The Belmont Stakes is the third leg of what is known as the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred horse racing.
Just five weeks after the Kentucky Derby and a mere three weeks following the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont wraps up horse racing's version of the college basketball's March Madness. Of course, in order to capture the coveted triple crown, a horse must win all three legs, a feat that has alluded even the best equine athletes since Affirmed accomplished the feat back in 1978.
The race takes place at the Belmont Park which is located in Elmont, New York. It was first held back in 1867 at Jerome Park Racetrack in The Bronx, but it has moved around a few times before finding its current home. Like the Preakness, this event was also held at Morris Park Racecourse for a fifteen year period. Then in 1905, Belmont Park opened up in Elmont and has hosted this illustrious event ever since that day.
The race itself is of 12 furlongs in length, takes place on dirt, and is of the left-handed variety.
Today’s purse includes a total of one-million dollars US, while $600,000 of that purse goes to the victor. It, like the Kentucky Derby, is for three year old Thoroughbreds, were Colts and Geldings weigh in at 126 pounds, and Fillies come in at 121.
This race has been dubbed “The Test of the Champion” and also “The Run for the Carnations”.
The latter term is used because upon the conclusion, the winner is blanketed in white carnations.
Like the other races, this one also has its own post-parade song. Though this one changes quite often, it has ran through “Sidewalks of New York”, the theme from "New York, New York," and the "Empire State of Mind" in recent years.
The attendance numbers for this race are very impressive as it draws numbers that are comparable with any of the other Stakes races. In fact, the only races that manage to outdraw this illustrious event, is the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Kentucky Oaks.
Now let’s take a look at the top five races of all time.
Man O’War - 1920
I’m a sucker for the triple crown winners, and this horse gets my top spot in spite of the fact that he didn’t achieve that feat. The fact that he didn’t even run in the Kentucky Derby may have something to do with that. It wasn’t how close this race was that got it on our list, it was how easily he won it that is so impressive. The son of Mahubah set two records during the Belmont Stakes --speed and margin of victory--which were 2:14.20 and 20 lengths respectively. Those are records that would stand until the next horse on this list found the way to this track.
Secretariat - 1973
Quite possibly the most famous horse of all-time. Secretariat as many know did win the triple crown, and did it in record setting fashion, shattering the track records set by Man O’War. And although "Big Red" finished the Belmont that year with a time of 2:24.00, the race was an eighth of a mile longer when he ran it and still his margin of victory was an astounding 31 lengths. Both of these are records that still stand today
Affirmed - 1978
In another epic battle between Affirmed and Alydar, this year's Belmont was also decided by a nose. While Alydar became the first horse to finish second in all three triple crown races, Affirmed became the 11th and most recent triple crown winner in yet another fantastic finish between these two.
Easy Goer - 1989
It was 11 years later after the dust finally settled between Affirmed and Alydar as another of the great rivalries between Easy Goer and Sunday Silence became headlines, as the son of Alydar prevented becoming the second horse to finish second in all three legs of the triple crown with his victory at the Belmont Stakes. Denying Sunday Silence’s place in history in the process.
Seattle Slew - 1977
Another triple crown winner on our list. Just one year before the series between Affirmed and Alydar, was the dominating year that belonged to Seattle Slew. The Belmont was his biggest win of the triple crown series at four lengths, and the triple crown only added to the legend that would culminate over the course of that season.
Top Five All-Time Kentucky Derby Finishes -- by Matthew Martz
The Kentucky Derby has one of the most rich traditions in all of sports. The first leg of the “Triple Crown” was first held all the way back in 1875 and is still known in the United States as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports.”
Alternately known as, “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports, the "Run for the Roses" is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbred horses, and is traditionally held annually in Louisville, Kentucky at legendary Churchill Downs.
It takes place on the first Saturday in May, and it is the final event in the two-week long Kentucky Derby Festival.
All of that being said, there has been many great moments in Derby history, and it's time to discuss some of the best finishes ever as we near this year's Derby Day.
It's should be no surprise to see Secretariat on our list. Easily one of, if not the most famous equine to ever run in this prestigious event. This particular horse set a record back in 1973, that astonishingly still holds up to this very day. The Chestnut Stallion ran the one and a quarter mile track in the record time of 1:59:40. If that was not impressive enough, "Big Red" is also the only winner in history to get faster during each quarter- mile checkpoint, winning the race over second-place Sham by two and a half lengths. Then, as everyone knows, Secretariat went on to complete the Triple Crown to complete his legacy, cementing his place among the world's greatest athletes of all-time.
This horse’s Derby finish has to go down as one of the most remarkable comebacks ever. At the top of the home stretch, Alysheba charged from a good ways behind the lead pack to vault into contention. But here is where the incredible part kicks in. Bet Twice, a fellow thoroughbred competing, actually bumped into the three-time Eclipse Award winner. Where most horses would proceed to fall down, and force a catastrophic pileup, Alysheba held his balance, recovered his footing, and continued his charge. Then, he was bumped a second time by Bet Twice, but again recovered, and was able to cross the wire first. Just ahead of Bet Twice.
Brokers Tip 1933
This is easily the most disputed Derby finish of all-time. Long before they had finish line technology, so the actual result is still not actually known to this day.
Brokers Tip and Head Play were in the lead pack, and eventually broke ahead of the others. During the last quarter mile, a couple of interesting things took place. First, Head Play’s jockey tried to squeeze out a charging Brokers Tip by edging closer to the rail. This move would fail, and resulted in the two horses being essentially locked together. Then second is widely known as the “Fighting Finish," as the two jockeys were basically holding onto each other’s saddle, and proceeded to berate each other with whip blows.
After it was said and done, they appeared to cross the line simultaneously. In that era, it went to a judge’s ruling. Three of the four said that Head Play crossed first, but the chief racing steward’s opinion won out. Brokers Tip was awarded the win.
The Big Cy, as he was often referred is also always a part of the best thoroughbred of all-time debates as well. He is also a member of the Triple Crown club, and his Derby win makes him a very well deserved member of this list. At the half-mile, Citation trailed by six lengths to rival, Coaltown. Not an insurmountable margin, but not a deficit to scoff at either. But like all great champions, the eventual Triple Crown winner roared back over the last three-quarters and ended up passing Coaltown, winning e race by an easy two and a half lengths.
Mine That Bird 2009
This list would not be complete without one of the biggest long-shots, and comebacks in the history of the Kentucky Derby. Purchased for a mere for $9,500, Mine That Bird accomplished both of the prior in miraculous fashion.
In what was a sloppy track due to excessive rain, Mine That Bird got off to a dreadful start. He was so far behind (eight lengths), that the announcer calling the race missed him at first glance. Famous jockey, Calvin Borel was the man on Mine That Bird on this fateful day, and used the same rail-skimming technique that he used to claim the 2007 Derby to try and catch the field.
Catch them he did, and in short order. He came by so quickly, that the announcer did not even realize this until he was three lengths ahead of the field. He ballooned that up to a lead of six lengths that he held through the wire.
This was the second biggest upset in Derby history(a two dollar wager returned $103.20). Mine That Bird also had the third longest odds in this individual race. Behind only Atomic Rain (55-1) and Join in the Dance(51-1).