Guest Author - Karen Joyce Williams
Love to watch Thoroughbreds run? Try Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. It is one of the oldest of the famous New York racetracks and only operates in the fall and winter. Unlike its famous cousins, Belmont Park on Long Island and Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, long known for hosting high society and celebrity visitors, Aqueduct is located in a compact blue collar neighborhood called South Ozone Park in Queens, New York and has catered to a family-oriented, unpretentious crowd since it reopened its doors after undergoing a major renovation in 1959.
The facility, set on 190 acres near the former Brooklyn Waterworks, boasts three distinct tracks and begins its season at the end of October and runs (no pun intended) through May each year. The original inner dirt track held its first races when the park opened in 1894, The Main Course and the Turf Course were constructed later. There have been up to 40,000 people in attendance daily at Aqueduct over the years, with the numbers swelling especially after some of the park's most famous and bizarre race finishes.
In 1944 three horses, Brownie, Bossuet, and Wait A Bit, all won in a triple dead heat (they all crossed the finish line at the same time). It was the first time that had ever happened in a major race in the U. S. In 2006, three triple dead heats occurred all on the same day at the park. Since Aqueduct is the only large-scale track downstate equipped for winter racing, the prospect of event like these keep the clubhouse filled.
If you make a day of Aqueduct, you will be hungry. There is a large buffet-style restaurant on the third floor of the clubhouse and a throng of concession stands throughout the main level of the park. The best part of all is the affordable admission. It's free! There is a video arcade and a children's play area and you can check the park's calendar for special event days. One drawback for visitors is parking. The general parking area only holds about 5,000 vehicles and it can get difficult to get in and out at the beginning and the end of the day. For $5 visitors may take advantage of clubhouse parking or valet parking. If you do use general parking remember to jump on the complimentary shuttle bus that ferries guests from the parking lot to the racing action.
Aqueduct is located in Queens, New York and is close to Manhattan, the airports and most major hotels and motels. One hotel that I recommend is the Holiday Inn - JFK in Jamaica, New York. It has indoor and outdoor pools, exercise rooms and (best of all) a great restaurant. There are many other places from which to choose. Whether you make a day trip to Aqueduct or stay for a weekend of horse racing excitement, you'll find it an affordable and exhilarating getaway for the whole family.