The final leg of the American Triple Crown for three-year-old Thoroughbreds, the Belmont Stakes will be offered for the 147th time in 2015. The 1 ½-mile race represents an extreme test of stamina and is known as the “Test of the Champion” due to its high degree of difficulty.
Tradition-rich Triple Crown events are among the most coveted prizes in the sport and the Belmont Stakes was worth $1.5 million in 2014.
The 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby, which is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, kicks off the Triple Crown on the first Saturday in May and the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes follows two weeks later at Pimilco Race Course in Baltimore. There is another three-week gap prior to the Belmont Stakes, which takes place at Belmont Park just outside of New York City in Elmont, New York.
Sweeping the Triple Crown ranks as one of the most difficult tasks in all of sports – three long-distance races over a five-week span can compromise even the most talented horses — and the Belmont Stakes has served as the ultimate roadblock.
Eleven horses have swept the Triple Crown but none since Affirmed in 1978, a drought that is quickly approaching 40 years. However, 13 horses did capture both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness since Affirmed. Those horses all brought positive publicity to Thoroughbred racing during the build-up to the Belmont Stakes.
The Belmont Stakes derailed the hopes and dreams of the racing public in 2014 as California Chrome came up short as the heavy favorite following convincing wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. The saying goes that there’s “No place to hide” on the massive 1 ½-mile oval at Belmont Park, the largest circumference of any U.S. race track, and it’s going take a special horse to once again achieve Triple Crown glory.
Regardless of whether a Triple Crown is on the line, the Belmont Stakes is often a compelling race featuring a strong field. There was no Triple Crown on the line when Rags to Riches defeated eventual Horse of the Year Curlin by a head after a stirring stretch battle in 2007, and stars like Palace Malice, Afleet Alex, Point Given and A.P. Indy won under the same conditions.
But the theatre is certainly cranked up when a Triple Crown is on the line. Even the casual fan will tune in due to the implications, the opportunity witness something extremely rare, and there is a buzz in the air at Belmont Park throughout the afternoon as a massive crowd turns out for the festivities.
The New York Racing Association, which operates Belmont Park, has developed the afternoon into a showcase of Thoroughbred racing, with lucrative events on the undercard for different age and sex divisions.
In 2014, the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap; $1 million Ogden Phipps Stakes; $1 million Manhattan Stakes; $750,000 Just a Game Stakes; $750,000 Acorn Stakes; $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes; and $500,000 Brooklyn Invitational were all offered on the Belmont Stakes program.