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A Snapshot of Belmont Park: Over a Century of Racing History

The stately Belmont Park is a fitting end to the Triple Crown. (AP Images)

The 2011 Belmont Stakes on June 11th  promises to provide some equine drama as Animal Kingdom and Shackleford square off once again. The Belmont Park Racetrack in Elmont, New York is unique in every way and has a long and storied tradition worthy of a Triple Crown race.

Built in 1905 and originally encompassing just over 650 acres, Belmont Park was the result of efforts by the Belmont family who had funded the first and subsequent Belmont Stakes beginning in 1867. The first races were actually run clockwise in the English tradition but soon changed to the more common North American style of having counter-clockwise races.

Belmont Park received a much needed complete overhaul that lasted five years between 1964 and 1968, at which time the Belmont Stakes was held at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, New York. The old clubhouse and grandstands were demolished and the layout out of the tracks was altered.

Belmont Park is still the largest Thoroughbred racing grandstand in existence with the capacity to hold over 100,000 racegoers. After renovations and modifications the total size of the park shrunk to 450 acres.

The current main track is nicknamed “The Test of the Champion” for good reason. At exactly 1 ½ miles in length, it is the longest of the Triple Crown races and unique for its distance. Any Triple Crown aspirants will not only have to deal with fatigue from running the previous two races, but many of the horses will never have run at the 1 ½ mile distance making it even more demanding.

Although this year holds no promise of a Triple Crown the Belmont Stakes remains a key race. With a purse totalling 1,000,000 dollars there are plenty of reasons to suspect a hotly contested race, and owners and horses will be ready to go.

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