The Belmont Stakes is appropriately termed “The Test of Champions” No horse that participates in this renowned race at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York is likely to forget the experience. Similarly, the millions of spectators who have witnessed this race in person or on television over the years are likely to recall the visual experience provided by this grueling, exciting race.
The Belmont Stakes is significant to the sport of Thoroughbred racing because it is the third and final leg of the Triple Crown, three races that feature the world’s best three-year-olds. Only 13 horses in the annals of the sport have won all three Triple Crown races, making it a rare accomplishment. When a horse enters the Belmont having won the first two legs (the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes), even casual racing fans are captivated by the possibility that the horse will complete this extraordinary feat.
The earliest of the Triple Crown races, the first running of the Stakes took place in 1867, and it has been conducted every year except one since then. Justify won the 150th edition of the race in 2018, completing the Triple Crown. Those who endure the sorrow of a near-miss in the Belmont race after winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown are almost as memorable as those who complete the Triple Crown.
As for the race’s moniker, “The Test of Champions,” or simply “The Test,” it derives from the arduous distance. The Belmont is the longest of the Triple Crown contests at 1.5 miles. Given that it is also the last of the Triple Crown competitions in terms of when it is conducted on the calendar, the added distance makes it particularly challenging for the three-year-olds who have competed in the first two segments.
The fact that the Belmont Stakes has persisted through the years despite having to relocate is one of its distinguishing characteristics. It was established in 1867 in Bronx’s Jerome Park. The moniker “Belmont” originated with August Belmont Jr., who funded the construction of the track.
Ruthless was the name of the first winning mare in the event. Oddly, only two other fillies have won the race in the subsequent 149 runnings. Morris Park would eventually supplant Jerome Park as the site of the Belmont Stakes until the construction of Belmont Park in 1905.
In 1911 and 1912, the race was canceled due to New York state legislation intended to discourage wagering. During the 1960s, there was a five-year period when the race was conducted at Aqueduct instead of Belmont Park owing to renovations at Belmont Park.
In 1926, the Belmont Stakes finally resolved on the distance of a mile and a half, following a number of years in which the race was contested over a variety of distances. Press recognition of the Triple Crown did not occur until the late appropriate 1930s. At that time, the Belmont had become the final of the three races comprising the Triple Crown, thereby adding an additional element of suspense to what was already an extremely significant race.