The spectacular Belmont Stakes, a horse race featuring 3-year-old Thoroughbreds, is the third and last leg of the US Triple Crown races. The Belmont Stakes winner, if having been victorious at the Triple Crown’s previous races – the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, both held in May – will have the very exciting, and prestigious distinction of running away with the Triple Crown trophy, purse, and fame immortal for being one of the fastest horses in history.
Inaugurated in 1867, Belmont Stakes were first held at the Bronx’s Jerome Park Race Track. Jerome Park was built in 1866 by Leonard Jerome, a stock market speculator and bankrolled by August Belmont, Sr. for whom the race is named. The Belmont race was held at Jerome Park until 1890, after which the race was relocated to Morris Park Racecourse. And there the race stayed until the spring of 1905 when Belmont Park was opened. The new facility was a 430-acre, 1.5 mile (12 furlong), dirt race course in Elmont, New York, situated just outside the New York City borough of Queens on Long Island.
The Belmont Stakes is the oldest of the Triple Crown events, pre-dating the Preakness Stakes’ opening in 1873 by 6 years and the Kentucky Derby’s opening in 1875 by 8. However, Belmont, the most important race of the Triple Crown, doesn’t seem to have the pomp and circumstance or legendry that is attached to the other Triple Crown races. Even Belmont’s blanket of white carnations, which is bestowed upon the winner, has not earned the same recognition that the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness floral blankets have. Their winner’s blankets are a huge deal, so much that the races are more often than not referred to as “Run for the Roses” or “Run for the Black-Eyed Susans”, respectively. “Run for the White Carnations” has never really taken off as a replacement name for the equally famous Belmont Stakes.
But Belmont is famous for a moniker that is perhaps a higher class of distinction: “Test of the Champion”. Dubbed so, due to its length and because it is the final test of a horse’s singular endurance and ability to outrun every other competitor in the race for the Triple Crown. Additionally, the majority of three-year-old Thoroughbreds lack the stamina required to maintain a winning speed for the length of Belmont’s race course. A race of Belmont’s length requires extraordinary positioning of the horse and expert timing of the move for the horse to gain a critical lead.
The Belmont track had 19 Thoroughbreds that fell short of the Triple Crown victory, having won at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and then having high hopes for a win at Belmont, only to be disappointed. War Emblem and Smarty Jones were two of the more famous horses to have been tripped up.
Traditions are also not as plentiful at Belmont as at the other two Triple Crown venues. The “race song” has changed several times, as has the “race drink”, particularly recently as they try to attract younger fans to the track.
But two important traditions that have a longstanding presence are the August Belmont Memorial Cup trophy and the Carnation blanket, both awarded to the Belmont winner upon entering the Winner’s Circle.
The impressive August Belmont Memorial Cup is the trophy designed by Tiffany and Co. that August Belmont received when Fenian won Belmont’s 3rd running in 1869. In 1926, the Belmont Family donated the trophy to be used as the annual award at Belmont Stakes. The winner’s owner keeps the trophy until next year’s Belmont winner is crowned. A silver miniature of the trophy is also awarded to the winning owner, jockey, and trainer.
Belmont Stakes’ traditional flower is the white carnation. The floral blanket is placed upon the neck of the Stakes’ winner. The blanket is created on the day of the race using over 700 carnations from Colombia. The carnations are glued on by hand to a velveteen green backing and takes about 5 hours to complete. A smaller carnation blanket is also created and placed on the statue of Secretariat found in Belmont’s paddock.
Recent Purse $1 million, with the 1st place winner receiving $600,000
Of Belmont Stake winners, 60 were won by the favorite (42.2%)
Previous to 1921, the race was run in the clockwise direction in the English tradition of horse racing. Since then, the race has been run in the counter-clockwise direction, an American tradition.
Julie Krone became the first woman to win the US Triple Crown when she rode Colonial Affairs through the finish line in 1993. An unparalleled female jockey, Julie is a Hall of Famer.
In 1911 and 1912, the Belmont Race Course was closed, due to anti-gambling legislation that had been passed in New York State.
Belmont Stakes’ race course was run at various lengths between 1867 and 1926. In 1926, however, the1.5 mile distance was established and has since remained the standard track length at Belmont.
In 1973, Secretariat grasped the Triple Crown at Belmont with a spectacular performance, setting a course record of 2:24 and winning the race by an incredible 31 lengths.
Most Jockey Wins:
Most Trainer Wins:
Fillies Winners (of 143 races)