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The History of the Belmont Stakes

The Belmont Stakes is the oldest and longest of the three Triple Crown events. Inaugurated on June 19, 1867 at Jerome Park, the Belmont was later run at Morris Park and then moved to Belmont Park when the latter opened in 1905. Aqueduct served as a substitute host from 1963-67 when the Belmont Park stands were being rebuilt.

The Belmont has been run every year except in 1911-12, when racing was temporarily banned in New York. Run at various distances through the mid-1920s, the current distance of 1 1/2 miles, one lap around Belmont’s sweeping oval, has been in place since 1926.

Known as the “Test of the Champion,” the Belmont was created as New York’s equivalent of the Derby Stakes in England.

All 13 Triple Crown winners completed their series sweep in the Belmont, and many more have seen the elusive prize slip away in the long and demanding test.

The most famous of all Belmont renewals is undoubtedly Secretariat’s 31-length tour de force in the 1973 edition. His final time of 2:24 remains an American record for 1 1/2 miles on dirt, a full two seconds faster than the next-fastest clocking held jointly by Easy Goer (1989) and A.P. Indy (1992).

The first running of the Belmont in 1867 was won by the filly Ruthless. Another filly, Tanya, won the race the first time it was contested at Belmont Park in 1905, but it would be 102 more years before Rags to Riches (2007) became the third female to win.

New York was one of the last racing jurisdictions in the United States to switch from bookmaking to pari-mutuel wagering, which was instituted in time for the 1940 Belmont Stakes.

Eleven odds-on favorites have won the Belmont since 1940. The shortest-priced winner was Triple Crown hero Count Fleet (1943), who paid $2.10 after defeating two rivals.

Three horses in the pari-mutuel era have won the Belmont at odds of 50-1 or higher: Sarava (2002, $142.50), Sherluck (1961, $132.10), and Temperence Hill (1980, $108.80). Sarava and Sherluck spoiled the Triple Crown bids of War Emblem and Carry Back, respectively.


Belmont Stakes History Details

First run in 1867, the Belmont Stakes is one of the oldest Thoroughbred races in the United States that still runs today. Fondly known as the Third Jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes has a more grueling and fitting nickname – The Test of the Champion.

Many believe that the Belmont Stakes are named after Belmont Park, but the race is actually named after August Belmont Sr., a famous horseman who lived during the 19th century. Belmont Sr. founded the Belmont Stakes at Jerome Park Racetrack in 1868, where the race ran until 1890. It was then moved to Morris Park Racecourse from 1890 till 1905. After that, the Belmont Stakes settled in to its new and current home at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.

The 1 ½ mile challenge is one of the most grueling races a three-year old colt can endure. The Belmont Stakes has also been run at several other distances, and was originally run at 1 5/8th miles. Race organizers settled on the 1 ½ mile distance in 1926 where it has remained since.

Crowds at the Belmont Stakes have reached as high as 103,000, such in the year War Emblem won in 2002. For various reasons, the race organizers have capped attendance at 90,000 in recent renewals. This is likely due to the unpredictable response from the mainstream.

Despite it’s standing as an American Classic, interest in the Belmont Stakes can  be tough to pinpoint. During California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid in 2014, more than $150 million was wagered over the 13-card program on Belmont Day. The following year, during American Pharoah’s own bid for immortality, the handle actually decreased to the $135 million range. In 2016, the Belmont Stakes handle dipped to $99 million with no Triple Crown bid on the line.

The next renewal for the Belmont Stakes will occur on June 10th, 2017.

The Triple Crown

The Triple Crown series was cemented in terms of schedule by 1931, placing the Belmont Stakes as the final leg. Prior to 1931, the races were flipped around in order depending on track availability and the agenda’s of the organizers themselves. The term “Triple Crown” was coined by Daily Racing Form writer Charles Hatton in the early 1930’s and the series was later instituted as it is known today.

Twelve champions have earned the Triple Crown. They are: Sir Barton (1919) ,Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978) and American Pharoah (2015).

The gap between Affirmed and American Pharoah winning Triple Crowns was 38 years, and was heavily publicized heading in to the 2015 Belmont Stakes. American Pharoah’s victory at the Belmont may have been the most significant in resurrecting interest in the Triple Crown as he was later voted as the Sportsperson of the Year in Sports Illustrated through an online poll.

An additional 23 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but come up short at the Belmont Stakes. Some of the most notable horses to do so are Northern Dance (1964), Spectacular Bid (1979), Alysheba (1987), Sunday Silence (1989), Silver charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Charismatic (1999), Smarty Jones (2004), I’ll Have Another (2012) and California Chrome (2014).

One of the most memorable finishes at the Belmont Stakes is also its most tragic. Charismatic fractured several bones in his foreleg during the 1999 renewal. Jockey Chris Antley sensed something was wrong during the race and leapt off so he could support Charismatic’s leg himself. The injury forced Charismatic in to retirement, but he was honored with an Eclipse Award for 3-Year-Old Colt of the Year and Horse of the Year in 1999 regardless of the injury. An iconic photo of Antley bracing Charismatic’s leg at the Belmont Stakes was the 1999 National Thoroughbred Racing Association Moment of the Year.


Belmont Stakes Traditions

Like its Triple Crown counterparts, the Belmont Stakes has many nicknames. The “Test of the Champion” tag was given to reflect both the difficulty of the race and its status as the final trial in the Triple Crown. The Belmont Stakes is also known as the “Run For The Carnations” as the winner is decorated in a blanked of white carnations.

The winner is also adorned with a silver trophy designed by Paulding Farnham for Tiffany and Co.

Traditions for the Belmont Stakes have been subject to overhaul. The parade song has been changed multiple times and been open to adopting popular songs like Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” or Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind”.

The official drink of the Belmont Stakes was formerly the White Carnation, but was later changed to the Belmont Breeze. In 1997. In 2011 the drink was again altered to the Belmont Jewel.

Belmont Stakes Records

Secretariat is the track king of Belmont Park. His record of 2:24.00 from 1973 remains the speed record for the Belmont Stakes, and his win of 31 lengths is the largest margin of victory ever recorded in the race as well. Risen Star, a son of Secretariat, would also win the Belmont Stakes in 1988 and posted the second-fastest time in the history of the race up until that point.

Jim McLaughlin and Eddie Arcaro each hold 6 wins as the most successful jockey’s at the Belmont Stakes. Gary Stevens has three wins, making him the most successful amongst active jockeys.

Three fillies have won the Belmont Stakes. The first was actually the first ever champion in the race’s history with Ruthless in 1867. Tanya followed in 1905 and the most recent was Rags to Riches in 2007.

Full Listing of Belmont Stakes Winners

Year

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

Time

2019        
2018 Justify      
2017 Tapwrit      

2016

Creator

Steve Asmussen

Irad Ortiz, Jr

2:28.51

2015

American Pharoah 

Bob Baffert

Victor Espinoza

2:26.65

2014

Tonalist

Christophe Clement

Joel Rosario

2:28.52

2013

Palace Malice

Todd Pletcher

Mike Smith

2:30.70

2012

Union Rags

Michael Matz

John Velazquez

2:30.42

2011

Ruler on Ice

Kelly Breen

Jose Valdivia, Jr.

2:30.88

2010

Drosselmeyer

William Mott

Mike Smith

2:31.57

2009

Summer Bird

Tim Ice

Kent Desormeaux

2:27.54

2008

Da'Tara

Nick Zito

Alan Garcia

2:29.65

2007

Rags to Riches**

Todd Pletcher

John Velazquez

2:28.74

2006

Jazil

Kiaran McLaughlin

Fernando Jara

2:27.86

2005

Afleet Alex

Timothy Ritchey

Jeremy Rose

2:28.75

2004

Birdstone

Nick Zito

Edgar Prado

2:27.50

2003

Empire Maker

Robert Frankel

Jerry Bailey

2:28.26

2002

Sarava

Kenneth McPeek

Edgar Prado

2:29.71

2001

Point Given

Bob Baffert

Gary Stevens

2:26.56

2000

Commendable

D. Wayne Lukas

Pat Day

2:31.19

1999

Lemon Drop Kid

Scotty Schulhofer

Jose Santos

2:27.88

1998

Victory Gallop

W. Elliott Walden

Gary Stevens

2:29.16

1997

Touch Gold

David Hofmans

Chris McCarron

2:28.82

1996

Editor's Note

D. Wayne Lukas

Rene R. Douglas

2:28.96

1995

Thunder Gulch

D. Wayne Lukas

Gary Stevens

2:32.02

1994

Tabasco Cat

D. Wayne Lukas

Pat Day

2:26.82

1993

Colonial Affair

Scotty Schulhofer

Julie Krone

2:29.97

1992

A.P. Indy

Neil Drysdale

Ed Delahoussaye

2:26.13

1991

Hansel

Frank L. Brothers

Jerry Bailey

2:28.10

1990

Go And Go

Dermot K. Weld

Michael Kinane

2:27.20

1989

Easy Goer

C. R. McGaughey III

Pat Day

2:26.00

1988

Risen Star

Louie J. Roussel III

Ed Delahoussaye

2:26.40

1987

Bet Twice

Jimmy Croll

Craig Perret

2:28.20

1986

Danzig Connection

Woody Stephens

Chris McCarron

2:29.80

1985

Creme Fraiche

Woody Stephens

Eddie Maple

2:27.00

1984

Swale

Woody Stephens

Laffit Pincay, Jr.

2:27.20

1983

Caveat

Woody Stephens Laffit Pincay, Jr.

2:27.80

1982

Conquistador Cielo

Woody Stephens Laffit Pincay, Jr.

2:28.20

1981

Summing

Luis Barrera

George Martens

2:29.00

1980

Temperence Hill

Joseph B. Cantey

Eddie Maple

2:29.80

1979

Coastal

David A. Whiteley

Ruben Hernandez

2:28.60

1978

Affirmed 

Laz Barrera

Steve Cauthen

2:26.80

1977

Seattle Slew 

William H. Turner, Jr.

Jean Cruguet

2:29.60

1976

Bold Forbes

Laz Barrera

Angel Cordero, Jr.

2:29.00

1975

Avatar

Tommy Doyle

Bill Shoemaker

2:28.20

1974

Little Current

Lou Rondinello

Miguel A. Rivera

2:29.20

1973

Secretariat 

Lucien Laurin

Ron Turcotte

2:24.00

1972

Riva Ridge

Lucien Laurin Ron Turcotte

2:28.00

1971

Pass Catcher

Eddie Yowell

Walter Blum

2:30.40

1970

High Echelon

John W. Jacobs

John L. Rotz

2:34.00

1969

Arts and Letters

J. Elliott Burch

Braulio Baeza

2:28.80

1968

Stage Door Johnny

John M. Gaver, Sr.

Heliodoro Gustines

2:27.20

1967

Damascus

Frank Y. Whiteley, Jr.

Bill Shoemaker

2:28.80

1966

Amberoid

Lucien Laurin

William Boland

2:29.60

1965

Hail To All

Eddie Yowell

Johnny Sellers

2:28.40

1964

Quadrangle

J. Elliott Burch

Manuel Ycaza

2:28.40

1963

Chateaugay

James P. Conway

Braulio Baeza

2:30.20

1962

Jaipur

Bert Mulholland

Bill Shoemaker

2:28.80

1961

Sherluck

Harold Young

Braulio Baeza

2:29.20

1960

Celtic Ash

Thomas J. Barry

Bill Hartack

2:29.20

1959

Sword Dancer

J. Elliott Burch

Bill Shoemaker

2:28.40

1958

Cavan

Thomas J. Barry

Pete Anderson

2:30.20

1957

Gallant Man

John A. Nerud

Bill Shoemaker

2:26.60

1956

Needles

Hugh L. Fontaine

David Erb

2:29.80

1955

Nashua

Jim Fitzsimmons

Eddie Arcaro

2:29.00

1954

High Gun

Max Hirsch

Eric Guerin

2:30.80

1953

Native Dancer

Bill Winfrey

Eric Guerin

2:28.60

1952

One Count

Oscar White

Eddie Arcaro

2:30.20

1951

Counterpoint

Sylvester Veitch

David Gorman

2:29.00

1950

Middleground

Max Hirsch

William Boland

2:28.60

1949

Capot

John M. Gaver, Sr.

Ted Atkinson

2:30.20

1948

Citation 

Horace A. Jones

Eddie Arcaro

2:28.20

1947

Phalanx

Sylvester Veitch

Ruperto Donoso

2:29.40

1946

Assault 

Max Hirsch

Warren Mehrtens

2:30.80

1945

Pavot

Oscar White

Eddie Arcaro

2:30.20

1944

Bounding Home

Matt Brady

Gayle Smith

2:32.20

1943

Count Fleet 

Don Cameron

Johnny Longden

2:28.20

1942

Shut Out

John M. Gaver, Sr.

Eddie Arcaro

2:29.20

1941

Whirlaway 

Ben A. Jones

Eddie Arcaro

2:31.00

1940

Bimelech

William A. Hurley

Fred A. Smith

2:29.60

1939

Johnstown

Jim Fitzsimmons

James Stout

2:29.60

1938

Pasteurized

George M. Odom

James Stout

2:29.40

1937

War Admiral 

George Conway

Charley Kurtsinger

2:28.60

1936

Granville

Jim Fitzsimmons

James Stout

2:30.00

1935

Omaha 

Jim Fitzsimmons

Willie Saunders

2:30.60

1934

Peace Chance

Pete Coyne

Wayne D. Wright

2:29.20

1933

Hurryoff

Henry McDaniel

Mack Garner

2:32.60

1932

Faireno

Jim Fitzsimmons

Tommy Malley

2:32.80

1931

Twenty Grand

James G. Rowe, Jr.

Charley Kurtsinger

2:29.60

1930

Gallant Fox 

Jim Fitzsimmons

Earl Sande

2:31.60

1929

Blue Larkspur

Herbert J. Thompson

Mack Garner

2:32.80

1928

Vito

Max Hirsch

Clarence Kummer

2:33.20

1927

Chance Shot

Pete Coyne

Earl Sande

2:32.40

1926

Crusader

George Conway

Albert Johnson

2:32.20

1925

American Flag

Gwyn R. Tompkins

Albert Johnson

2:16.80

1924

Mad Play

Sam Hildreth

Earl Sande

2:18.80

1923

Zev

Sam Hildreth Earl Sande

2:19.00

1922

Pillory

Thomas J. Healey

C. H. Miller

2:18.80

1921

Grey Lag

Sam Hildreth

Earl Sande

2:16.80

1920

Man o' War

Louis Feustel

Clarence Kummer

2:14.20

1919

Sir Barton 

H. Guy Bedwell

Johnny Loftus

2:17.40

1918

Johren

Albert Simons

Frank Robinson

2:20.40

1917

Hourless

Sam Hildreth

James H. Butwell

2:17.80

1916

Friar Rock

Everett Haynes

2:22.00

1915

The Finn

Edward W. Heffner

George Byrne

2:18.40

1914

Luke McLuke

John F. Schorr

Merritt Buxton

2:20.00

1913

Prince Eugene

James G. Rowe, Sr.

Roscoe Troxler

2:18.00

1912

       

1911

       

1910

Sweep

James G. Rowe, Sr.

James H. Butwell

2:22.00

1909

Joe Madden

Sam Hildreth

Eddie Dugan

2:21.60

1908

Colin

James G. Rowe, Sr.

Joe Notter

N/A

1907

Peter Pan

James G. Rowe, Sr.

George Mountain

N/A

1906

Burgomaster

John W. Rogers

Lucien Lyne

2:20.00

1905

Tanya**

John W. Rogers

Gene Hildebrand

2:08.00

1904

Delhi

James G. Rowe, Sr.

George M. Odom

2:06.60

1903

Africander

Richard O. Miller

John Bullman

2:21.75

1902

Masterman

John J. Hyland

John Bullman

2:22.60

1901

Commando

James G. Rowe, Sr.

Henry Spencer

2:21.00

1900

Ildrim

H. Eugene Leigh

Nash Turner

2:21.25

1899

Jean Bereaud

Sam Hildreth

Richard Clawson

2:23.00

1898

Bowling Brook

R. Wyndham Walden

Fred Littlefield

2:32.00

1897

Scottish Chieftain

Matt Byrnes

Joe Scherrer

2:23.25

1896

Hastings

John J. Hyland

Henry Griffin

2:24.50

1895

Belmar

Edward Feakes

Fred Taral

2:11.50

1894

Henry of Navarre

Byron McClelland

Willie Simms

1:56.50

1893

Comanche

Gus Hannon

Willie Simms

1:53.25

1892

Patron

Lewis Stuart

William Hayward

2:17.00

1891

Foxford

M. Donavan

Edward R. Garrison

2:08.75

1890

Burlington

Albert Cooper

Pike Barnes

2:07.75

1889

Eric

John Huggins

William Hayward

2:47.25

1888

Sir Dixon

Frank McCabe

Jim McLaughlin

2:40.25

1887

Hanover

Frank McCabe Jim McLaughlin

2:43.50

1886

Inspector B

Frank McCabe Jim McLaughlin

2:41.00

1885

Tyrant

C. Claypool

Paul Duffy

2:43.00

1884

Panique

James G. Rowe, Sr.

Jim McLaughlin

2:42.00

1883

George Kinney

James G. Rowe, Sr. Jim McLaughlin

2:42.50

1882

Forester

Lewis Stuart

Jim McLaughlin

2:43.00

1881

Saunterer

R. Wyndham Walden

Tom Costello

2:47.00

1880

Grenada

R. Wyndham Walden

W. Hughes

2:47.00

1879

Spendthrift

Thomas Puryear

George Evans

2:42.75

1878

Duke of Magenta

R. Wyndham Walden

W. Hughes

2:43.50

1877

Cloverbrook

Jeter Walden

C. Holloway

2:46.00

1876

Algerine

Thomas W. Doswell

Billy Donohue

2:40.50

1875

Calvin

Ansel Williamson

Bobby Swim

2:42.25

1874

Saxon

W. Prior

George Barbee

2:39.50

1873

Springbok

David McDaniel

James G. Rowe, Sr.

3:01.75

1872

Joe Daniels

David McDaniel James G. Rowe, Sr.

2:58.25

1871

Harry Bassett

David McDaniel

Walter Miller

2:56.00

1870

Kingfisher

Rollie Colston

Edward D. Brown

2:59.50

1869

Fenian

Jacob Pincus

C. Miller

3:04.25

1868

General Duke

A. Thompson

Bobby Swim

3:02.00

1867

Ruthless**

A. Jack Minor

Gilbert Patrick

3:05.00

**Filly

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