The 2007 Belmont Stakes Continues an American Tradition

The 139th running of the Belmont Stakes, scheduled for June 9, 2007 at historic Belmont Park in Elmont, NY, perpetuates an American tradition that stretches back nearly to Civil War times. It was in 1867, barely 2 years after Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, that the very first Belmont Stakes was run. Although the Belmont is the third leg in horseracing’s Triple Crown, it has the singular honor of being the oldest of the three races: six years older than the Preakness and pre-dating the Kentucky Derby by 8 years.

Over the long history of the Belmont Stakes, 15 horses who won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness failed to cinch the Triple Crown at the Belmont while 11 others were successful, the latest being Affirmed in 1978. The winner of the 2007 Belmont will take home not only a $1,000,000 purse, but the stunning Belmont Stakes trophy. The money is for the owners to keep, but the exquisite trophy, a Tiffany-made silver bowl first presented in 1926 may be kept for just one year, after which it must be returned to the Belmont family in time to be presented to the next year’s winner.

Early runnings of the Belmont took place at Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx, New York City from 1867 to 1889, then at Morris Park from 1890 to 1904. The 1905 race was the first at Belmont Park, though no races were run in 1911 and 1912 due to a state anti-racing law which was repealed in time for the 1913 race. Between 1963 and 1967, the Belmont Stakes was held at Aqueduct while Belmont Park underwent extensive renovations to the grandstand and grounds. Although the race was run at various lengths and in several different configurations, since 1925 the horses have had to complete the current challenging 1½ mile distance that makes the Belmont Stakes “the test of a champion”.