The Belmont Stakes was named after August Belmont, a financier who made a fortune in New York politics and society. Mr. Belmont was also quite involved in horse racing, and his imprint is even intertwined within the history of the Kentucky Derby.
The Belmont predates the Preakness by six years and the Kentucky Derby by eight. The Belmont Stakes was first run on June 19, 1867, at the Jerome Park race course. A filly, Ruthless, won the first Belmont outlasting DeCourcey by a head. The race has been run every since, with the exception of 1911 and '12, and the Belmont has established itself as the ultimate test of championship stamina in this country. Its 1-1/2-mile distance now has become a rarity in American dirt races.
The Belmont was even longer in its early days, contested at 1-5/8 miles through 1873. But from 1890 through 1926, the race dropped down to distances varying between 1-1/8 and 1-3/8 miles. The 1926 Belmont was run at 1-1/2 miles and was won by Crusader, a son of the legendary Man o' War, in a time of 2:32-1/5. The race has been run at that distance ever since.
Because of its distance and status as the race that can make or break a Triple Crown champion, the Belmont Stakes has been the venue for some of the most famous moments in American racing. There was Count Fleet destroying two nondescript rivals by 25 lengths in the 1943 renewal; Secretariat one-upping his fellow Triple Crown victor 30 years later, winning by 31 lengths in record time; and there was Affirmed and Alydar, slugging away at each other for nearly a mile before Affirmed prevailed to become a Triple Crown winner in 1978.
Where is the Belmont Stakes? Belmont Park
When is the Belmont Stakes? June 10, 2006
Here's a tidbit you didn't see in Derby or Preakness history. When Grey Lag won the Belmont in 1921, it marked the first running of the Belmont Stakes in the counter-clockwise manner of American fashion. This 53rd running was a mile and three-eighths over the main course; previous editions at Belmont Park had been run clockwise, in accordance with English custom, over a fish-hook course which included part of the training track and the main dirt oval.
The first post parade in this country came in the 14th running of the Belmont in 1880. Until then the horses went directly from paddock to post.
The Belmont has been run at various distances. From 1867 tp 1873 it was 1 5/8 miles; from 1874 to 1889 it was 1 1/2 miles; from 1890 through 1892, and in 1895, it was held at 1 1/4 miles; from 1896 through 1925 it was 1 5/8 miles; since 1925 the Belmont Stakes has been a race of 1 1/2 miles.
- Man o' War heads the list of Belmont champion sires. Not only did he win the race himself in 1920, but three of his subsequent sires won it as well: American Flag in 1925, Crusader in 1926 and War Admiral in 1937, who went on to win the Triple Crown.
- Commando won the 1901 running, then sired Peter Pan, the 1907 champ and the Colin, the 1908 winner.
1930 champion Gallant Fox sired both Omaha (1935) and Granville (1936).
- Count Fleet won the 1943 edition, and then sired back-to-back Belmont winners with Counterpoint (1951) and One Count (1952).
- 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew sired a Call To The Derby Post favorite in Swale, who won both the Derby and the Belmont in 1984, as well as A.P. Indy, who won the Belmont in 1992. 1999 Belmont winner Lemon Drop Kid is also a descendant of the Slew.
The following horses have sired one Belmont winner each: Duke of Magenta of 1878 sired Eric (1889); Spendthrift of 1879 sired Hastings (1896); Hastings then followed his again by siring Masterman, the 1902 winner. The Finn of 1915 sired Zev (1923); Sword Dancer of 1959 sired Damascus (1967); last but not least, Triple Crown winner Secretariat of 1973 sired Risen Star, the 1988 winner.
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