The Three Largest Thoroughbred Horse Racing Tracks Run By NYRA

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A bend at an empty horse racetrack.
BetMGM @BETMGM Apr 04, 2022, 9:44 AM

Whether you’re someone who likes to bet on horse racing through online sports betting and horse racing betting websites, or prefer to place your wagers in person, you can rest assured that you’ll have a great time gambling on the races at NYRA’s three iconic racetracks, the Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga. 

Join us as we take a look at the history of these incredible tracks and what they have to offer racing fans today.

The Aqueduct

The Aqueduct, also known as the Big A, is a racetrack that consists of three different courses: a 1 ⅛-mile main course, a 1-mile inner dirt course and a ⅞-mile turf course. Visitors to the track can find a spot on one of the track’s 17,000 seats, while the entire location has a total capacity of 40,000. The highest number of people to ever attend an event at this track was 73,425 on May 31, 1965. 

Historical highlights of the Aqueduct

The Aqueduct racetrack was opened in September 1894, and is the only racetrack located within the New York City limits. Here are some of the key moments from the history of this fantastic racetrack:

  • A triple dead heat was achieved by Brownie, Bossuet and Wait a Bit in 1944 during the Carter Handicap.
  • After being purchased by the Greater New York Association (later known as NYRA), the Aqueduct was closed in 1956 for renovations. It opened three years later after $34.5 million dollars was spent on upgrades, including a new grandstand, racing strip, barns and more. These upgrades were designed by famous racetrack architect Arthur Froehlich.
  • Secretariat retired at the Aqueduct in 1973.
  • The Equestris Restaurant opened here in 1981 and was the largest restaurant in the city when it first opened its doors.
  • The track was almost closed in 2007 after NYRA’s lease expired, but a deal was struck that saved the winter-ready race track.
  • Between 2013 and 2016, NYRA spent an additional $18 million dollars on upgrading the racetrack venue. The most noteworthy upgrade was the Longshots sports bar which has almost 300 handicapping carrels and over 50 self-service betting stations.

Key racing events at the Aqueduct

Many important racing events have been held at the Aqueduct over the years. These races include:

  • Aqueduct Handicap
  • Carter Handicap
  • Cigar Mile Handicap
  • Remsen Stakes
  • Wood Memorial Stakes

Belmont Park

Belmont Park is a complete racing complex. It consists of five tracks: a 1 ½-mile main course, a 1 5/16-mile widener turf course, a 1 3/16-mile, 103-foot inner turf course, a 1-mile training track and a ¼-mile pony track. It has a total seating capacity of 32,941, while the entire complex can accommodate up to 90,000 visitors. It also features 63 barns with 2,500 stalls and dorm rooms for 1,155 personnel. The highest number of people to attend an event at this track was 120,139 on June 5, 2004. 

Historical highlights of Belmont Park

Belmont Park was opened in 1905 and is located just to the east, outside of New York City’s limits. Here are some of the key moments from more than 100 years in operation:

  • For the first 15 years of its operation, races were run clockwise, following the English style of racing.
  • In 1910, Belmont Park hosted a Wright Brothers staged international aerial tournament, which was attended by an estimated 150,000 people.
  • In 1963, the original Belmont Park was closed after structural issues were identified in the clubhouse and grandstand. The old structures were torn down and new ones built in their stead, including the $30.7 million grandstand designed by Arthur Froehlich, who also worked on upgrades to the Aqueduct racetrack.
  • Secretariat still holds the fastest time for a finish in the Belmont Stakes with a record of 2:24.00. He set this record in 1973.
  • Since 2012, numerous upgrades have been done to bring the race track experience into the 21st century, including the addition of hundreds of HD TVs, video display boards, Trakus technology for bettors, as well as upgrades to the rail station platform and more.

Key racing events at Belmont Park

Belmont Park has been home to a number of iconic races, including:

  • Acorn Stakes
  • Belmont Derby
  • Belmont Oaks
  • Belmont Stakes
  • Jockey Club Gold Cup


Saratoga, like Belmont Park, is a racing track complete with everything an owner or horse racing fan could need. It has a total of six tracks: a 1 ⅛-mile main course, a 1-mile turf course, a ⅞-mile steeplechase or inner turf course, the 1-mile Oklahoma course, another ⅞-mile turf and steeplechase course and, finally, the ½-mile Clare Court course. This track also has a maximum attendance capacity of 50,000, as well as 1,830 stables for horses in 91 barns and dorm capacity for 1,048 personnel. The largest turnout for an event at Saratoga was 72,745 on August 11, 2007.

Historical highlights of Saratoga

Saratoga is the oldest of these three tracks, having opened in 1863. Here are some of the highlights from its more than 150-year long history:

  • Prior to it becoming the Saratoga Race Course in 1863, this race track was known as the Saratoga Trotting Course. This track hosted its first race, a harness race, in 1847.
  • After some rocky years in the late 1800s, the track was purchased by William Collins Whitney, a politician and financier, and a team of investors. They restored the racetrack and helped return it to its former glory.
  • “Sports Illustrated” placed the Saratoga Race Course 10th on its list of the world’s greatest sporting venues.
  • Saratoga had a track attendance of 1,065,625 in 2015.
  • Saratoga is also known as the “Graveyard of Champions,” owing to the sheer number of stunning upsets that have taken place at the race track. This includes Man o’ War’s only loss in his 21-race career, Gallant Fox’s loss to a complete outsider in 1930, Secretariat’s defeat in 1973 also by an outsider and the close loss of American Pharoah, another Triple Crown winner.

Key racing events at Saratoga

Saratoga has hosted many exciting races throughout its history. These include:

  • Alabama Stakes
  • Hopeful Stakes
  • Jockey Club Gold Cup
  • Travers Stakes
  • Whitney Handicap

When did the Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga join NYRA?

These three racetracks all became part of NYRA in the year the Association was formed. The article “NYRA History” on describes how these tracks were all managed by the racing association:
“The committee called their new non-profit organization, The Greater New York Association, later renamed The New York Racing Association (NYRA). Chartered on April 28, 1955, the Association counted on the strong backing of New York Governor W. Averell Harriman, who in his 30s had owned a successful racing stable, Arden Farms, before turning to a career in government. The New York State Legislature complied, and in June 1955, granted NYRA a 25-year franchise grant that guaranteed it a minimum 4 percent of pari-mutuel handle at downstate tracks and 5 percent at Saratoga to be used for capital improvements. That enabled the Association to borrow $47 million on a 10-year loan from a consortium of 13 banks headed by the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company in the fall of 1955.

NYRA then bought the stock at New York’s existing metropolitan tracks — Belmont Park, Jamaica Race Racecourse, Aqueduct Racetrack and Empire City — and Saratoga Race Course, upstate.“

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.