Belmont Park is the Mecca to the horse racing fraternity in New York. The principle reason for this is the three-day spectacular that takes place there in early June: the Belmont Park Racing Festival. This meeting has no less than 17 stakes races and on the final day of the meeting it hosts eight Grade 1 races over a variety of distances. The feature race of the entire festival is undoubtably The Belmont Stakes.
In terms of importance and prestige, for many in the racing game the Belmont Park Racing Festival would be right up there with Royal Ascot, at least for those on the US side of the pond. This is the reason crowds flock to Belmont in all their finery and champagne is consumed in liberal quantities.
The track has numerous meetings throughout the calendar year and most take place early in May through to July. Ordinarily just shy of 50 days of racing are scheduled in this period before the track closes for maintenance work to be carried out. Belmont then re-opens the gates to racegoers in September when racing continues until late October. Racing in America has more races per meeting generally than the United Kingdom and Belmont often offers nine or 10 races per fixture on most occasions.
Belmont is a Grade 1 track and has both a dirt track and a turf course. Like almost every racecourse in America, Belmont is only used for flat racing. The type of thoroughbred that is bred in America means that races in this part of the world are also mainly for horses that only race from sprint distances up to middle distances and no further. Staying races or marathon races at Belmont Park are rare. The weather in New York is seasonal and can often resemble Skegness, so with that in mind ground conditions can vary dramatically and differ between the two racing periods.
The feature race of the season is the Belmont Stakes. This one and a half mile contest, run on the dirt track is run during the first week in June. The winner of this event takes home a first prize of $800,000 from the $1.5m purse, and in 2019 the prize was captured by Sir Winston. This race is also the final leg of the American Triple Crown following on from the Kentucky Derby and The Preakness Stakes. So far, there have been only 13 winners of the American Triple Crown and the last to complete the remarkable feat was Justify in 2018.
Belmont Dirt Course
There are two tracks at Belmont, the dirt track on the outside and the turf course on the inner and both have identical dimensions. Rated as one of the fairest in the United States, Belmont is large – a circuit stretches one and a half miles (or 2.4km) and has a run-in of two furlongs. The sweeping turns are big and gradual into the home stretch so there is no need for particular nimbleness.
The dirt track is especially demanding. A horse must have stamina in abundance as the dirt in question is deep sand. It takes a strong athlete to drag their hooves from the surface in order to finish the race strongly. The dirt course, due to its tiring nature, has gained a nickname of The Big Sandy from those who understand its demands. ‘Sloppy’ is a word often used in the going description here which makes the test even greater. To win races at Belmont, you simply must see out the trip.
Belmont Turf Course
The turf course is arguable less of a challenge. There are no excuses for defeat here as the course gives riders plenty of time to get into a race winning position. The wide run-in allows all horses the space they need to win if they are good enough in the closing stages of any given race.
This galloping track has no real draw bias from statistically. The fractions set by the leaders or the tactical cuteness of the closers will be what pays the dividends when it comes to the crunch.
Major Races at Belmont Park
|Last Run||Race||Grade||Last Winner|
|20th Jun 2020||Belmont Stakes||Grade 1||Tiz The Law (4/5)|