The Belmont Stakes is the final race of the three that comprise the Triple Crown. It takes place every June at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. For the second year in a row history could be made at the 2015 Belmont Stakes. American Pharoah has already won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and is one win away from becoming only the 12th Triple Crown winner in history. There hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner in the sport of horse racing since Affirmed in 1978. California Chrome gave it a good run last year, winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness before finishing fourth behind Tonalist in the Belmont.
The Belmont is a Grade 1 stakes race contested over a 1 ½ mile dirt track for three-year-olds. During the Triple Crown campaign, a horse must not only deal with the longest distance of their career but the grueling schedule. The Belmont takes place three weeks after the Preakness and five weeks after the Kentucky Derby. Since most high-level thoroughbreds usually race every three or four weeks, the scheduling of the Triple Crown races is as big of a challenge as the competitions themselves. The scheduling is so demanding that many horsemen have called for the racing schedule to be changed to provide horses with more time between races.
First held in 1866, the Belmont is the oldest of the Triple Crown races by nearly a decade. The race is the namesake of 19th-century financier August Belmont, Sr. and was originally run at the Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx. The Jerome Park track got its name from a Wall Street colleague of Belmont’s, Leonard Jerome. August Belmont died in 1890 and Jerome in 1891 and following their passing the event was moved to the nearby Morris Park Race Course until the opening of Belmont Park. The race has been held annually since then with the exception of 1911 and 1912. Between 1963 and 1967 the race was held at nearby Aqueduct Racetrack due to a major renovation project at Belmont Park.
While the Kentucky Derby has the nickname ‘the run for the roses’, the Belmont winner traditionally receives a blanket of carnations. Despite the floral tradition of the Belmont the moniker “the run for the carnations” hasn’t exactly become part of the American lexicon. The race’s catch phrase may not have gained traction with the American public, but the Belmont does boast what many consider the greatest performance in the history of thoroughbred racing. In 1973, Secretariat clinched the Triple Crown in the Belmont with a downright dominant performance—“Big Red” set a course record of 2:24 in winning the race by an astounding 31 lengths. One of the most enduring images of Secretariat’s victory is the shot of jockey Ron Turcotte easing up his mount near the finish line as he looks back over his shoulder in amazement that the rest of the field is nearly out of sight.
The 2014 Belmont winner was Tonalist, trained by Christophe Clement with jockey Joel Rosario aboard. Tonalist was a 15/1 betting choice with California Chrome installed as a 3/5 post time favorite. Tonalist paid $20.40 to win, $9.60 to place and $7.00 to show. Commissioner finished second returning $23.20 and $13.20 while Medal Count took third paying $13.20.
The 2016 Belmont Stakes will take place on Saturday, June 11th. For those looking to attend the race live, gates open at 8:30 AM. In addition to the highly sought after reserved seating, Belmont Park admits thousands of fans via general admission on a first come, first served basis. Reserved seats should be purchased well in advance–in 2014, they sold out long before race day.