The Belmont Stakes is the oldest and longest of the three classic horse races in the American Triple Crown (the other two being the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.) Founded in 1867 and named after the sporting financier and diplomat August Belmont, the Belmont Stakes has been held at Belmont Park near New York City since 1905. The race has been run on a 1.5-mile dirt track since 1926, and it’s known as the ‘Run for the Carnations’ as the winning horse is traditionally draped with white carnations after the race.
As the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes is also known as the ‘Test of the Champion’ and ranks as one of the most anticipated online sports betting events of the year. The race is also one of the most-watched sporting events, drawing a peak TV audience of 21.9 million in 2004. Let’s find out what sets the Belmont Stakes apart from other races and look at the three greatest moments at Belmont Park.
What makes the Belmont Stakes different?
The Belmont Stakes is a Grade I thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old colts and geldings weighing up to 126 pounds and fillies weighing up to 121 pounds. The race is run along a left-handed dirt track 1.5 miles long – a full lap around one of the NYRA’s largest race tracks. The reason that horse-racing professionals call it the ‘Test of the Champion’ is that the three-year-old thoroughbreds have fully matured by the time the race is run. Many competitors will have fallen by the wayside, so those taking part in this race are all true champion material.
The Belmont is very interesting from an NYRA bets perspective because positioning and timing are so much more critical than shorter races. That’s because few three-year-olds have the stamina and experience to keep up a winning speed for such a distance. As a result, the Belmont Stakes is the race where champions get to show what they’re made of. The Belmont’s three greatest historical wins are a perfect illustration.
1. Secretariat’s immortal race
When Secretariat came out of the starting gate in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, he already had a solid reputation as one of the all-time greats in horse racing, with as-yet unbeaten records in every leg of the Triple Crown. But on that day in Belmont Park, Secretariat sealed his legend status. The ‘Big Red Horse’ broke out the gate into the lead from the start. His old rival Sham kept up with him for the first three-quarters of a mile but couldn’t maintain the speed.
Secretariat kept forging ahead, rounding the Belmont far turn at ever-increasing speed until he was 20 lengths in the lead. Victory was clearly his already, but instead of easing the horse, jockey Ron Turcott gave him his head. On this occasion, nobody was asking if the horse or the jockey was more important! Secretariat’s lead widened to 28 lengths by mid-stretch and increased to 31 lengths as he thundered past thousands of cheering fans at the finish. His final time of 2:24 shattered the existing record and remains unbeaten today.
2. Easy Goer turns the tables
Nothing in horse racing is quite as entertaining as a rivalry between two champions. The 1989 Belmont Stakes was the culmination of a red-hot rivalry between two superb champions: Sunday Silence and Easy Goer. It seems that rivalry ran in Easy Goer’s blood – his sire was Alydar, whose rivalry with Affirmed was at the top of the horse racing news all through 1978.
Alydar ultimately lost to Affirmed, leaving Easy Goer to restore the bloodline’s pride. It wasn’t plain sailing for the chestnut stallion that year, though. Easy Goer was favored to beat Sunday Silence in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but lost on both occasions. Come the Belmont Stakes, Sunday Silence was top of the horse racing picks. But Easy Goer turned the tables with a tremendous eight-length win in a time of 2:26, second only to Secretariat.
3. A.P. Indy’s nail-biting finish
Sired by 1977 Belmont champion Seattle Slew and named after a Japanese motor racing track, A.P. Indy was blessed with deep shoulders and a powerful build that enabled him to reach and maintain high speeds without wearing himself out. These characteristics came to the fore at the 1992 Belmont Stakes when the thoroughbred achieved the third-fastest finish ever at Belmont Park. But it wasn’t a runaway victory like his predecessors, Secretariat and Easy Goer. Instead, A.P. Indy kept fans on the edge of their seats as he edged past Pine Bluff and My Memoirs to win by three-quarters of a length.
The champion’s finishing time was a blistering 2:26.15, which earned him the title of Horse of the Year and a place in the 2000 Hall of Fame. Considering how close the finish was, the 1992 Belmont Stakes stands out as one of the fastest and most closely contested in Belmont history.
A.P. Indy passed on his winning genes to Rags To Riches, winner of the 2007 Belmont Stakes. Together with his sire Seattle Slew and son Rags to Riches, A.P. Indy belongs to the only family of thoroughbreds to win the Belmont Stakes across three generations.
Horse racing bets explained
If you’re new to horse racing betting, you may initially get confused by all the different types of NYRA bets. Fortunately, they aren’t rocket science. The simplest bets are to bet on a particular horse to win (come first,) to place (finish second) or to show (finish third.) To win a ‘win, place, show’ bet, your horse must come first, second or third.
More complicated are the so-called ‘exotic’ bets. An exacta is a bet on two horses to finish first and second in a specific order. If you could travel back in time to 1989 and take out an exacta on Easy Goer and Sunday Silence, you would have to correctly predict that Easy Goer would finish first and Sunday Silence second.
A trifecta is the same idea but with three horses and a superfecta is a bet on which specific horses come in first, second, third and fourth.
If that sounds too exacting, you can place an exacta box or trifecta box bet, in which the horses’ finishing order doesn’t matter. You can place any number of horses in an exacta or trifecta box.
Simple enough, right? Just make sure before you make any horse racing picks that you know how to read horse racing odds.
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