Aqueduct Racetrack is a Thoroughbred horse racing facility and casino in the South Ozone Park and Jamaica neighborhoods of Queens, New York City, United States. Aqueduct is the only racetrack located within New York City limits. Its racing meets are usually from late October/early November through April. The racetrack is located adjacent to a casino called Resorts World New York City.
The track itself has three courses. The main track (dirt) has a circumference of
1+1⁄8 miles (1.8 km). Inside of the main track are two courses: the 1 mile (1.6 km) Main Turf Course, and the Inner Turf Course measuring 7.065 furlongs (1.421 km). The track has seating capacity of 17,000 and total capacity of 40,000. The facility houses the New York Racing Association‘s headquarters.
Operating near the site of a former conduit of the Brooklyn Waterworks that brought water from eastern Long Island to the Ridgewood Reservoir, Aqueduct Racetrack opened on September 27, 1894, by the Queens County Jockey Club. The track was named “Aqueduct” after the former Ridgewood Aqueduct. The facility was expanded and a new clubhouse was constructed before the 1941 summer meet.
In 1955, the Greater New York Association took over Aqueduct along with Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course, and Jamaica Race Course, deciding to make major upgrades to Aqueduct, after which Jamaica Race Course would be sold for redevelopment as a housing project. Aqueduct closed in 1956, reopening September 14, 1959, after $33 million of renovations designed by noted racetrack architect Arthur Froehlich of the firm Arthur Froehlich and Associates of Beverly Hills, California. The Equestris Restaurant in the clubhouse opened in 1981 and was the largest restaurant in New York City at the time. Additional renovations were made in 2001, 2006, and 2007.
Before 1976, the Inner Dirt Track was a turf course and was known as the Main Turf Course, with the present turf course being 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 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 just before Christmas until March 1, around when off-track betting began in New York City, creating a demand for horse racing to be contested in the region year-round.)
Currently, one annual meeting is held at Aqueduct, usually from the last Wednesday in October until the first Sunday in May. Races had been run on the Inner Dirt Track between the Wednesday after Thanksgiving until just before the Wood Memorial in recent years. Prior to 1977, a summer meeting also was held at Aqueduct, from mid-June to late July. The Wood Memorial is Aqueduct’s marquee race, which culminates the winter meet. The Remsen and Cigar Mile are major races that begin the winter meet. 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 2+1⁄4 miles (3.6 km)Display Handicap, was last contested in 1990.
From 1963 through 1967, races normally run at Belmont Park, including the Belmont Stakes, were run at Aqueduct while Belmont’s grandstand was being rebuilt. The track played host to the second ever Breeders’ Cup on November 2, 1985.
Aqueduct is the site of the first (and still the only) triple dead heat for the win in a stakes race. In the 1944 running of the Carter Handicap, Brownie, Bossuet, and Wait A Bit hit the finish line at the same time. On April 8, 2006, during an eleven-race program at Aqueduct that included the Wood Memorial Stakes, a rare event happened when dead heats for each of the three “money” positions (Win, Place, and Show) occurred in three separate races: Saint Anddan and Criminal Mind dead-heated for Place in Race 5; Naragansett and Emotrin dead-heated for Show in Race 6; and Karakorum Tuxedo and Megatrend dead-heated for Win in Race 10.
Hall of Fame horse Cigar won the first two races in his 16-race win streak at Aqueduct. After he switched from grass to dirt, Cigar’s first win was by eighth lengths in an allowance race on October 28, 1994, and was followed by a seven-length win in the NYRA Mile on November 26, 1994, a Grade 1 race that was renamed in the horse’s honor in 1997. On May 31, 1965, 73,375 spectators were on hand at Aqueduct and watched Gun Bow win the Metropolitan Mile. At the time, it was the largest crowd to ever attend a thoroughbred horse racing event in New York.
Champion racehorse Secretariat was retired at Aqueduct before the public on November 6, 1973. He was paraded for the last time to the public and took his last steps on a racetrack there. He was then sent to stud at Claiborne Farm.
Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in front of a crowd of 75,000 at Aqueduct on October 6, 1995. Every weekend including Tuesdays, a flea market containing 500 vendors was operated in the racetrack’s north parking lot, located along Rockaway Boulevard. Aqueduct Flea Market offered a hodgepodge of goods, such as bedding, incense, pots and pans, and nearly everything imaginable. It was open on Tuesdays and weekends year-round for 33 years. The Aqueduct Flea Market closed in 2011.
In May 2017, NYRA announced that they would resurface the 1⅛-mile main track with a limestone base, and convert the inner dirt track back into a turf course. The changes were completed in time for the start of the 2017 fall meet on November 3. With this change, the main track will now be used for winter racing.