third leg of the racing world's famed Triple Crown is the Belmont - run in Belmont
Park in Elmont, NY. The race course is 1 1/2-mile, 12 furlongs, and is a sand track.
The field of three year old champions compete for a place in history and there is no handicap... the best horse will win.
The Kentucky Derby in Churchill Downs and the Preakness in Pimlico, Maryland are steeped in strong southern tradition,
but the Belmont is a true New York affair where formality is not an issue. There are no fashions except for the hats that the fans
Belmont may not be the most tradition bound of the races, but
it is the oldest. The first
running of the Belmont Stakes in 1867 took place six years
before the Preakness and a full eight years before the first Kentucky
Derby was run. In fact, the Belmont is the oldest, continuously
run, race in North America. On June 19, 1867 at Jerome Park race course in the Bronx, NY, a filly named Ruthless
won the purse of $1800. The current Belmont track, the largest
race track in the United States, opened in 1905.
racing fans might not be aware of the history and traditions of
the Belmont, they do exist... and they include much more than
the traffic getting there and the long lines for refreshments.
include the official drink of the Belmont - the Belmont
Breeze. The cocktail was created by Dale DeGroff, head bartender
at Manhattan's Rainbow Room which was part of the Windows on the
World restaurant in the World Trade Center. The cocktail is based
on an old, Colonial recipe for whiskey punch. The White
Carnation used to be the official drink, but in 1997 marketing
plans at the track demanded a new, younger image, and the old drink
just didn't fit. That's when the Belmont Breeze was introduced in 1998. Despite
the best marketing efforts, most of the crowd still sticks to
the traditional beer and an occasional Long
Island Iced Tea. There's also the 155
Belmont, if none of the others suit your palate.
Until 1997, the official theme song of the race was "Sidewalks of New
York". The following year, officials decided that
the song made famous by Frank Sinatra, "New York, New York,"
would be more familiar to a larger audience. Today, as the post parade
begins it is the strains of Sinatra that set the stage for the oldest race
in the Triple Crown set. The tradition of the post parade
began at the 1890 Belmont Stakes. Before that, horses were taken
directly from the paddock area to the starting post before the
standing tradition has been lost to the changes of modern life.
Every year after the Belmont was run, a local pub near the track,
Esposito's Tavern, painted its picket fence to match the winner's
colors. When the local tavern became a church, the tradition was
abandoned. Locals don't expect it to be revived anytime soon!
1997 face lift, the Belmont acquired a new tradition. In the area
where the horses are saddled, the stand-ease area, track officials
added a set of cast iron horses about 4 feet high with iron jockeys.
After the race is run, the jockey is painted with the colors of
the winning horse. When the horse who wins the Belmont is a Triple
Crown winner, the cast iron horse is moved to a permanent position
in the triple crown ring.
Belmont traditions that have lasted through the years. None match
the age of the giant white pine in the paddock, which is is 300
years old. This tree is the basis for the Belmont track logo.
The Winners Photo Gallery, on the 2nd floor of the Belmont clubhouse
in the Belmont Room, boasts the photo finishes of past Belmont
victors dating back to 1912. The night before every Belmont, the
previous year's winner is honored at a trainer's banquet. The
Belmont Charity Ball held at Meadowbrook Country Club is the climax
of pre-Belmont celebrations. A new tradition, the Belmont Festival
at Garden City, started in 2004.
blanket of between 300 and 400 white carnations that drapes the
champion in the winners circle takes 10 man hours to put together.
The flowers are shipped in from either California or Bogota, Colombia.
The name, "The Run for the Carnations," comes from this
tradition. The Kentucky Derby is the "Run for the Roses,"
the Preakness is the "Race for the Black Eyed Susans."
The Belmont Stakes is also known as "the Test of Champions"
- pass it and you win the Triple Crown...
trophy, the Belmont silver bowl is presented in the winner's circle
as the blanket of carnations is placed on the horse. The Tiffany-made,
covered, silver bowl donated by the Belmont family stands 18 inches
high, 15 inches across, and 14 inches at the base. The bowl celebrates
the heritage and history of the race. The cover shows a silver
figure of Fenian, who won the third Belmont Sweepstakes in 1869.
The bowl is supported by three horses. These represent Matchen,
1748, Herod, 1758 and Eclipse, 1764. In order to be considered
a horse must be able to trace it's lineage back to one of these
1930- Gallant Fox
1937- War Admiral
1943- Count Fleet
1977- Seattle Slew
2015- American Pharoah
victories in the 1919 Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes
started the Triple Crown tradition, but it wasn't until 1930 that
the name Triple Crown was used. Charles Hatton, writing for the
Daily Racing Form, coined the phrase in writing about Gallant
Fox's victories in the three races.
Julie Krone was the first woman to capture the Triple Crown with her win at the 1993 Belmont Stakes aboard Colonial Affair.
Man o'War ran his first race at the Belmont on June 6th, 1919 - and won.
The largest crowd was 85,818 in 1999 - Breaking the previous record of 82,694 in 1971.
The 2:24 record time for the race is held by Secretariat.
Count Fleet won the race by 25 lengths in 1943 - a record that held until Secretariat's 1973 victory. While setting the record time, he came in 31 lengths ahead of the second place finisher.
The closest race was in 1978 with the famous rivalry between Alydar and Affirmed. Spectators held their breath during a long stretch run in which the horses were head to head. Affirmed took the Belmont - and the Triple Crown - by only a neck.
Leonard W. Jerome was a partner of August Belmont. They helped found the American Jockey Club and were the men behind the first running of
the Belmont Stakes. Jerome's daughter, Jennie, was the mother of Winston Churchill.
Gallant Fox (1930) sired Omaha (1935) and is the only Triple Crown champion to sire a Triple Crown winner.
The 1977 win by Seattle Slew followed by Affirmed taking the honor in 1978 marked the only time that there has been a Triple Crown winner in two consecutive years.
Notable horses who have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to fail or drop out of the running at Belmont include Tim Tam (1958), Carry Back (1961), Majestic Prince (1969), Spectacular Bid (1979), Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Charismatic (1999), War Emblem (2002), Smarty Jones (2004) and I'll Have Another (2012).