I’ve been writing about the Belmont Stakes and the horse racing world’s fixation with I’ll Have Another, the horse with the chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed did it in 1978, 34 long years ago (that’s the longest time between three jewel winners in Triple Crown history). In my previous blogs I’ve found a nexus between the Belmont and my professional legal practice, like discussing issues involving the nonprofits that are involved in running horse races in New York state (because representing nonprofits and their operations is a big practice area for me), or relating issues at the Belmont to business issues (because I also represent start up and small businesses, as well as real estate enterprises). But today, I’ll drop all pretense, and just write about horseracing. Here are some interesting facts or things you might like to know as you get ready to watch the Belmont:
The Triple Crown of horse racing is the Kentucky Derby (at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky, a 1 ¼ mile race inaugurated in 1875), The Preakness (at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, a 1 3/16 mile race inaugurated in 1873) and the Belmont Stakes (at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, on Long Island, a 1 ½ mile race inaugurated in 1867), all for 3 year old Thoroughbreds. To be a triple crown winner a horse has to win all three of those races. This year, I’ll Have Anotherhas won the first two legs, and if he wins the Belmont Stakes he’d be only the 12th horse to ever be a triple crown winner. Since the first Triple Crown winner, 20 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and The Preakness, but then come up short by losing the Belmont. The last horses to win the first two jewels in the Triple Crown and then lose the Belmont Stakes was Big Brown in 2008, and Smarty Jones in 2004. The term “Triple Crown” was coined by New York Times columnist Bryan Field in covering Gallant Fox and his sweep of America’s most prestigious races, but was popularized by Daily Racing Form writer Charles Hatton.
The Belmont Stakes is a 1 ½ mile race on a dirt track for 3 year old Thoroughbreds. This year’s 144th running of the Belmont Stakes features a $1 million purse, with $600,000 going to the winner. All the horses in the 12 horse field will carry 126 pounds. The Belmont Stakes has been run at the Belmont Park Track at Elmont, NY (on Long Island) since 1905, with a couple of interesting exceptions: In 1911-12 the Belmont Stakes was not held because New York had banned horse racing. From 1963-67 it was held at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, New York, because of an ongoing major renovation at Belmont.
It has always been this way, but in modern times the Kentucky Derby always comes first, The Preakness 2 weeks later, and the Belmont Stakes 3 weeks after that.
I’ll Have Another was not the favorite going into the Kentucky Derby, but he will be in the Belmont. He did have an impressive run up to the Derby, though, winning both the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby.
The 11 Triple Crown Winners in History
1919 Sir Barton (He is the George Washington of horse racing, he was the first!)
1930 Gallant Fox (The horse that inspired the term “Triple Crown”, see above)
1935 Omaha (The only Triple Crown winner to ever be sired by another Triple Crown winner – Gallant Fox)
1937 War Admiral (Son of famed Man o’ War, probably best known through the film Seabiscuit, as the favored horse that lost to Seabiscuit at a Pimlico Special race 11/1/38)
1941 Whirlaway (Voted horse of the year in 1941 and 1942)
1943 Count Fleet (Won Belmont by 25 lengths; voted 1943 horse of the year by widest margin ever; voted #5 Top U.S. Racehorse of 20th century)
1946 Assault (Even after winning the 1st 2 jewels in the crown, he wasn’t the favorite at the Belmont; he stumbled out of the gate and trailed the field most of the race before winning)
1948 Citation (First racehorse to ever win $1 million; won 16 consecutive major stakes races; was voted #3 Top U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century)
1973 Secretariat (Secretariat may be most dominant race horse ever; still holds Belmont Stakes and American time record for 1.5 miles race-at 2:24; voted #2 Top U.S. Racehorse of 20th Century)
1977 Seattle Slew (Only completely undefeated horse to ever win Triple Crown, Seattle Slew came in 4th in his next race and rarely raced again; Voted #9 Top U.S. Racehorse of the 20th Century)
1978 Affirmed (Great Grandson of War Admiral, Great-Great Grandson of Man o’ War, also had Gallant Fox andOmaha in his pedigree)
Only one trainer, Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, has ever trained a Triple Crown winner twice. He did it in 1930 with Gallant Foxand again in 1935 with Omaha. More surprisingly, trainer D. Wayne Lukas was trainer for the winner of all 3 Triple Crown races in 1995, but he did it with different horses! The only jockey to win 2 Triple Crowns was the great Eddie Arcaro who did it in 1941 aboard Whirlaway and again in 1948 on Citation.
In 2003, former jockey Gary Stevens, a 1998 inductee into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame who won each of the three Triple Crown races on numerous occasions, and who has also been a horseracing author, commentator and actor who played a jockey in the movie Seabiscuit and in the 2011 HBO series Luck, predicted in a 2003 interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose that there will never be another Triple Crown winner because of increased competition.
“The Field” for the 2012 Belmont Stakes
Post Position Horse
1 Street Life
2 Unstoppable U
3 Union Rags
6 Ravelo’s Boy
7 Five Sixteen
8 Guyana Star Dweej Kent Desormeaux $103,830
11* I’ll Have Another
12 My Adonis
*No horse has ever won the Belmont Stakes out of the #11 post position; but I’ll Have Another made history as the first horse ever to win the Kentucky Derby from the #19 post position.