The Belmont Stakes is run annually in June at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. As the final leg in horse racing’s Triple Crown the event is always scheduled five weeks after the Kentucky Derby and two weeks after the Preakness Stakes. While the Belmont Stakes itself is the ‘main event’ of the racing weekend there are several prestigious stakes races contested on the ‘undercard’ every year. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) has taken steps to make Belmont weekend an even bigger deal by adding a total of eight stakes races on the Thursday and Friday before the race. For 2017, three stakes races will be run on Thursday, June 8 with five more on Friday, June 9.
The 2017 Belmont Stakes will take place on Saturday, June 10 with live television coverage of the race on NBC. NBC has made a strong commitment to covering horse racing of late so you can expect coverage of many of the events leading up to the Belmont Stakes including the major races on the undercard on NBC Sports. For those looking to attend the race live, gates open at 8:30 AM on race day. In addition to the highly sought after reserved seating, Belmont Park admits thousands of fans via general admission on a first come, first served basis. Without a high profile superstar horse involved in the 2017 race the ticket availability should be decent compared to recent years.
The stakes races on the Belmont undercard are as follows:
—The Metropolitan Mile: Officially known as ‘The Metropolitan Handicap’, this is a Grade 1 stakes race on dirt for horses three years old and up with a purse of $1.2 million. The ‘Met Mile’ has a long history and was first run at Morris Park in 1891 before moving to Belmont Park in 1904. The Met Mile has been run almost every year since with a stint at Aqueduct in the 1960’s. This race was traditionally run in late May but starting in 2014 was moved back a week to bolster the Belmont Stakes undercard. The Mohegan Sun casino is the naming sponsor for this year’s event.
—The Manhattan Handicap: Some promotional concepts create themselves and this is one of them—The Manhattan Handicap is sponsored by Woodford Reserve Bourbon and the race called simply ‘The Woodford Reserve Manhattan’ in reference to arguably the only decent cocktail made with bourbon (typically enjoyed neat or over the rocks). This race is run on Belmont’s turf course over a mile and a quarter distance for fillies and mares three years old and up. This race has a purse of $1,000,000 and has traditionally been run immediately before the Belmont Stakes. That changed in 2014 with the move of The Metropolitan Mile to the Belmont Stakes card, and the Manhattan Handicap will immediately precede that race.
—The Ogden Phipps Handicap: The Belmont undercard is full of Grade 1 stakes events with the best horses in racing. There’s a slightly different twist this year as the most famous and accomplished horse on the Saturday card at Belmont won’t be racing in the Belmont Stakes. Instead, she’ll be in this race as superstar filly Songbird will make her four year old debut in the Ogden Phipps. Another rescheduled race, the Ogden Phipps Handicap had until 2014 contested in mid-June. The race is a Grade 1 with a purse of $750,000 contested over a mile and a half on a dirt track. It is open to fillies and mares four years old and up.
—The ‘Just A Game’ Stakes: Named after the top filly of 1980, the Just A Game Stakes is a Grade 1 race held on the turf course over a distance of one mile with a purse of $700,000. The event is open to fillies and mares three years and older. The naming sponsor of the race for 2017 is Longines watches.
—The Acorn Stakes: A one mile race on a dirt track for fillies three years old and up, the Acorn is a Grade 1 race with a $700,000 purse.
—The Brooklyn Invitational: Known for years as the ‘Brooklyn Handicap’, this race was first run in 1887 at the Gravesend Race Track on Coney Island and called three other tracks home before moving to Belmont Park for good in 1977. It’s a Grade 2 race over a dirt track of a mile and a half for horses four years old and up with a purse of $400,000.
—The Woody Stephens Stakes: Named for the Hall of Fame trainer, The Woody Stephens Stakes is contested by 3-year-olds at a distance of seven furlongs with a purse of $500,000.
The main event of the day is the Belmont Stakes itself. It is a Grade 1 race over a mile and a half distance on a dirt track for three-year-old horses with a purse of $1,500,000. The live coverage of the event on NBC begins at 5:00 PM though the actual post time varies. The defending Belmont Stakes champion is Creator, who won the race for trainer Steven Asmussen, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and celebrity chef co-owner Bobby Flay.
The Belmont Stakes day racing card is scheduled to get underway at 11:35 AM Eastern with a total of nine stakes races on the card. The tentative post time for the Belmont Stakes is 6:35 PM Eastern. NBC Sports will begin coverage of the Saturday Belmont card at 3 PM with NBC picking up coverage at 5:00 PM.