The world-famous Belmont Stakes is changing locations in 2024 and Central New Yorkers won't have to drive too far to see it.

Big Win For CNY Racing Fans

Governor Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that the Belmont Stakes, which usually races in the Long Island hamlet of Elmont, will take off at a different location in 2024.

The race has been held at Belmont Park since 1905, but renovations to the historic track have disrupted next year's plans. Instead of calling the race off all together and jeopardizing the Triple Crown series, a different venue has stepped up to host the word-renowned race.

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The race is moving 200 miles north to the Saratoga Race Course, and it will mark the first time in history the Belmont was raced in Saratoga.

The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival is set to commence on Thursday, June 6, and will run four four days - concluding Sunday, June 9. The race that serves as the third leg of the Triple Crown series is set for that Saturday, June 8.

The move was prompted by ongoing construction at the Elmont race course, which is undergoing a $455 million renovation.

This marks the first time the park has undergone improvements since 1963 and it should be noted the race to be held that year was also moved - to the Aqueduct track in Queens. The location hosted the Belmont Stakes until 1967.

Al Bello, Getty Images
Al Bello, Getty Images

It is unknown how long Saratoga will host the Belmont, but Governor Hochul hopes it will be a "temporary situation." Current estimates say the move will last roughly 2 years, with renovations at Belmont Park slated for completion by 2025.

Renovations to the grounds include demolishing the former turf courses and main track to install new surfaces.

How This Changes the Belmont

It's not every day I get to step into my riding boots and show off that I was a "horse girl" when I was younger.  The Belmont Stakes is, historically, the race that makes champions because it offers a different challenge than the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby.

The Belmont is the longest track of the three, meaning horses that may have performed well at the prior races could tire out before they hit the finish line.

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To put it into perspective, the Preakness is the shortest race with a track spanning a 1 and 3/16th mile while the Kentucky Derby spans a mile and a quarter. The Belmont is the longest of the three races with the track spanning one and a half miles.

That is why Triple Crown winners are so rare. The Belmont is home to some of the biggest racing upsets in history, thus earning its moniker "The Test of Champions."

One of these historic upsets was in 1987 when Alysheba was primed to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed crossed the finish line in 1978. However, a colt named Bet Twice shattered the powerful Alysheba's chances and won by a decisive 14 lengths.

A similar upset happened in 1999 with Charismatic, who entered the Belmont already in possession of the two jewels from the Triple Crown and was the clear favorite to win. The colt led the race in the beginning, but lost power as the event went on and he ultimately finished in third. Once across the finish line, the reason behind his lost speed was revealed to be a fractured leg, and his racing career promptly ended. Thankfully, his injury healed and Charismatic spent the rest of his days charming mares as a breeding stud.

Andy Lyons, Jamie Squire / Getty Images ;
Andy Lyons, Jamie Squire / Getty Images ;

Obviously, Saratoga is a different course and that means its length will also be different - and that could mean 2024 could produce a new Triple Crown winner. Instead of horses toughing it out at the Belmont's mile and a half course, the horses will race a track that spans a mile and a quarter - just like the Derby.

The last Triple Crown winner was Justified, who made history in 2018.

It should also be noted that due to the change of track, the prize money for the eventual Belmont winner has been upped by half a million dollars, meaning there's now $2 million at stake for the winning team.

What the Governor Says

In a press release, the governor announced the move was necessary, in addition to promising a big, economic boon for Saratoga.

As part of the exciting modernization of Belmont Park, Saratoga now adds to its storied history by hosting the 3rd leg of the Triple Crown. It’s a win for horseracing 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. As I said during the 2023 Saratoga Meet, ‘Let’s do it.’

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Brief History of the Triple Crown

The Belmont Stakes raced its inaugural trek in 1867 at the Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx. The first horse to ever win this particular race was a filly named Ruthless. The race remained at Jerome Park until 1890 and then it migrated to nearby Morris Park Racecourse.

Morris held the famous race until 1905, when it finally moved to its final home at Belmont Park in Elmont.

The first horse to ever finish the Belmont Stakes to secure the first Triple Crown was a colt named Sir Barton in 1919. The following year saw the meteoric rise of Man o'War, who finished the Stakes with a mighty 20 lengths and setting a new, historic record that remained on the books until 1973 - when Secretariat showed up.

Secretariat still holds the record for the fastest time at Belmont Parks and completing the mile and a half journey with a finish time of two minutes and 24 seconds. Not only that, the time is also a world record that remains to be broken.

Interestingly enough, the term "Triple Crown" didn't speak into existence until 1930, when the colt Gallant Fox won all three races. The term gained popularity by 1935 when Fox's offspring, Omaha, also won all three jewels of the Triple Crown.

Alex Trautwig, Getty Images
Alex Trautwig, Getty Images

To date, there's been only 13 horses to have won the Triple Crown, with a historic drought of winners spanning from 1978 with Affirmed's winning to 2015, when American Pharoah finally crossed the finish line.

With that said, the only living Triple Crown winners are American Pharoah and Justified. Perhaps a new champion will join their limited numbers in 2024.

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