0N9E66RC.JPG (Credit: Cradle of Aviation Museum)

Loading the first air mail flight from truck at U.S. Airmail facility at Belmont Park on May 15,1918.

Belmont Park: 12 secrets you did not know

Built in 1905, Belmont Park in Elmont is not only the home to the third leg of thoroughbred horse racing's Triple Crown series, it is a house of many secrets. Here is a selection.

The Belmont Stakes has not always been run at Belmont

8. Belmont Stakes not always run at Belmont
(Credit: AP)

The Belmont Stakes, a race named after August Belmont I, was first run in 1867 at Jerome Park in the Bronx. Then, when Jerome Park closed in 1890 and the Belmont Stakes was moved to Morris Park, also in the Bronx. It was run at Morris Park until Belmont Park was opened in 1905. When Belmont closed from 1963-1968 for reconstruction, the Belmont Stakes were held at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

Four stone piers from 1792

Stone Piers
(Credit: Shannon O'Connor)

Four stone piers at the entrance of gate 5 were placed there May 1903, two years before the grand opening of Belmont Park. The piers were a gift to the Horsemen of the West Chester Association, which built the park, from the Kindred Spirits of the South Carolina Jockey Club. The piers originally stood at the entrance to Washington Race Course in Charleston, South Carolina, and were first placed there in 1792.

The host of an early aerial contest

(Credit: LI/Queens Life / Collection of Gary Hammond)

Belmont Park was host to the International Aviation Tournament in Oct. 1910. Pilots raced to the Statue of Liberty and back, said Virginia Kellner, Assistant Director of Communications for New York Racing Association. "The American pilot said he won and the English pilot said he won, so they gave the trophy to the French pilot."



Grand opening caused first traffic jam on Long Island

(Credit: Newsday Archive / Handout)

According to the “Belmont Park, 1905-1968” by the New York Racing Association, when Belmont Park had its grand opening on May 4, 1905, the amount of horse-drawn carriages and automobiles full of people trying to make the first race post time of 2:30 p.m. caused “Long Island’s first great automobile logjam.”

Belmont forced to close from 1911-1912

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(Credit: Dave Lyons)

Horse racing was banned from 1911 and 1912 in New York State, canceling two years of Belmont Stakes while the track was forced to close.

Origin destination of the first air mail

(Credit: Cradle of Aviation Museum)

On May 15, 1918, Belmont Park became the starting point of the first air mail flown between New York and Washington, D.C. The letters were transferred to a second plane in Philadelphia, and then to Washington.

Hidden gems: original gates from Jerome Park

Jerome Park Gates
(Credit: Shannon O'Connor)

Taking an elevator trip up to the fourth floor of the clubhouse will bring you face to face with wrought iron gates from Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx, which had its run from 1866 to 1890.

The two homes of the Turf and Field Club

Turf and Field Club
(Credit: Shannon O'Connor)

The Turf and Field Club, where the elites meet for social gatherings and galas, was not always located on the fourth floor of the Clubhouse. Until 1956, it was in the former manor house of William De Forest Manice.



The four chaplains memorial

5. The four chaplains
(Credit: Shannon O'Connor)

In a bed of flowers to the left of the paddock and Japanese white pine tree is a memorial to four World War II U.S. Army chaplains: Methodist Rev. George L. Fox, rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Roman Catholic priest John P. Washington and the Reformed Church of American Rev. Clark V. Poling. The four men were aboard the USAT Dorchester when it sank on Feb. 3, 1943 and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out.

The Anna House

6. Anna House
(Credit: Shannon O'Connor)

Backstretch workers, many who tend to horses in the early morning hours, have access to Anna House, a year-round free child care center that opened 10 years ago and was built solely on donations.

The Belmont Stakes carnation blanket

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(Credit: Thomas A. Ferrara)

The blanket takes five hours to make and has more than 700 white Colombian carnations, the traditional flower of the Belmont Stakes. The flowers are hand glued onto a green velveteen spread. A separate blanket is placed on the Secretariat statue for the day.

The 188-year-old white pine tree

White Pine
(Credit: Shannon O'Connor)

In the middle of the Belmont Park paddock, where horses saddle up before races, stands a 188-year-old Japanese white pine tree. The tree, which is older than Belmont Park itself, was originally part of Oatlands, the estate of New York attorney William De Forest Manice.

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