With the Belmont Stakes just days away, what better time to explore some interesting Belmont facts and trivia?
The dynamics of racing in the US has changed drastically over the years, and you would be hard pressed to argue the emphasis is not on speed as opposed to stamina and longevity. Sales toppers are usually fast babies who can blaze a quarter mile. It’s not surprising at all, most of these do not become classic winners. The Belmont Stakes, however, is a race where some classic bloodlines can help with those last two or three grueling furlongs. Although commercial breeding has their focus on speed, when it comes to The Test of Champions it may pay to stay aware of who has the blood flowing through them to get that mile and a half.
If I was a racehorse I’d like to think I was bred for The Belmont. I can make a pretty good case for it too. My Mom, a lifelong race tracker, and fan of the Sport of Kings, was at Belmont the day before I was born. It was a Sunday, the day after Decidedly won The Kentucky Derby. I was born the following Monday and it was just a few weeks until she was back at Belmont with my Dad, along with me in a stroller. The stroller had a pocket in the back where along with my baby supplies was a racing form and program. My dad lasted until 93 bless his soul. My Mom, bless her soul as well, until her mid-eighties, despite many complications, so the longevity is there. They both kept going to the races and following the game until they were no longer here. I have been in it since I was in that stroller. Some of my biggest scores have come in The Belmont, and many were big upsets. I’ve also had some tough beats in The Belmont. Yes, I’d say I’m bred for it.
One beat I’ll never forget is the 1981 running when Pleasant Colony was going for The Triple Crown. He was bred for The Belmont, and many thought he would get it done. His outspoken trainer, Johnny Campo, was certainly one of them. I wasn’t. I still think if not for a great ride, one of the best Belmont rides I’ve seen, and I’ve seen some great ones, like Angel Cordero on Bold Forbes, and Laffit Pincay on Caveat, I would have won. What’s memorable about this one was it was one of my biggest wagers on a horse at that time. I was a teenager, and out all night at a club the night before the race. When the night ended and most of the people went to breakfast and to sleep, I headed straight to Belmont. Of course my Mom and Dad were there, my Dad, working the mutuals. Instead of partying and dancing all night like everyone else, I was busy telling anyone at the club who’d listen that Highland Blade would win The Belmont tomorrow, and I was going to hit big. A few of my friends were enthused at my enthusiasm. Two of them actually didn’t go home and came with me. They bet, but not nearly as much as I did. I bet about $2,000, which for a teenager in 1981 was huge, especially on a 13-1 shot. Being an avid race watcher already, I knew I was in a little trouble when George Martens aboard Summing, sensed the slow pace and shot his horse up the rail and to the lead after three quarters in 1:14.1. I knew I still had a shot though, and I was sure Highland Blade would be coming. Turning for home I got mad at the track announcer Marshall Cassidy. He was so focused on Pleasant Colony and his Triple Crown bid, he was calling him moving on the turn when I was watching Highland Blade move even better. Eventually he couldn’t ignore Highland Blade and his rally, and started to call him. I just needed a few more jumps. You can watch this great edition and great coverage of that Belmont here, and do me a favor, root for Highland Blade, maybe he’ll get up this time. I don’t think my friends ever understood how close we came, and why we lost. You will.
Join us Friday evening for our live interactive webinar on The Belmont Stakes, and all the supporting stakes races. Our success in The Belmont is well chronicled, with recent winners Palice Malice and Tonalist. Both best bets, and with Palice Malice we hit the pick 4 for $10 and the pick 6 as well. We pegged Tonalist the winner as early as May when he won The Peter Pan, and wrote about it right here on Past the Wire. You can read that here:
We’ve been killing The Belmont a long time however, and the very first Past the Wire, “No Apology Necessary,” tells the story of one of my best Belmont selections and wagers. Reading it will get you ready for this year’s race I hope and you can do so here:
When we dissect The Belmont Stakes during our webinar on Friday evening, one of the things we will look at is who is bred to get the Belmont distance, and who isn’t. We’ll also discuss how the pace will play into that and if anyone is advantaged or disadvantaged enough to negate their bloodlines. We will also go through all the stakes on the super card of racing, providing selections, analysis, wagering strategies and ticket structuring advice. We’ll be taking all questions and providing a lot of information to help you have a knowledgeable, fun, and hopefully prosperous day.
Belmont Stakes Facts
- The Belmont Stakes was named for August Belmont Sr. Interestingly, it was first run in none other than The Bronx, New York at Jerome Park Racetrack. The first running was in 1867 I believe, and won by a filly, Ruthless. Two other fillies have won the race, Tanya in 1905, and Rags to Riches in 2007. Of the fillies, Rags to Riches is the most noteworthy to me. Rags to Riches was out of the mare Better Than Honour. Remarkably, she was Better Than Honour’s second Belmont winner in a row, again, being only the third filly to win it. The prior year, Jazil, also out of Better Than Honour won it. For a mare to produce consecutive Belmont winners is about as rare a feat as you will find in out great game. To make things even more interesting, for a while it appeared Better Than Honour would have a shot at three consecutive Belmont winners. Casino Drive was pointing to the race and poised to try and take on heavily favored Big Brown. Casino Drive, likely the most dangerous challenger to Big Brown, was out of Better Than Honour. Had he won, this mare would have had three consecutive Belmont winners. Casino Drive suffered a setback and scratched. Da Tara won the race, and never won again. Big Brown pulled up. Considering how thing unfolded, I’d have a hard time arguing with those that think Casino Drive would have won that race. Obviously the mare makes a difference at a mile and a half for three-year olds in June.
- So does the sire. The great Man O’ War won the 1920 Belmont by 20 lengths, albeit in a two horse field. He went on to sire the 1925 winner, American Flag, the 1926 winner, Crusader, and 1937 winner, the great War Admiral. Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons saddled father and son Belmont winners; Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935. Both also won the Triple Crown, as did the aforementioned War Admiral in 1937.
- The Belmont didn’t come to Belmont until 1905 when the original Belmont Park opened. It’s pretty much been run there since. It was run at Aqueduct from 1963 to 1967 while the old Belmont was being renovated. That gave Braulio Baeza, one of the best ever, the distinction of being the only jockey to win the race over three different tracks. He won aboard Sherluck in 1961 at the old Belmont. He won in 1963 on Chateaugay at Aqueduct, and won on Arts and letters in 1969 at the new Belmont.
- Contrary to The Kentucky Derby, the rail is not a bad draw for The Belmont. It’s produced many a winner. If your horse draws the wood, have no fear.
- Woody Stephens will always be remembered as the man who was The Belmont. His five consecutive wins in the race, highlighted here by Past the Wire in our article on The Sport of Kings Greatest Streaks, will never be matched. If you want to get in a Belmont mood, check it out:
- There is someone else who deserves their Belmont due, that being James G. Rowe Sr. James won The Belmont twice as a jockey, and eight, yes eight, times as a trainer. His wins as a trainer in the race came between 1883 and 1913. In 1908 he won it with Colin, who he considered his best. Colin was 15 for 15 lifetime. Rowe was quoted as saying for his epitaph all he wanted said was “He trained Colin”. There are many ways to have Belmont Breeding.
On the subject of Belmont Breeding, and in one of the more colorful explanations I’ve heard, I invite you to listen to this explanation of horse ownership New York style, and not exactly the Lexington way of doing it. Remember it’s all in the gene. (Language Alert):
Kent Desormeaux. Acknowledged his issue, sought help, got help, and is fighting on. Past the Wire wishes him the best. Florent Geroux, for being the opposite of “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” After being dropped aboard Conquest Serenade in the first race at Penn National Saturday, The Pennsylvania Oaks, Florent got up, dusted himself off, and went and won the third race, The Mountain View aboard S’marvelous, and the fourth race, The Pennsylvania Mile aboard Catch a Glimpse, against the boys. Happy to report Flo and Conquest Serenade were okay. Team Casse for taking the shot with their filly and running when the running is right.
If Cloonita who won easy came down, how in the world did Cave Johnson stay up? This is getting so old. Big low five!