It’s fitting that the Triple Crown ends in one of the greatest, if not the greatest city in America. New York City is the mecca for all things in this great country. It is where dreams are made and crushed. It is the holy land for entertainment, food, sports, art, music, film, and money. And on Saturday the ‘city that never sleeps’ will host the third and final jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes.
Of the three Triple Crown races, the Belmont Stakes is the oldest. Inaugurated in 1867 and named for politician and racing enthusiast August Belmont Sr., the race was orginally run at Jerome Park Race Track before moving to Morris Race Park Racecourse in 1890. The race was later moved to Belmont Park in 1905. As with the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes had a brief hiatus from 1911-1912 leaving the Kentucky Derby as the only Triple Crown race that has been run in consecutive years since its inception. Time has not taken away from the prestigious stature of the race. The Belmont Stakes has come to be known as the ‘Test of Champions’ and rightly so.
In 1926, The Belmont distance was changed to 1 1/2 miles and continues to be run at this distance to this day. It is quite possibly the farthest a horse will be asked to run in its entire career. It takes a special horse to summon the will and determination to make the distance and cross the finish line victorious. From Ruthless in 1867 to Drosselmeyer in 2010, the Belmont always brings a final touch of class and excitement to the racing world before the summer classics arrive.
Although we will not be celebrating a Triple Crown this year, expect a grueling race as Kentucky Derby champion Animal Kingdom and Preakness champion Shackleford return to the track to continue their thrilling rivalry. Mucho Macho Man, also a starter in both legs of the Triple Crown, looks to be fit and ready to run as well. Derby starters who have skipped the Preakness and focused on the Belmont have fared well in the past few years. Horses such as Summer Bird (2009), Birdstone (2004), and Empire Maker (2003) all used this tactic to their advantage. This year’s crop of derby starters include Brilliant Speed, Master of Hounds, Nehro, Santiva, and Stay Thirsty. New comers such as Monzon, Prime Cut, and Ruler on Ice hope to enter the winner’s circle off of non-Triple Crown races as did Drosselmeyer last year.
Don’t expect a 31 length romp reminiscent of Secretariat in 1973, but we have the chance to witness something special as the spring classics come to an end. New York Times writer Meyer Berger said it best with “Each man reads his own meaning into New York.” This Saturday will only add another chapter and give new meaning into the sport of racing and crown a worthy champion. It has been 16 years since Thunder Gulch won the first and last leg of the Triple Crown and six since Afleet Alex won the second two legs. Will Animal Kingdom or Shackleford join one of these two clubs or will a new name be added to the list of 2011 champions? Stay tuned throughout the week as we highlight the Belmont Stakes and the quest for the final jewel of the Triple Crown.
Written by Big Brink