Located in Queens, New York, directly across from JFK International Airport, the Aqueduct race track runs two meets annually. The longer meeting is their winter to spring meet and the shorter meet in the fall. Both meetings feature more blue-collar racing than New York’s two other meets, Belmont and Saratoga.
The more extensive thoroughbred stables spend late fall, the winter, and early spring at Gulfstream Park in Florida, the FairGrounds in Louisiana, Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky in the spring. This schedule allows owners and trainers who may not be equipped with the quality stock the rest of the year to compete with the top outfits to win races with good purses at Aqueduct horse track.
Aqueduct Horse Racing Season
Aqueduct’s horse racing dirt course is 1 1/8 miles around 2-turns. 1 Mile races run out of a chute around 1-turns. There is a turf course where plenty of grass races run until Mid-December due to the cold New York winters. In March, the turf course is then reopened. Due to Aqueduct’s high purse structure, you will see some of the larger racing outfits keep a string of horses (2nd tier runners) up north at this track.
The jockey colony is still robust, and it will be during this meet that a good apprentice jockey (referred to as a bug boy) could surface.
Aqueduct Stake Races
Aqueduct horse racing plays host to several stakes races annually. The two most prestigious races run during the Aqueduct Fall Meet. The Aqueduct stakes races are the Remsen Stakes for 2-year olds, which provides us a glimpse of possible Kentucky Derby candidates the 1st Saturday in May and the Cigar Mile for colts geldings 3-year old’s and up.
In addition to those significant stakes races, another big race is In the Spring, and The Wood Memorial is run at 1 1/8 miles. This race serves as a ‘key’ Kentucky Derby prep race usually run 1-month before the Roses Run.
Aqueduct Racetrack History
This New York, Queens County track opened its doors for the first time in 1894, but no significant improvements were made to the racing venue until 1941.
Aqueduct made the headlines in 1944 when it played host to the only triple dead heat in Stakes racing history. In addition to that, several racing elites passed through its doors during this decade with Man O’ War, Sword Dancer, Secretariat, and Cigar – all winning at the course. The latter horse now has a Grade 1 contest named in honor of his achievements at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The track underwent a major refurbishment in 1959. With a new grandstand built alongside additional barns and accessory buildings, this came at the cost of over $30 million (or $267 million in today’s dollars).
These improvements were well-received, bringing record numbers to the track and further adjustments followed in the late 1980s. This update included the addition of a weather-insulated paddock. The New York winter can be surprising and unforgivable, with unpredictable conditions, and it was essential to keep the thoroughbred racehorses away from the winter elements.
In 2011, Aqueduct expanded further, with its multi-level 415,000 square foot casino erected, and this has since expanded across multiple floors.
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