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Affirmed (inside) edges Alydar to win the 1978 Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown. (Photo courtesy of BloodHorse/Bob Coglianese)
Affirmed (inside) edges Alydar to win the 1978 Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown. (Photo courtesy of BloodHorse/Bob Coglianese)

J. Keeler Johnson

How many times have some of the greatest sporting events in America been held? The Super Bowl is relatively young, having been contested 52 times. The World Series of Major League Baseball is more than twice that old with 113 editions in the history books.

But the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in New York has them both measured for longevity, as the 2018 renewal will mark the 150th edition of the historic 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion.”

Through the years, the Belmont Stakes has produced an exciting variety of results ranging from blowout wins to photo finishes. It’s been won by some of the greatestby champions ever seen on a racetrack, yet it has also produced some of the most unforgettable upsets in the history of the sport.

Let’s step back through time and recall some of the memorable milestones in the history of the Belmont Stakes….

1867: The inaugural running of the Belmont Stakes is held at the newly-opened Jerome Park in New York. At the end of 1 5/8 miles (the race was an eighth of a mile longer at the time), the filly Ruthless prevails in a photo finish over De Courcey.

1874: The distance of the Belmont Stakes is changed to 1 ½ miles and Saxon comes out on top in the time of 2:42.20, a slow clocking by today’s standards.

1882-1888: Jockey James McLaughlin wins six Belmonts in the span of seven years, setting the record for the most Belmont wins by a jockey.

1890-1906: The Belmont is shortened again to 1 ¼ miles before changing distances frequently during the ensuring two decades. The race is held at the newly-opened Belmont Park for the first time in 1905, the year that Tanya becomes the second filly to win the race.

Colin (Keeneland Library-Cook)
Colin (Keeneland Library-Cook)

1908: The great Colin wins the Belmont Stakes in dramatic fashion, narrowly holding on in the middle of a rainstorm to win by a head and keep his unbeaten record intact.

1911-1912: Due to anti-gambling laws, racing in New York is temporarily shut down and the Belmont Stakes is not run for two years.

1913: Trainer James Rowe, Sr. wins his eighth Belmont Stakes with Prince Eugene, establishing a record that no one has come close to breaking. Remarkably, Rowe had also won the Belmont twice as a jockey in 1872 and 1873.

1919: The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Sir Barton wins the Belmont Stakes, becoming the first horse to sweep what would later be recognized as the Triple Crown.

1926: The Belmont Stakes returns permanently to 1 ½ miles and Crusader records the fastest time yet for the distance, clocking it in 2:32.20.

1930: Gallant Fox wins the Belmont Stakes by three effortless lengths over the well-regarded Whichone, becoming the second horse to win the Triple Crown.

1935: Gallant Fox becomes the only Triple Crown winner to sire a Triple Crown winner when his son, Omaha, completes the sweep with a comfortable win against a small field in the Belmont Stakes.

War Admiral (BloodHorse Library)
War Admiral (BloodHorse Library)

1937: War Admiral overcomes a stumble at the start and a hoof injury to win the Belmont Stakes in the record time of 2:28.60, becoming the fourth horse to win the Triple Crown.

1941-1948: Four horses – Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), and Citation (1948) – sweep the Triple Crown in a span of eight years, making the 1940s the most prolific decade for Triple Crown winners.

1955: Jockey Eddie Arcaro wins his sixth and final Belmont Stakes aboard Nashua, tying James McLaughlin’s record established more than sixty years prior.

1957: Gallant Man, one of the best horses to never win a division championship, cruises to an eight-length victory in the Belmont Stakes while lowering the track record to 2:26.60.

1963-1967: Due to renovations at Belmont Park, the Belmont Stakes is held at nearby Aqueduct for five years.

1973: Secretariat sets the standard by which all Belmont Stakes winners are measured, winning the race by an unprecedented 31 lengths while setting a still-standing world record of 2:24 flat.

1977: Seattle Slew wins the Belmont Stakes by four lengths to become racing’s tenth Triple Crown winner.

1978: In an epic showdown considered to be one of the greatest in racing history, Affirmed gets the battle of longtime rival Alydar to win the Belmont Stakes (and the Triple Crown) by a head.

1982-1986: Trainer Woody Stephens accomplishes the seemingly impossible by winning five straight renewals of the Belmont Stakes with Conquistador Cielo, Caveat, Swale, Crème Fraiche, and Danzig Connection.

1990: The Ireland-based trainer Dermot Weld wins the Belmont Stakes with Go and Go, who shipped in off a fourth-place finish in the Group 2 Derby Trial Stakes at Leopardstown in Ireland.

1993: Julie Krone becomes the first female rider to win a Triple Crown race, guiding longshot Colonial Affair from off the pace to win by 2 ¼ lengths.

1998: In one of the closest photo finishes in the history of the Belmont Stakes, Victory Gallop edges Real Quiet in the final strides to win by a nose, denying Real Quiet a sweep of the Triple Crown.

2002: Sarava posts a record upset in the Belmont Stakes, prevailing at odds of 70.25-1.

2004: A record crowd of 120,139 turns out to watch Smarty Jones vie for the Triple Crown, but the fan favorite is beaten to the wire by 36-1 shot Birdstone.

2007: Rags to Riches becomes the third and most recent filly to win the Belmont Stakes, out-dueling future Horse of the Year Curlin to win by a head.

2015: American Pharoah makes history with a 5 ½-length triumph in the Belmont Stakes, becoming the first horse in 37 years to sweep the Triple Crown.

2018: The unbeaten Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and Preakness Stakes winner Justify is expected to seek a Triple Crown sweep of his own in the 150th edition of the Belmont Stakes.

Find out more about Horse Racing right here on EIE. This article originally appeared on America's Best Racing and is published here with permission.

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