The grandstands of Belmont Park are seen before the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

The grandstands of Belmont Park are seen before the Belmont Stakes on June 10. Credit: James Escher

Bill Mott prefers shorter meets and the ability to move from track to track to keep things fresh. So the Hall of Fame trainer thinks it’s an acceptable option to run the next two Belmont Stakes at Saratoga, as the New York Racing Association hopes for the final leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown in 2024 and 2025 while Belmont Park undergoes a massive reconstruction.

“It’s traditionally not where they run the Belmont but I’m sure it’s an option,” said Mott, who won his first Triple Crown race with Drosselmeyer at Belmont in 2010. “I’ll bet they’d have a huge day up there. I’d bet they’d pack the place.”

The approved state budget included a $455 million loan to NYRA for the reconstruction of Belmont Park, which includes tearing down the cavernous, 1.25 million square-foot grandstand in Elmont and replacing it with a state-of-the-art facility that will be roughly 275,000 square feet. In turn, the amount of open space for fans around the track will increase to 35 acres from its current six.

NYRA hopes to return the “Test of a Champion” to Belmont in 2026.

“Belmont Park will always be the home of the Belmont Stakes,” NYRA said in a statement.

The intention is to keep the Belmont Stakes on its traditional date, three weeks after the Preakness (and five weeks after the Kentucky Derby). Moving to Saratoga would force the race to be shortened, most likely to a mile and a quarter, from its usual mile and a half.

The Franchise Oversight Board and the New York State Gaming Commission must approve where the Belmont Stakes will be run. A decision could be rendered by November.

“As per normal course of operations, NYRA’s race day schedule is subject to Commission review and approval,” the state Gaming Commission said in a statement. “As we have not yet received such a proposal, we cannot comment at this time.”

However, other than Saratoga, there are no real other logical options in New York. Aqueduct does not have enough space or hospitality options to host the Belmont.

“There’s a lot of excitement all around town about the possibility and it looks like it’s going to happen,” said Jack Knowlton, the managing partner of Sackatoga Stable which had Funny Cide win the Triple Crown’s first two legs in 2003. “There’s a lot of moving parts but the chamber of commerce is very excited about the potential. I think it’s a great thing. So what that it will be a mile and a quarter? You just have to adapt to the environment. I think it’s a fabulous opportunity to showcase Saratoga.”

Saratoga typically has crowds of 50,000 for the Grade 1 Travers in August, which is the capacity Belmont Park is currently capped at. The new Belmont facility might be able to accommodate close to 90,000.

“There’s no place else to go,” Knowlton said. “You can’t do Aqueduct.”

The Belmont Stakes has been run at four different racetracks in New York, starting at Jerome Park, then Morris Park. It was held at Aqueduct from 1963-67 while Belmont Park was being renovated.

“Maybe tactically it would be slightly different,” Mott said of racing the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga. “But you’d probably get a few more horses. Just the distance would lend itself to more horses considering it.”

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