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A Guide to Aqueduct Racetrack

Do you like trips to the racetracks, or do you prefer going to a casino? If you are a fan of both, then surely you will enjoy the Aqueduct Racetrack, the first “racino” of its kind in the state of New York. If you don’t know what a “racino” is or have never heard of the Aqueduct Racetrack – no problem.

A few of our top writers well-equipped with horse racing knowledge put this organized page together explaining the ins and outs of the Aqueduct. Everyone has heard of New York, and we all know how much there is to do in the Big Apple.

What many people don’t realize is that just two miles from John F. Kennedy International Airport is one of the oldest and most historic racetracks in all of the United States. Our goal is to fill in the details of how the track got started and what goes on there. From what the track is like to the most significant events, we are going all-out Aqueduct!

Of course, bettors will be happy, as we have dedicated sections on how to get to the track and how to get your bets in once you arrive. Online bettors – don’t worry. We have you covered, too.

Relax and enjoy this ride through the Aqueduct Racetrack!

Overview of Aqueduct Racetrack

Year Opened
Queens, New York
State of New York, operated by the New York Racing Association (NYRA)
Course Type
Notable Races
Wood Memorial Stakes, Cigar Mile Handicap, Carter Handicap
Official Website

Aqueduct Racetrack – The Roots

We know there are at least a couple of fairly important racetracks in the state of New York. The great part about the Aqueduct Racetrack is that its location is right in the heart of all the action. That is correct – there is one racetrack within the city limits of New York City, and that’s the Aqueduct.

You have to go all the way back to 1894 to find the first day the Aqueduct was open to the public.

The Queens City Jockey Club is responsible for opening the racetrack; however, in 1955, the Greater New York Association (now known as the New York Racing Association) took over control. This turned out to be great news for the track and the locals, as more than $30 million was spent over a three-year period. Substantial upgrades and renovations were made, making the Aqueduct a featured destination for incoming tourists.

If there weren’t enough tourists coming to the Aqueduct before 2011, surely they would come flocking in bunches when the Resorts World Casino opened its doors. The men and women in the city of New York had been waiting for a safe place to legally gamble for a long time. Their prayers were finally answered in 2011, and all they have to do is head to the Aqueduct Racetrack.

Although gaming is a huge part of the racetrack, the Aqueduct has been the site of several memorable moments in horse racing history. A bizarre finish comes right to the forefront.

The First and Only “3-Way Tie”

It was 1944 at the Carter Handicap. Fans at the Aqueduct Racetrack were treated to a first. Never had there been a three-way dead-even tie at the finish line in a stakes race. That changed on June 10, 1944, when Brownie, Bossuet, and Wait A Bit all came in with an identical time of 1:23.40.

Too close to call, . With the way technology is today, don’t hold your breath waiting for another horse race to end in a three-way tie.

We are going to get into more of the history that has taken place at the racetrack, as well as go more in-depth about the Carter Handicap. First, we want to uncover some facts about the racetrack itself.

Details About the Track

The Aqueduct Racetrack is set on 210 acres in Queens, New York. To be more exact, it is the South Ozone Park in Queens that claims home to the track. The name “Aqueduct” comes from the root word aqua, meaning “water.” The site of the Aqueduct is on the former Milburn Pumping Station, also known as Brooklyn Waterworks. The grounds used to be used to transport water from Long Island to the Ridgewood Reservoir. Now they are used to race horses and field bets.

The main course is a flat dirt track that measures 1 1/8-miles. Instead of just having one inner course, there are actually two tracks that are featured inside the outside oval at Aqueduct. There is a 1-mile inner dirt course that encloses a smaller, 7/8-mile-long turf course.

There are more than 500 stalls in the stabling area, making it large, but nowhere near one of the biggest tracks in the country. It’s hard to calculate the exact capacity, as we have read that it can only hold up to 40,000 or 50,000 spectators. We find that hard to believe, considering more than 73,000 were on hand for an event in 1965.

Speaking of events, it is time to start looking at some of the more prominent races that take place at the track in South Ozone Park.

Three Main Races at the Aqueduct

The Aqueduct Racetrack is home to some notable Thoroughbred races during the racing season. It may not be the host to one of the widely-televised Triple Crown events, but that doesn’t mean the events here don’t matter.

The racing season starts around Halloween and lasts through the month of April. We picked the three most well-known races that are annually held at the Aqueduct and decided to talk about each one.

Wood Memorial Stakes

If you like horse races with seven-figure purses, then the Wood Memorial Stakes is right up your alley. Boasting a chunky $1,000,000 prize pool, the Wood Memorial Stakes has been run at the Aqueduct Racetrack every year since 1925. It was actually a Grade-I race for many of those years, including as recently as from 2002-2016.

The current Grade-II race is a formidable event on the racing calendar that showcases some of the fastest horses around. Irish War Cry, winner of the 2017 Wood Memorial Stakes, parlayed his win here to a second-place showing at the Belmont Stakes a couple of months later.

As dominating as the 2017 race won by Irish War Cry was, it was not the most impressive performance we have seen at the Wood Memorial. That title goes to Bellamy Road in 2005. New York Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner’s horse not only clobbered the competition by 17.5 lengths, but he also set a record for the fastest time ever run in the event with a sparkling time of 1:47.16.

Bellamy Wood in Action at Aqueduct Racetrack

Current and aspiring jockeys, good luck catching Eddie Arcaro. The legendary jockey man with over 4,700 wins to his credit got 9 of those wins here at the Wood Memorial Stakes.

Cigar Mile Handicap

Here is a newer race, inaugurated in 1988. It’s called the Cigar Mile Handicap, and you guessed it – it is 1 mile long. The race is held at the Aqueduct Racetrack around Thanksgiving every year as a Grade-I thoroughbred race. There might not be a million dollars up for grabs like at the Wood Memorial Stakes, but the $500,000 on the line here is nothing to fret about.

The name of the race stems from the famous horse, Cigar, who won this event in 1994. The qualification for the race is simple: any horse who is three years old or older is eligible. A horse race that is called a “handicap” just means that the rules are designed in a way to even out the playing field. By adding weight to certain horses, the authorities can ensure that no horses are significantly lighter or heavier than the rest of the field.

Congaree is the only horse to win the Cigar Handicap more than once. Esteemed trainer Bob Baffert helped lead his horse to victory both in 2002 and 2003. Jerry Bailey has ridden the victorious horse five times at the Cigar Mile, including both of Congaree’s winning rides. Javier Castellano will try and catch Bailey after winning the event with Connect and Sharp Azteca in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

The mark for the fastest time ever recorded came in 2006 at the hands of Discreet Cat. His lightning-quick time of 1:32.46 hasn’t even been threatened since.

Carter Handicap

So technically, we are going down. The $400,000 purse offered at the Carter Handicap is a lower amount than the previous two races we discussed, but neither of them has as much history and tradition as the Carter Handicap does.

If you are trying to find out who won the first Carter Handicap, you have to scroll way back to 1895. There is no limit to how old a horse can be to enter the event, as long as he or she is at least three years old. At only 7/8 of a mile long, don’t let the shortness of this race fool you into thinking less skill is involved.

It has been this way ever since 1903, so there is no shortage of sample size when it comes to the database of winners. The Carter Handicap has been held a few times at Belmont Park in its 120+ year existence, with the last one held at Belmont in 1994.

The fastest time ever recorded came in 1999, thanks to Artax. He finished the Carter Handicap in 1:20.04, a time almost matched five years later by Pico Central. Five horses have won this race twice, most recently Dads Caps in 2014 and 2015. In 2017, Green Gratto became just the second seven-year-old horse to win the Carter Handicap.

We mentioned the “the First and Only 3-Way Tie” in the introduction. The 1944 Carter Handicap at the Aqueduct was the site of the first and only time in Thoroughbred stakes racing that witnessed not two, but three horses cross the finish line at the same time.

If you appreciate history, this is an event you should enjoy learning about.

Getting to the Aqueduct (It’s Easy!)

If you have never been to New York City, do yourself a favor and set up a trip. The Aqueduct is located just a couple miles from John F. Kennedy International Airport and is only about 15 miles from Times Square in center of Manhattan.

Unlike some of the other major racetracks in the US, the Aqueduct is conveniently located in Queens, within shouting distance of the Empire State Building, Broadway shows, and whatever else piques your interest. You won’t run out of things to do when taking a trip to the Aqueduct; that much we can promise you.

Surely we don’t have to spend time telling you how to get to NYC. Just about every major airport in the world can get you there one way or another. Once you get there, it’s hard to miss the illustrious property and the surrounding casino.

That’s correct – we said, “surrounding casino!”

Take a look at the betting segment below to find out more what we are talking about. It’s an addition that makes the Aqueduct Racetrack truly stand out.

Aqueduct Racetrack – Betting Details

If you plan on making some money at or around the Aqueduct Racetrack, you will want to pay attention to this section closely. The old days of having to wait in a long line at the horse track just to tell the attendant which horse you think will win, place, or show are long behind you.

The New York Racing Association has adapted to the technology available today and now provides a mobile app that allows customers to gain full access to all betting options. Their app actually allows you to bet on races taking place at more than 250 worldwide tracks. The need to place your wager in person at the track is seriously becoming a thing of the past. Getting your picks in isn’t an issue; it’s deciding which horses to pick that presents the problem!

If you aren’t going to be able to visit the Aqueduct in person, don’t feel left out. You can always use an online betting site to get your wagers on. Don’t have an online betting account? Check out our recommendations for some reputable places to join.


If you are one of the lucky ones who either live in or around the area or are scheduling an upcoming trip to the city, you will definitely want to check out the mega-casino resort that opened in 2011.

Resorts World Casino

Just so you are not confused, this casino is part of the Aqueduct. Not only was this the first legitimate and legal casino of its kind opened in any of the five boroughs of New York City, but it also remains the only one open for business.

Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack

There are other racetracks in the country where you can find some slot machines nearby. The Resorts World Casino in Ozone Park has more of the “Vegas feel” to it. You will have no qualms finding blackjack, roulette, or even craps tables. Don’t worry, baccarat players; they have tables for you, too.

If this description of the casino isn’t appealing enough, you will certainly enjoy that should be finished by the middle of 2019. Get ready to have a blast when these upgrades and renovations are completed.

As if horse racing and gambling didn’t already go hand-in-hand, the setup at the Aqueduct Racetrack ensures everyone who visits the complex is more than aware of the abundance of betting and gambling options that are there for the taking. Going home a big winner – now, that part is still up to you!

Concluding Thoughts

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. There are loads of things to do in New York City, but did you know that one of the oldest and most historic horse racing tracks is located in the middle of Queens? Did you know that there is a casino-resort attached to the racing facility?

This is why we created this guide! Even the most avid horse racing fans in the world need a little push in the right direction every once in a while. We wanted to not only share the beginning of the Aqueduct, but we wanted to dive into what the race course itself is like. We wanted to talk about the most significant races that take place there and reveal what makes each one so special.

It was imperative to enlighten those of you that are not familiar with the area that there is a beautiful, Las-Vegas-style casino right on site and to explain that it’s not just about picking horses and playing slot machines when you visit the Aqueduct. Getting a full glimpse of what is at your disposal can only truly be attained by stepping foot inside yourself.

If you are looking for a racetrack that offers exhilarating horse races and a whole bunch of other gambling options, the Aqueduct Racetrack is going to satisfy your needs. Don’t forget; there’s quite a bit to do outside the track. After all, we are talking about New York City, folks.

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