that the move is probably a two-year change but expressed optimism about the shift from Belmont Park to Saratoga Race Course. “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,” he said. “Something like this is just kind of a unique thing to know that it’s going to happen for a couple years up there. 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.”