The Belmont Stakes is a $1 million Grade 1 race for three year old thoroughbred horses run at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY each June and is the third jewel of the “Triple Crown of Horse Racing”. The Belmont is run just three weeks after the Preakness Stakes and five weeks after the Kentucky Derby, which makes it a demanding test on the horses.
Secretariat holds both the speed and winning lengths margins, running the race in 2:24 by 31 lengths, records that still stand today, both of which may never be broken.
Belmont history goes back even farther than the Derby and was first run at Jerome Park on 1866, nine years before the first Kentucky Derby. The race was moved to Belmont Park when that venue was first opened in 1905.
It is sometimes called the Test of Champions, because of the tremendous stamina required to complete this race. The 1½ mile distance is longer than any of the contestants have ever run and longer than they will likely ever run again. Therefore, a truly remarkable horse is needed to endure the rigors of the first two legs but must also be blessed with the ability to stay the long distance.
Many horses have succeeded in winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but come up short in the stretch at Belmont Park. This includes even great horses like Northern Dancer, Spectacular Bid, and Sunday Silence. Most recently, people probably remember Smarty Jones and Big Brown failing in their respective bids. In fact, in 8 of the last 14 years, the Derby winner has gone on to win the Preakness but came up short in the Belmont.
Often the margin of victory is larger than in the Derby or Preakness because the horses have a longer distance over which to distinguish themselves from the ones that just don’t have the stamina to go the distance. Many of the entrants just fall back out of sheer exhaustion and so the margin separating the winner and other horses often increases in the stretch run.
Some other notable Belmont winners include Count Fleet’s remarkable 25 length win in 1943 and Man o’ War’s 20 length victory in 1920, both accomplished under an easy gallop.
Jockeys Eddie Arcaro and Jim McLaughlin jointly hold the record of most Belmont stakes wins with six apiece.
James G. Rowe, Sr. has the all time number of wins for a trainer with eight.
In 2007, Rags to Riches became the first filly to win the Belmont Stakes in over 100 years, defeating that year’s eventual American Horse of the Year Curlin. It is rare for a filly to win this race because females in general do not have the same stamina as males.
There have been a number of big long shots to take the Belmont in recent years. Commendable upset at 18-1 in 2000, Sarava upset favorite War Emblem at 70-1 in 2002, Birdstone upset Smarty Jones in 2004 at 36-1, and Da’Tara upset Big Brown in 2008 at odds of 38-1.
The 2011 Belmont Stakes will be held on Saturday, July the 11th.