The Belmont Stakes: Third Jewel in the Triple Crown
The Belmont Stakes is recognized as the third jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown, after the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. In the case of the Belmont, however, coming in “third” is no disgrace. One might say, with full justification that it is at the Belmont that Triple Crown winners are made. Since the term “Triple Crown” was coined by noted sportswriter Charles Hatton following Gallant Fox’s sweep of the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont in 1930, a mere 10 horses have accomplished horseracing’s greatest feat. We can add “Sir Barton” to the list by virtue of his 1919 sweep.
Many more horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but faltered when faced with the daunting 1½ mile length of the course at the Belmont. Bearing the distinction of being the longest dirt-surfaced horseracing track in the world, running the Belmont is truly the "Test of the Champion", asking horses to give it their all and just a bit more in order to win. In 1973, Secretariat showed beyond any doubt that he was a true champion for the ages, streaking to victory by an amazing 31 lengths in a world record time of 2 minutes and 24 seconds - a time unbeaten to this day. Secretariat, he first Triple Crown winner since the legendary Citation accomplished the feat in 1948, is memorialized today by a stone & bronze statue which proudly stands in the center of the Belmont paddock. No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, but Real Quiet came the closest to the sweep in 1998.
As with so many horses before, the Belmont's formidable distance would prove the difference for Real Quiet as Victory Gallop denied him lasting fame, winning by a nose in the race's final stride. On Saturday June 9th, 2007, the 139th "Run for the Carnations" will take place at Long Island's Belmont Park... will history be made once more?