Sixteen Things to Know About the 2023 Belmont Stakes

Mo Donegal Irad Ortiz Jr. 2022 Belmont Stakes Todd Pletcher Repole Stables
Irad Ortiz Jr. celebrates winning the 2022 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets aboard Mo Donegal. (Eclipse Sportswire)

This year’s Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets will be held June 10 at Belmont Park, and the prospective field looks very strong with as many as five runners returning from the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, including third-place finisher Angel of Empire. Preakness Stakes winner National Treasure also is on target for the race as is champion Forte, gearing up to return from a minor injury that sidelined him in the Kentucky Derby after he won the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm at Xalapa.

To help get you ready for the final jewel of the Triple Crown, below are 16 interesting facts about the “Test of the Champion.”

1. The Belmont Stakes is the longest of the three Triple Crown races as well as the oldest. It’s contested at 1 ½ miles and was first held in 1867. This year is the 155th running, compared with the 149th Derby and 148th Preakness.

Tiz the Law 2020 Belmont Stakes Belmont Park
Tiz the Law wins the 2020 Belmont. (Eclipse Sportswire)

2. The 2020 Belmont Stakes marked the first time since 1926 that the race was not contested at its famed 1 ½-mile distance. The COVID-19 pandemic led to many racetracks being temporarily shut down, the postponement or cancellation of key races on the Triple Crown trail, and the interruption of training schedules for trainers and their racehorses. That prompted the Belmont Stakes to be held at 1 1/8 miles around one turn and scheduled as the first leg of the Triple Crown instead of the last one for the first time in the race’s history. The race returned to its normal distance and placement as the final leg of the Triple Crown in 2021.

3. A record crowd of 120,139 turned out to watch Smarty Jones vie for the Triple Crown in 2004. The fan favorite was beaten by 36-1 longshot Birdstone. Conversely, the 2020 Belmont Stakes was held without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

4. Historically, the betting favorite has won the Belmont Stakes 42.9% of the time (66 of 154 runnings) and four of the last five editions featured winning favorites: Mo Donegal (2022), Essential Quality (2021), Tiz the Law (2020), and Justify (2018). Sir Winston in 2019 is the lone exception during the five-year span, paying $22.40 for a $2 win bet in 2019.

5. A pair of Triple Crown winners owns the two largest winning margins in the Belmont. Secretariat won by 31 lengths in 1973 and Count Fleet won by 25 lengths 30 years prior.

Secretariat Hall of Fame exhibition Churchill Downs Belmont Park Pimlico Saratoga Race Course Triple Crown Kentucky Derby Preakness Belmont Stakes Jessica Cloer memorabilia trophy racehorse
Secretariat won the 1973 Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. (Coglianese Photo/Blood-Horse Library)

6. Speaking of Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner set a world record for 1 1/2 miles on the dirt when he won the 1973 Belmont in 2:24. He was so fast that Secretariat also holds the record for the fastest half-mile, three-quarters of a mile, one-mile, and 1 1/4-mile fractions in Belmont Stakes history.

7. The first Belmont Stakes featured a total purse of $2,500, with the filly Ruthless taking home the $1,850 winner’s share. This year’s race is worth $1.5 million including $800,000 for the winner.

8. From 1882 through 1888, jockey James McLaughlin won six editions of the Belmont Stakes in the span of seven years. McLaughlin established the record for the most Belmont wins by a jockey that Eddie Arcaro equaled in 1955 with his sixth and final Belmont Stakes victory aboard Nashua. The leading active rider is Mike Smith with three wins in the race: Drosselmeyer (2010), Palace Malice (2013) and Justify (2018).

9. Trainer James Rowe Sr. in 1913 won his eighth Belmont Stakes with Prince Eugene, establishing a record has never been broken. Rowe also won the Belmont twice as a jockey in 1872 on Joe Daniels and 1873 aboard Springbok. The only other person to both ride and train a Belmont Stakes winner is George Martin Odom, who rode Delhi (1904) to victory and in 1938 saddled winner Pasteurized.

10. The leading active trainers by Belmont Stakes victories are Hall of Famers D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher (a former assistant to Lukas) with four each. Lukas won the race with Tabasco Cat (1994), Thunder Gulch (1995), Editor’s Note (1996), and Commendable (2000). Pletcher’s victories came with the filly Rags to Riches in 2007 as well as Palace Malice (2013), Tapwrit (2017), and Mo Donegal (2022). Lukas does not have a 3-year-old on target for this year’s edition but Pletcher is expected to have multiple entrants with champion Forte, Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Tapit Trice, and Louisiana Derby winner Kingsbarns under consideration.

11. Julie Krone in the 1993 Belmont Stakes became the first woman to ride a winner in a U.S. Triple Crown race. Krone guided longshot Colonial Affair from off the pace to win by 2 ¼ lengths.

12. Sarava gave bettors the biggest win payout in the history of the Belmont at odds of 70.25-1. His 2002 win earned bettors $142.50 for every $2 bet and the $2 exacta with runner-up Medaglia d’Oro paid $2,454 after Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner War Emblem stumbled at the start and finished eighth.

13. The 1921 Belmont Stakes was the first to be run in the counter-clockwise direction. That year, the 53rd running of the Belmont Stakes was a 1 3/8-mile race on the main track. Previous editions had been run clockwise, in accordance with English custom, on a fish-hook-shaped course that included part of the training track and the main dirt oval.

Creator 2016 Belmont Stakes Irad Ortiz Jr.
Creator winning 2016 Belmont Stakes. (Eclipse Sportswire)

14. Twenty editions of the Belmont Stakes have been won by horses whose names began with the letter C, most recently Creator in 2016. The letter S ranks second with 18 winners, while no Belmont winner’s name has ever started with the letters X or Y. Mo Donegal in 2022 became the fifth winner whose name begand with the letter M.

15. Tiz the Law in 2020 became the first New York-bred winner of the Belmont Stakes in a remarkable 138 years. He joined Ruthless (1867), Fenian (1869), and Forester (1882) in the history books as the only New York-bred winners of the race.

16. National Treasure will try to become the 19th non-Triple Crown winner to complete the Preakness-Belmont Stakes double and the first since Afleet Alex in 2005. Obviously, the 13 Triple Crown winners also won both races, but the Quality Road colt can join Cloverbrook (1877), Duke Of Magenta (1878), Grenada (1880), Saunterer (1881), Belmar (1895), Man o’ War (1920), Pillory (1922), Bimelech (1940), Capot (1949), Native Dancer (1953), Nashua (1955), Damascus (1967), Little Current (1974), Risen Star (1988), Hansel (1991), Tabasco Cat (1994), Point Given (2001), and the aforementioned Afleet Alex.

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