Belmont at the Big A sounds like a mash-up of two tracks, which – thanks to construction – this year’s Belmont Fall Meet became. The New York Racing Associations announced Thursday that this year’s Belmont Fall Meet will run at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Belmont at the Big A fall meet
Due to construction of tunnels to Belmont Park’s infield, the Belmont Park Fall Meet moves to Aqueduct Racetrack this fall as ‘Belmont at the Big A.’ (Image: NYRA)

The reason for the switch is ongoing tunnel construction for both vehicles and pedestrians that provide access to the Belmont Park infield. NYRA said this is a major capital improvement that opens up the 45-acre infield to racing fans and the community. The tunnels also provide access for construction and commercial vehicles, which allow NYRA to fulfill its plans of rebuilding the main dirt track and the two turf courses.

The tunnels also give NYRA the option to put in a synthetic track, should it decide to do so.

“This investment in the future of Belmont Park will transform our racing operations and pave the way for a broader re-imaging of the facility,” NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said in a statement. “The shift to Aqueduct this fall will minimize the overall impact on the racing schedule, and ensure continuity for the Belmont Spring/Summer Meet and the Belmont Stakes.”

Belmont at the Big A give Aqueduct four more Grade 1s

For racing fans and horseplayers, this means the 28-day Belmont at the Big A fall meet begins Thursday, September 15 and runs through Sunday, October 30. Notably, it gives Aqueduct four Grade 1 races, along with four “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races. Belmont at the Big A features 23 graded stakes events, 41 stakes overall and a $9.9 million total stakes purses. The Belmont at the Big A meet runs Thursdays through Sundays.

Normally, Aqueduct gets one Grade 1 race during its Fall Meet: the early December Cigar Mile. It does not get a Grade 1 during its winter meet.

NYRA officials said the Belmont at the Big A meet comes with purse increases that boost open allowance races to the six-figure level. Other categories: claiming races, maiden races and New York-bred races will also see larger purses.

To further enhance participation at the Belmont at the Big A meet, NYRA will pay a $500 bonus to the owner and $500 to the trainer of any horse finishing outside the top three in their first fall start. The bonus kicks in only if that horse’s previous start came during the Saratoga summer meet.

Get your glimpse of Derby 2023 hopefuls here

The Belmont at the Big A Grade 1s start the weekend of Oct. 1-2, with the Woodward for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles. The Champagne – one of the top juvenile races in the country and one providing a glimpse of Kentucky Derby hopefuls – runs that same day. It comes with a spot for the winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Those are two of seven graded stakes that weekend.

The Oct. 2 card includes the Grade 1 Frizette, the 2-year-old filly counterpart to the Champagne. It comes with a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to its winner.

The final Belmont at the Big A Grade 1 race is Saturday, October 8: the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. That sends its 3-year-olds and up 1 ½ miles on the Aqueduct turf.

Belmont at the Big A Key Stakes Races

Race  Grade Distance Eligible Horses
Sept. 17 Jockey Club Derby III 1 1/2 miles (turf) 3-year-olds
Oct. 1 Woodward I 1 1/8 miles 3-and-up
Oct. 1 Champagne I 1 mile 2-year-olds
Oct. 2 Frizette I 1 mile 2-year-old fillies
Oct. 8 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic I 1 1/2 miles (turf) 3-and-up
Oct. 8 Vosburgh II 7 furlongs 3-and-up
Oct. 9 Futurity III 6 furlongs (turf) 2-year-olds
Oct. 29 Kelso II 1 mile 3-and-up

Other notable stakes races are the Grade 3 Jockey Club Derby (Sept. 17), the final race in NYRA’s Turf Triple, the Grade 2 Vosburgh (Oct. 8), a seven-furlong sprint that offers its winner a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and the Grade 2 Kelso (Oct. 29), a one-turn mile that gives the top four finishes a free nomination and paid entry fees into the Cigar Mile.

You can see a complete list of the Belmont at the Big A stakes races here.

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