The Belmont Stakes takes place every June at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. It is the final—and some suggest most demanding—race in the ‘Triple Crown’. The Belmont is a Grade 1 stakes race contested over a 1 ½ mile dirt track for three year olds. To earn the legendary status afforded to Triple Crown winners a horse must not only deal with what is in most cases 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.
First held in 1866, the Belmont is the oldest of the Triple Crown races by nearly a decade. The race is named for 19th century financier August Belmont, Sr. and was originally run at the Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx. The Jerome Park track was built by 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 is known as ‘the run for the roses’, the Belmont winner traditionally receives a blanket of carnations though 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 2012 Belmont winner was Union Rags, trained by Michael Matz with jockey John Velasquez aboard. Union Rags had been one of the pre race betting favorites and went off at odds of just under 3/1 in the Belmont and his victory paid $7.50, $4.20 and $3.40. Second place went to Paynter at 9-2 ($5.10, $3.90) and third to 20/1 longshot Atigun who paid $10.60 to show.
The 2013 Belmont Stakes will take place on Saturday, June 8th. 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.