Aqueduct Racetrack

From Academic Kids

Aqueduct Racetrack, known as the Big A, is a horse racetrack in the neighborhood of Ozone Park in Queens, New York. It was opened in 1894 and rebuilt in 1959, with additional renovations made in 2001.

It is the one racetrack located within the New York City limits. Belmont Park -- also operated by the New York Racing Association -- is located outside the city, in Nassau County. (Some of Belmont's adjoining parking facilities and the Belmont train station are in Queens). Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, New York is a half mile oval harness racing located in Westchester County, NY, just north of the New York City borough of The Bronx.

The track itself has three courses: The Main Track (dirt) has a circumference of 1 1/8 miles (1811 m); inside of this is the Inner Dirt Track (consisting of a special type of dirt over which races are run during the winter months), which is exactly one mile (1609 m) long; and the innermost course is a turf (grass) course, spanning 7 furlongs plus 43 feet (1421 m).

Before 1976, the Inner Dirt Track was a turf course and it was known as the Main Turf Course, with the lone present turf course bearing the name of the Inner Turf Course; following the conclusion of racing in 1975 the grass on the Main Turf Course was uprooted and the Inner Dirt Track took its place to permit year-round racing. (In the first few years after Aqueduct was rebuilt in 1959 the track lay idle from early November until April 1; by 1971 this period had been reduced to from shortly before Christmas until March 1, and in the latter year off-track betting began in New York City, creating a demand for horse racing to be contested in the region throughout the year).

Today a single meeting is held annually at Aqueduct; it typically begins on the last Wednesday in October and runs all the way through the first Sunday in May. Races are run on the Inner Dirt Track between the second Wednesday in December and the third Sunday in March in most years. Prior to 1977, a summer meeting was also conducted at Aqueduct, running from mid-June to the end of July. From 1963 through 1967, races normally run at Belmont Park (including the Belmont Stakes) were run at Aqueduct instead while Belmont's grandstand was being rebuilt.

Today few important races are run at Aqueduct, mainly due to the unfavorable weather conditions that prevail during its racing season; however the prestigious Jockey Club Gold Cup was usually run there between 1958 and 1974, and what was perhaps the track's most distinctive race, the marathon, 2¼ mile (3621 m) Display Handicap, was last contested in 1990. The track did play host to the second ever Breeders' Cup, in 1985.

Every weekend, a flea market is run in the racetrack's north parking lot. Pope John Paul II said mass in front of a large crowd at Aqueduct in October, 1995.

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