When Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park opens for the season on Friday, Nov. 2, it will do so with little fanfare. The track that first opened in 1894, making it older than most other sporting venues in the country, will host Thoroughbred racing for six months, longer than the Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course meets, which, along with Aqueduct, are overseen by the New York Racing Association (NYRA).
Of course, there’s nothing about the current Aqueduct that evokes the 19th century. It is 20th-century urban through and through, from the A train stop steps from the entrance to the city-dwelling crowd to the mid-century Brutalist architecture which, along with a complete overhaul and upgrade of the facility, led The New York Times to crown Aqueduct “a Taj Mahal with horses” when the track reopened in 1959.
Virtually since its inception, Aqueduct has fought a down-market reputation; it lacked the cachet of its upscale rivals: Morris Park in what is now the Bronx and Saratoga upstate. Yet without Aqueduct, New York racing as we know it would cease to exist.
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