Horse Racing’s Oldest Leg of The Triple Crown
The Belmont Stakes is known as the final leg of the Triple Crown, and also the most grueling. It is run at a distance of 1 ½ miles five weeks after the Kentucky Derby. The Belmont Stakes is held annually at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY on Long Island. It is known as one of the biggest, if not the biggest race at Belmont Park each year. This race has broken many Triple Crown dreams over the years, with its unusually long distance wearing down most horses, especially those that have competed in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. In a span of 5 weeks a Triple Crown candidate must start with the Kentucky Derby at 1 ¼ miles, then 2 weeks later, the Preakness at 1 1/8th miles, and then 3 weeks later win the toughest and longest of them all, The Belmont at 1 ½ miles, duly nicknamed the “Test of the Champion”.
The first Belmont stakes was held at Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx, NY in 1867. The track was financed by August Belmont Sr., for whom the race was named after. The race remained at Jerome Park until 1890 when it had a brief stint at Morris Park, and then in 1905 the race was moved to Belmont Park Racetrack, where it currently resides. Before 1921 the race was run clockwise, in the English tradition and it was not until 1926 that the race was run at the current distance of 1 ½ miles. This distance is one that very unique for American racing and one that proves challenging each year for these young three year olds that have never run this far in a race before.
In more recent history, the Belmont has become more of a specialty race that horses will point to that are bred to run a route of ground. Rather than in the past when more horses from the previous 2 legs of the Triple Crown would continue to compete in each of three legs. Trainers and horse racing partnerships have targeted this race several months in advance and often times are waiting fresh off a lay off where as a Triple Crown candidate is coming off 2 of his most challenging races ever, into his 3rd race in 5 weeks at the longest distance. This is another reason why so many horses fail to complete the third leg of the Triple Crown.
The Belmont Stakes, traditionally won by 3 year old male horses has seen 3 fillies take home the carnations in its history. In 1867 the inaugural race was won by Ruthless, in 1905 Tanya, and most recently in 2007 the race was won by Rags to Riches. In addition, Julie Krone was the first woman to win a Triple Crown race with her win in the Belmont stakes aboard Colonial Affair. Not only was history made for females in this race, but also colts because in 1973 Secretariat won the Triple Crown and completed it with the still standing track record of 2:24.00 winning by the largest margin, 31 lengths. Truly this is a record that will stand the test of time as the closest finishing time is 2 full seconds slower.
Owners, trainers, and horse racing syndicates alike all dream of winning the winning Triple Crown, culminating with a win in the Belmont. Unfortunately, it seems like an insurmountable feat that really does end with the “Test of a Champion”. But each year thoroughbred partnerships gain a new sense of hope when they attend sales across the country looking for the top prospects and that one special horse that could be the one to fulfill the common goal of winning the Triple Crown.
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