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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.
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, 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.
As we saw in the breeding section of the Call To
The Derby Post Betting How-To Page, champions horses
breed champion horses. This certainly holds form
in the Belmont Stakes. A total of eleven Belmont
Stakes winners have sired at least one other Belmont
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
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.
Money at the Belmont
Oh, have times changed. The purse for the first
running of the Belmont was $1,500 added with a total
purse of $2,500, with the winner's share taken by
the filly Ruthless. The lowest winner's share in
Belmont history was the $1,825 earned by The Finn
in 1915. The Belmont set an opposite record in 1992,
in which the richest Belmont purse ever totaled
1,764,800. Five times in Belmont history only two
horses entered the race: 1887, 1888, 1892, 1910
and sadly, 1920, the year Man O'War triumphed. The
largest field, on the other hand, was 15 in 1983,
when Caveat defeated Slew O' Gold. In 1875 14 horses
ran, when Calvin outdueled stablemate Aristides,
that year's winner of the inaugural Kentucky Derby.
The Belmont's lowest paid winner: Count Fleet in
1943, who paid a paltry $2.10. The Belmont's highest
winner: Sherluck in 1961, who dished out $132.10.
A favorite's race: Of the 129 Belmont runnings through
1997, the favorite had won 58 times, including 9
out of the last 25. There have been some strange
twists of betting in Belmont history. Since the
advent of mutuels in New York in 1940 there have
been six times when no place or show betting was
taken on the Belmont Stakes. The last time there
was no show wagering was in 1978 when Affirmed and
Alydar held their famous confrontation. There was
also no show betting when Secretariat won his Triple
Crown in 1973; no wonder--Secretariat won by a record
31 lengths. Show betting was also eliminated in
1957 when Gallant Man defeated Bold Ruler, and also
in 1953 when Native Dancer won. In 1943, believe
it or not, there was no place or show wagering when
Triple Crown winner Count Fleet went off $.05 to
the dollar and won by 25 lengths. To wrap it up,
Whirlaway completed his Triple Crown victory in
1941 without show betting. In other words, by the
time horses dominate the Derby and Preakness, there
just might not be that many challengers when the
horse goes to complete the sweep. Since 1940 there
have also been 30 horses listed as odds-on favorites
in the Belmont Stakes. In 1957, there were two:
Gallant Man, who won at 19-20, and Bold Ruler, who
finished third at 17-20. Of these 30, only 12 went
on to win. The highest on-track mutuel handle on
the Belmont: 1993. A total of $2,793,320 was bet
on the Belmont that year, with $1,409,970 wagered
on win, place and show betting, and $1,293,954 on
the daily double, exacta and triple.
The Fastest Belmont
Who else? Secretariat set a world-record that still
stands for the mile and a half distance on a dirt
track at 2:24. (He had finished a mile and a quarter
at 1:59, faster than his own Derby record of 1:59
"The Belmont Stakes trophy is a Tiffany-made
silver bowl, with cover, 18 inches high, 15 inches
across and 14 inches at the base. Atop the cover
is a silver figure of Fenian, winner of the third
running of the Belmont Stakes in 1869. The bowl
is supported by three horses representing the three
foundation thoroughbreds--Eclipse, Herod and Matchem.
The trophy, a solid silver bowl originally crafted
by Tiffany's, was presented by the Belmont family
as a perpetual award for the Belmont Stakes in 1926.
It was the trophy August Belmont's Fenian won in
1869 and had remained with the Belmont family since
that time. The winning owner is given the option
of keeping the trophy for the year their horse reigns
as Belmont champion."
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