Saturday marks the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown racing series, and all eyes will be on I’ll Have Another to see whether he can win the Belmont and claim the title of Triple Crown winner. Only 29 horses have been eligible to win the Triple Crown title when coming into the Belmont Stakes, and 11 of those 29 have successfully won the Triple Crown. Affirmed was the last horse to win the title in 1978, and this year horse enthusiasts are eager to see whether this 3-year-old colt, which was sold in 2011 for only $35,000, can capture the elusive title.
With a potential Triple Crown title on the lines, more eyes will be on the Belmont track than in years past, so what should you know before you tune in? Here’s a rundown of some of the history and traditions that comes with the Belmont Stakes.
Spanning 1 ½ miles, the longest of the Triple Crown series, the Belmont Stakes first took place in 1867, outdating the Kentucky Derby by eight years and the Preakness Stakes by six years. The race was named after August Belmont, a well-known racing man and banker during the 19th century who became the first president of the Jockey Club in 1867. In 1973, Secretariat set a world record for the fastest 1 ½ miles on dirt with a time of 2:24. The race had its largest attendance to date when more than 120,000 fans attended the 2004 Belmont Stakes in the hopes of seeing Smarty Jones win the Triple Crown that year. (Smarty Jones finished second that year to Birdstone.)
Previous to 1921, the race had been run clockwise to follow English custom. In 1921, the race shifted direction to follow a counter-clockwise course, which falls in line with the racing direction seen today.
Similar to the trophy created for the Preakness Stakes, the August Belmont Memorial Cup features a bowl made by Tiffany & Co. that measures 18 inches tall, 14 inches at its base, and 15 inches across. At the top of the trophy is a figure of Fenian, the winner of the 1869 Belmont Stakes. The bowl is supported by Herod, Eclipse, and Matchem, three horses that represent the male-line descendants of three sires of thoroughbreds: the Byerly Turk, the Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Barb. Aside from this trophy that the winning owner keeps for a year, the owner, trainer, and jockey of the winning horse also receive a silver miniature version of the August Belmont Memorial Cup.
Blanketed by Carnations
The traditional flower of the Belmont Stakes is the white carnation, and the race’s winner is draped with a blanket of carnation. The winner’s blanket is comprised of 700 carnations and is made the day of the race. There is also a smaller version of the winner’s blanket that is made specifically to adorn the statue of Secretariat located in the paddock.
The Belmont Breeze
As the traditional drink of the race since 1998, the Belmont Breeze comes from the recipe of one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, and four of weak. The cocktail is made with a mixture of whiskey, sherry, lemon juice, simple syrup, orange and cranberry juices, club soda, and lemon lime soda. This drink retails for about $10, making it more expensive than other cocktails served during the Triple Crown, so it might be a good one for those watching at home to make for themselves.
Amy Moczynski is a freelance writer for MyFantasyStable.com, the first real fantasy horse racing league where you call the shots.