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Belmont Stakes 101

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Belmont Secretariat Statue

The Secretariat Statue at Belmont Park

Cindy Pierson Dulay
The final jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, is not only the longest of the three races at one and a half miles but also the oldest. The grueling distance can make or break a horse and is one of the truest tests of stamina in racing. Thirty horses have entered the Belmont with a chance to become a Triple Crown winner, but only eleven have succeeded.

The inaugural running of the Belmont Stakes was in 1867 at Jerome Park Racecourse, making it the oldest of all the Triple Crown Races. It was named after prominent banker and Jockey Club president August Belmont. Only four horses went to post in that first Belmont and the winner was a filly named Ruthless, one of only three fillies to have won the marathon race. Since then the Belmont has been responsible for quite a few firsts in racing. The American tradition of the "post parade" was introduced to American racing in the 1880 Belmont. The first, and so far only, Triple Crown race to be won by a female jockey was the 1993 Belmont won by Colonial Affair with Julie Krone aboard. In 1973, Secretariat set a track and world record of 2:24 for the mile and a half with his 31-length victory, a record that still stands today.

The Belmont Stakes can vary from a huge frenzy to quite laid back, depending on whether there is a Triple Crown possibility or not. If there is a horse going for the hat trick, the time leading up to the race can be total madness with media from all over the world coming to witness the possible coronation of the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. The atmosphere will be much more relaxed if there is only a Derby winner, Preakness winner, or both in the race, and becomes almost a non-event if neither of those shows up. Fan interest seems to follow along these same lines, although there is always strong participation in wagering on the event.

Part 1 - History
Part 2 - Handicapping
Part 3 - Attending

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