Exploring the Belmont’s Blanket of Carnations

The Life

Palace Malice wears the carnations after his win in the 2013 Belmont Stakes. (Photos by Eclipse Sportswire)

The third and final jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, has been referred to for years as the “Test of the Champion” due to the race’s testing 1 ½-mile distance on a unique surface known as “Big Sandy”. This true test of stamina and class for 3-year-olds has through the years helped identify some of racing’s all-time greats.

More recently, the Belmont Stakes has also picked up another nickname, “The Run for Carnations,” because the winner of the race is blanketed with a bed of 400-700 white carnations.

According to the New York Racing Association (NYRA), how the carnation came to be the official flower of the Belmont Stakes is a mystery. Carnations have a reputation for lasting longer than many other flowers, which is fitting given the fact that stamina and durability are qualities necessary to win the Belmont Stakes.

The carnations, which according to NYRA are imported from Colombia by Philadelphia-based florist The Pennock Co., stand in water for two days to ensure that the flowers are at the height of their bloom.


NYRA florist Tony Green and his team construct the 40-pound blanket of carnations on the day of the Belmont Stakes in a process that can take five hours. The florists glue each individual flower by hand onto the green velvet cloth that holds the carnations. 

A similar blanket of carnations also is made to adorn the statue of Belmont Stakes record holder and Triple Crown winner Secretariat, who completed the Belmont Stakes in world-record time of 2:24 during his 31-length romp in 1973.

In addition to the blanket of white carnations, the winning owner is presented with the August Belmont Trophy. The trophy, made by Tiffany & Co., is a silver bowl approximately 18 inches high and 15 inches across.

The August Belmont Trophy is supported by three horses that represent the three foundation Thoroughbreds - Eclipse, Herod and Matchem. The top of the bowl features a silver replica of the Thoroughbred Fenion, winner of the third edition of the Belmont Stakes in 1869.

The winning owner is given the option of keeping the trophy for the year in which his horse reigns as the Belmont victor.

Also the owner, jockey and trainer of the horse are presented with a scaled-down replica version of the silver August Belmont trophy and the winning connections receive a silver tray engraved with the names of the previous Belmont winners.

If you are at Belmont Park for this year’s Belmont Stakes, be sure to keep an eye out for NYRA staff, who will tour all four floors of the clubhouse with the blanket of carnations beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday!

Learn more about the history behind the Belmont Stakes on NYRA's official website!

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