SARATOGA SPRINGS — August Belmont Jr. died ninety-eight Decembers ago in his midtown Manhattan apartment, but during the past few weeks his surname has been circulating around the local Saratoga community perhaps louder than it ever had before.
With a massive $455 million renovation project slated to take place at Long Island’s Belmont Park, the New York Racing Association is considering staging the high-profile Belmont Stakes at Saratoga, the company’s president recently told the Daily Racing Form.
That temporary relocation of the Belmont Stakes – a race which traditionally sites the third and final leg of the Triple Crown - could include the next two runnings of the renowned race, to be held in June 2024 and June 2025, until its normal Long Island home venue would be ready for prime time in 2026.
“I think this is a huge opportunity – not only for the city of Saratoga Springs, but for the county and the entire region,” said Darryl Leggieri, President at Discover Saratoga - a Saratoga Springs based promotion and marketing organization. “This will bring huge tourism dollars to our region and have an economic impact for many of the businesses as well. Many people think about lodging with tourists – and they should do well – but people spend money where they stay and that will trickle down to many of the small businesses in the community such as the restaurants and the retailers.”
The 2024 Belmont Stakes will be staged in its traditional calendar spot in early June, following May’s running of the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness, the first and second legs of the Triple Crown, respectively. That would presumably place the Belmont at Saratoga on Saturday June 8 - although the number of racing days prior to the stakes race and/or the length of a Belmont Stakes Racing Festival in Saratoga is up for discussion. This year’s festival was a three-day affair on Long Island, according to NYRA’s June 2023 calendar.
“June is traditionally a busy time for Saratoga Springs but there’s always room for a major historic event of this magnitude,” Leggieri said. “We’re optimistic that this will be boon for our whole area and really put a spotlight on our destination internationally – especially if there’s a Triple Crown (horse) in contention.”
An early June Belmont date in Saratoga raises a series of potential ramifications for the local community.
The traditional start of the 40-day Saratoga meet is typically held one month later. And while that meet is anticipated to stay the same, a flurry of activity in early June featuring the last leg of the Triple Crown series would create a special set of scenarios for the local community – from business owners and hoteliers to public safety officials who would be dealing with an accelerated flow of traffic and tourism.
“We’re going to have to wait and see what the details look like. Maybe it’s for a long weekend – we’re hearing that, maybe it will change into something else, we just don’t know yet, but we’ll be ready,” said Saratoga County Administrator Steve Bulger.
Economically? “We have to think there would be positive impacts on both – occupancy tax and sales tax that weekend – which the county would welcome,” Bulger said.
“From a county perspective, law enforcement and the Sheriff’s Office especially would probably be the department most impacted, making sure we have proper coverage across the board, helping the city (of Saratoga Springs) out, like we usually do during Travers Weekend,” Bulger said. “Having Emergency Services ready to go in case anything popped up; maybe the district attorney’s office might have a busier weekend than normal. But using an enlarged Travers Day Weekend as our baseline, we would make sure we’re working with the city and NYRA so that any and all resources the county can provide will be made available.”
So, who was August Belmont, Jr? A synopsis via the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame: August Belmont II was born in New York City in 1853 and upon his father’s death became heavily involved in racing. Belmont, Jr. took over August Belmont & Co., the New York City bank founded by his father August, Sr. He continued his family’s practice of raising horses and bred 129 stakes winners, Man o’ War, among them. He was also associated with William Collins Whitney in the revitalization of Saratoga in the early 1900s and was among the founding members of The Jockey Club in 1894. In 1905, Belmont opened Belmont Park on Long Island and transferred to the park the Belmont Stakes, inaugurated in 1867 and named in his father’s honor.
The potential temporary relocation of the Belmont Stakes and the renovation at the Long Island racecourse that holds the Belmont name is dependent on various approvals. An official decision is anticipated to be announced sometime this fall.