07/14/2016 2:20PM

Belmont to widen training track

Barbara D. Livingston
Belmont Park's training track will be widened after the current meet closes.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Starting Sunday, the New York Racing Association will embark on a time-sensitive project to widen the Belmont Park training track.

Construction will begin almost immediately after training hours end Sunday, and the hope is that the project will be completed and the training track reopened by the time the Saratoga meet ends on Labor Day, Sept. 5.

The stretches will be widened by about 17 feet. The far turn will be widened by 18 feet, and the first turn will be widened by about 13 feet.

NYRA is doing this to accommodate more horses. Recent barn renovations have created 249 more stalls, bringing the total stall capacity at Belmont to 2,247.

Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice president of racing operations, said widening the training track “should take away any safety concerns.”

“And,” he said, “if we do ever have to get out of Aqueduct, we’re prepared to do that, but it’s more from a safety standpoint.”

Glen Kozak, vice president of facilities/racing surfaces, said there still will be approximately 1,200 horses on the grounds at Belmont during the Saratoga meet. Training hours on Belmont’s main track will be extended by at least 30 minutes starting Monday, and it is likely that there will be two renovation breaks, though that is still being finalized. Typically, there is only one renovation break on the main track.

In addition to the widening of the track, a new clocker’s stand will be constructed. Kozak sounded confident that the project will be completed in seven weeks.

“It’s all dependent on weather,” Kozak said. “If we have to work two different shifts, we’ll do it. We’re starting with an established base on the track, so it’s not like we’re starting from scratch.”