In 1902, a syndicate headed by August Belmont II and former Secretary of the Navy William C. Whitney sought land on Long Island to build the most elaborate track in America, one modeled after the great race courses of Europe. They found what they were looking for on the border of Queens County and Nassau County. Originally known as Foster's Meadow, the 650 acres of land included a turreted Tudor-Gothic mansion owned by William de Forest Manice, which was to serve as the track's Turf and Field Club until 1956. The grand opening of Belmont Park on May 4, 1905, prompted the first of countless traffic jams in Long Island history as more than 40,000 fans, in all manner of conveyance, tried to arrive by the first race post time of 3 p.m. Not all of them made it in time to see August Belmont II's Blandy, at 7-1, hold off 100-1 shot Oliver Cromwell in the $1,500 Belmont Inaugural. Later, James R. Keen's Sysonby, who would be ranked No. 30 on the Blood-Horse Magazine's top 100 horses of the 20th century, made his 3-year-old debut against the super filly Beldame, another of Belmont's charges. In the stretch, Sysonby got unexpected competition from 20-1 Race King, and the two hit the wire in a dead heat.
The most celebrated race at Belmont Park is the Belmont Stakes, the final jewel of racing's Triple Crown. Since 1919, when Sir Barton was the first to sweep the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont, the "Test of the Champion" has crowned but 11 winners of racing's most prestigious, and elusive, prize.
Belmont Park holds a place in history in other areas as well. In 1910, Wilbur and OrvilleWright staged an international aerial competition at Belmont Park that drew 150,000 spectators. In 1918, the track served as the New York City terminal for the first airmail service between New York and Washington, D.C. Belmont Park was the site of "War Relief Day" in 1940 to benefit the American Red Cross and in 1943 hosted "Back the Attack" Day, wherein fans had to buy a war bond to gain admission to the track. Total receipts that day were between $25 and $30 million.
Closed in 1963, the rebuilt Belmont Park grandstand reopened on May 20, 1968. Over thenext decade it rocked to the cheers of thousands as Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978) joined Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), and Citation (1948) as Triple Crown winners. History was made in 2007 when Rags to Riches defeated Curlin to become the first filly in 102 years and one of only three to win the race, and history was denied in 2008 when Da' Tara ended Big Brown's bid to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.