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Belmont Stakes History

 

Belmont Race - History - Winners

The third jewel of the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes, held five weeks after the Kentucky Derby at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.

No effort to discuss the Kentucky Derby is complete without mentioning the Triple Crown, the series of horse races that, in all due respect to the Breeders' Cup, defines the sport of horse racing. What follows is an abbreviated "Call To The Derby Post" treatment of the Belmont Stakes, an event that is almost (but not quite) as celebrated in New York as the Derby is in Louisville and the Preakness in Baltimore.

NOTE: The following information comes from the official site of the Belmont Stakes, hosted by the New York Racing Association.

Instead of an essay-type history that was presented for the Preakness and for the Kentucky Derby, Call To The Derby Post's Belmont Stakes introduction will comprise of important facts and pieces of trivia that should present a full perspective of the race.

The First Belmont

The first Belmont in the United States was not the famous stakes race or even the man for whom it is named. Rather, the first Belmont was a race horse that arrived in California in 1853 from his breeding grounds of Franklin, Ohio. The Belmont Stakes, however, are named after August Belmont, a financier who made quite a name and fortune for himself in New York politics and society. Obviously, Mr. Belmont was also quite involved in horse racing, and his imprint is even intertwined within the history of the Kentucky Derby (see both The Move to Louisville and Derby Growing Pains).

The Belmont's Age

One thing the Belmont does have over the Derby is that it is the oldest of the three Triple Crown events. The Belmont predates the Preakness by six years and the Kentucky Derby by eight. The first running of the Belmont Stakes was in 1867 at Jerome Park, on, believe it or not, a Thursday. At a mile and five furlongs, the conditions included an entry fee of $200, half forfeit with $1,500 added. Furthermore, not only is the Belmont the oldest Triple Crown race, but it is the fourth oldest race overall in North America. The Phoenix Stakes, now run in the fall at Keeneland as the Phoenix Breeders' Cup, was first run in 1831. The Queen's Plate in Canada made its debut in 1860, while the Travers in Saratoga opened in 1864. However, since there were gaps in sequence for the Travers, the Belmont is third only to the Phoenix and Queen's Plate in total runnings.

Some Monumental Belmont Moments

- In 1890, the Belmont was moved from Jerome Park to Morris Park, a mile and three-eighths track located a few miles east of what is now Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The Belmont was held at Morris Park until Belmont Park's opening in 1905.

- 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.

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