Five historic horse racing venues in the state of New York

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Did you know that New York has a more than 180-year old tradition of horse racing?

The oldest continuously operated horse racing track in North America was built in 1838 in the village of Goshen and it is still active today for harness racing. Labeled as the “Historic Track”, since 1966, it has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Saratoga Race Course, located in Saratoga Springs, is the fourth oldest racetrack in the whole United States. Standardbred racing there began as early as 1847. Then it was the future congressman John Morrisey, also the owner of a casino, who took the initiative to organize, on August 3rd, 1863, the first thoroughbred race on the track previously used for harness racing. Since that day, NY horse betting has come a long way. The Saratoga meet, which started with four days only, today lasts for 40, from mid-July to early September.

NB: do not confuse the Race Course with “the other Saratoga,” the Saratoga Raceway. The latter is a half-mile harness track, opened in 1941, exclusively for nighttime harness racing. The grandstand and clubhouse were enclosed in 1965, as the racing season expanded.

Today the Saratoga Race Course is managed by the New York Racing Association (NYRA), founded in 1955 to run thoroughbred racing, NYRA operates two more major tracks, Belmont Park and the Aqueduct Racetrack. The only racetrack located within New York City limits is the Aqueduct, a large compound originally opened on September 27, 1894, by the Queens County Jockey Club. The season there starts in late October /early November and racing meets continue to the end of April. The racetrack has three courses and neighbors a casino named Resorts World New York City.

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The third facility run by NYRA is Belmont Park, located in Elmont, just east of the New York City limits. Belmont was financed by the same man who built the original NY subway, August Belmont jr, with William Collins Whitney and other investors. The racecourse, later dubbed “the Big Sandy,” opened on May 4, 1905. Another frequent nickname for it is “The Championship Track” because a long series of champions since the early 20th century has competed in Belmont. This racetrack is regarded as one of the fairest, thanks to its wide, sweeping turns and long homestretch.

Another historic racetrack, Yonkers, was on the edge of extinction when it was selected as one of New York’s seven “racinos” in 2001. From June 2005 to October 2006, the course shut down, and major construction works led to the opening of the casino followed by renewed live racing in November 2006. Yonkers had started as Empire City Trotting Club in 1899. Thoroughbreds raced there until 1943; then Yonkers became the premier harness venues in America. The other harness Mecca in NewYork state was another historic venue, Roosevelt Raceway, that was shut down by its new owners in 1988.