amNY at the Track | Will Belmont Stakes head north to Saratoga during Belmont Park construction in 2025?

Saratoga race course
Saratoga Race Course may host the 2025 Belmont Stakes due to the construction of a new Belmont Park grandstand, a New York Racing Association official told amNewYork Metro.
NYRA/Adam Coglianese

With Belmont Park expected to begin construction on a brand-new grandstand soon after next year’s the Belmont Stakes, it’s unclear where the 2025 running of the Triple Crown’s third leg will be held.

Though nearby Aqueduct Racetrack hosted the Belmont Stakes during the 1960s when the current Belmont grandstand was built, a report in the Albany Times-Union published Monday indicated that the New York Racing Association might instead consider running the 2025 Belmont Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

In fact, according to NYRA Vice President of Communications Patrick McKenna, it seems to be the circuit’s preferred choice should it be impossible to host the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in 2025 due to construction.

Saratoga is typically “The Summer Place to Be,” home to the nation’s most lucrative, 40-day racing meet. Hundreds of thousands of racing fans from New York and across the country flock to Saratoga Springs to attend the summer races. 

“We view this as an unbelievable opportunity to bring a Triple Crown race to Saratoga, to be held at historic Saratoga Race Course,” McKenna told amNewYork Metro in an interview. “That is a community that embraces thoroughbred racing in a way that nowhere else in the world quite does.” 

The Belmont Stakes has been run at Belmont Park every year since 1905, except for the six-year period when the current grandstand was built. During those years, the Belmont Stakes was run at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens; at the time, the grandstand and clubhouse drew tens of thousands of fans every race day.

Of course, those days are long gone; attendance is a fraction of what it was six decades ago. More than a decade ago, the Aqueduct grandstand was gutted and transformed into the Resorts World New York City casino, with just the clubhouse being reserved for racing fans.

As a result, Aqueduct no longer has the capacity to accommodate the Belmont Stakes Day crowd, which averages about 50,000. 

Arcangelo and jockey Javier Castellano after winning the 2023 Belmont Stakes.
Arcangelo and jockey Javier Castellano after winning the 2023 Belmont Stakes.NYRA/Susie Raisher

Saratoga, on the other hand, has more than enough room, including brand new trackside facilities opened in recent years, McKenna noted. The track’s capacity is equal to about 50,000, so no temporary facilities would be needed to host the Belmont Stakes.

The novelty factor also comes into play; Saratoga has never raced outside the summer, so holding a special Belmont Stakes meet in late spring, McKenna observed, would be attention-grabbing in the racing world, and boost the local economy.

“A Belmont Stakes in Saratoga Springs would captivate the attention of the sports world,” he said. “It would be an incredibly important driver of tourism and make an impact in June outside the traditional season.”

The timeline for the Belmont Park grandstand project is still in the works. It’s expected that construction will begin sometime after next summer’s Belmont Park meet ends, and would be finished on or about 2026.

McKenna said NYRA is currently in the design/plan phase of the project, and will present drafts to the state Franchise Control Board this summer – a requirement of the $450 million in state funding it’s receiving. Renderings of the new grandstand would be made public at that time, he noted.

The Belmont Park reconstruction is a long time in coming – and, as we’ve said, is critical to keeping thoroughbred racing viable in the New York City area. NYRA sees the new grandstand as the key toward reviving Belmont Park as a destination track all year long in much the way Saratoga is a destination for seven weeks every summer.

Unfortunately for local fans, that will likely mean losing a future running of the Belmont Stakes to Saratoga. That seems to be a small price to pay for racing’s long-term future at Belmont.

In the meantime, the novelty of spring racing at Saratoga is certainly intriguing.

Post parade notes

  • Arcangelo’s win in the Belmont Stakes made it the fifth straight year in which different horses won each of the Triple Crown races. That means the title of best three-year-old horse in America remains far from decided, and the summer stakes season will likely sort out the murky picture. The prospect of Arcangelo facing Kentucky Derby winner Mage and Preakness champion National Treasure in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga this August could prove to be the race of the year. But ahead of that intriguing, triple-threat matchup, their connections might want to consider running in the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 22. The track, along with BetMakers Technology Group, is offering a $1 million “BetMakers Bonanza” bonus for the connections of any horse who can win the Haskell, the Travers Stakes on Aug. 26 and the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4 at Santa Anita Park. Authentic was the last to pull off the bonanza in the COVID-afflicted 2020 campaign. The Haskell Stakes, on its own, is a  “Win and You’re In” automatic qualifying race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
  • Cody’s Wish made it 2 for 2 in the 2023 season with a resounding victory in the Metropolitan Mile on the Belmont Stakes undercard, continuing the feel-good story of the racing world the last two years. He’ll likely make his next start at Saratoga, according to trainer Bill Mott — though the stakes race is uncertain. While he may likely be pointed to the Forego Stakes, a 7-furlong sprint on Travers Stakes Day, Mott told NYRA he’s also considering pointing Cody’s Wish to the two-turn, 1 1/8 mile Whitney Stakes in early August. “He’s won several races at the mile distance. He’s won at the one-turn mile and at a two-turn mile. He’s never won beyond a mile,” Mott said. “Those are some of the challenges that we face now with where we go and what race we’re going to run in. That will be under discussion over the next month.”