Belmont winners to excite you this Spring in the USA
We’re not generally a course to enthuse about Flat racing, but there are some events in the international calendar that rise above the partisan divide between the two codes. With just two fixtures of our own remaining therefore, it’s time to look further afield to the US Triple Crown, in which British-trained horses have been growing a presence these past few years.
The Triple Crown is a series of middle distance races for three year olds that defines that generation for the year, starting with the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May, continuing through the Preakness in the third week in May, and concluding with the Belmont in the first week of June. The three dirt races are the equivalent of the Guineas-Derby-St Leger combination over here, and attract huge crowds. Kentucky Derby week is the week that defines the life of the mint julep, cornerstone of many a ladies day on both sides of the Pond.
The Belmont Stakes has seen many hundreds of thoroughbred horses throughout its life since the first running in 1867. The race takes place at Belmont Park, New York, and attracts some of the most powerful and highly rated horses in the world. European success to date has been limited to a third placed Homesman from Aidan O’Brien’s yard in 2017.
It is the final event out of the three contributing races that can secure a thoroughbred’s place in the record books as a Triple Crown winner. These are some of the best horses in the history of the Belmont stakes and how they shaped the popular event.
First, Secretariat is arguably the most famous thoroughbred racehorse in the world, certainly in the USA. This is because he set the record in each leg of the Triple Crown during his career. 1973 was a particularly huge year for this superstar racehorse, as he routed the Belmont Stakes field by a scarcely credible 31 lengths.
The way that Secretariat made this appear effortless and smooth was one of the biggest contributors to his widespread recognition as the best of a generation. After finishing the 1973 Belmont with a record time of 2:24.00, Secretariat has been regarded as being on another level than many of his competitors. Mean times since 1990 are around 2:28:00, a full four seconds slower.
The young colt was also named the 1972 and 1973 American Horse Of The Year, and was the thirteenth horse to earn more than $1 million in the history of horse racing.
Because Secretariat had such widespread success, there have been few thoroughbreds with the potential to follow in his hoofprints. Take a closer look at the 2022 belmont stakes odds in order to make your own predictions based on the latest developments. Make sure to look out for the next Secretariat.
Truly a champion of his own making, Seattle Slew was the 1977 American Horse Of The Year. He was a high achieving juvenile and trained on as a three year old. Having already made a name for himself as a successful racehorse, Seattle Slew went on to sire Kentucky Derby winners and secure his dynasty.
During the Marlboro Cup, Seattle Slew kept everybody on the edges of their seats until the end. The thoroughbred was incredibly close to setting a world record, and many began to see a great deal of potential for this horse.
Something that makes Seattle Slew’s achievements even more impressive is the fact that he was recovering from life-threatening illness while attempting to set a new world record during the Marlboro Cup.
Another high achieving horse within the history of the Belmont is Risen Star, who certainly lived up to his name. This youngster was already expected to achieve great things as a son of Secretariat.
Risen Star had been found wanting behind Winning Colors in the 1988 Kentucky Derby, so had something to prove during the final leg of the Triple Crown. Secretariat’s dynasty was secured when Risen Star won his race around the Belmont Park track in 2:26.40.
Because of this impressive time, father and son race horses ruled the records for the Belmont for a long time. It wasn’t just Risen Star’s time which was like his father, but the authoritative way in which he finished, over fourteen lengths ahead of the nearest competitor., Risen Star is widely regarded as one of the best horses in the history of the Belmont.
In a more tense competition than the ones which were dominated by Secretariat and Risen Star, Easy Goer went head-to-head with Sunday Silence in the 1989 Belmont. It was the colt’s never-say-die attitude which made him one of the highest achieving horses within the history of the Belmont.
He denied rival Sunday Silence the Triple Crown that year, and became known as a ‘super horse’ for this achievement. Many believed beforehand that it was in the bag for Sunday Silence, but Easy Goer provided some worthy competition and won the Belmont stakes in 1989 by eight lengths ahead of Sunday Silence.
Finally, Point Given became known as one of the highest achieving horses at the beginning of the new millennium. Having lost the Kentucky Derby, Point Given came back for more a month later.
The large chestnut won the Preakness, Belmont, and Travers Stakes that year. Not only did Point Given challenge the existing records set at Belmont Park, but he became the first horse to win four $1 million races consecutively for now discredited trainer Bob Baffert.
Point Given was easily recognizable for his large size, which contributed to his power on the track. He went on to sire many generations of future top flight stakes winners.
The final leg of the Triple Crown has always been one of the most intense events on the US horse racing calendar. Despite the differences in surface between US and European tracks, British and Irish trainers with a global ownership profile have been taking an increasing interest. The early season international calendar, from Lingfield’s Good Friday card to the more glamorous races in Dubai and Saudi Arabia are supporting a stronger profile from European horses in the USA’s finest races outside the Breeders’ Cup.
The short timeline from the Kentucky Derby to the Belmont enables broadcasters and media to focus on competitors in a sustained way, familiarizing fans and social racegoers alike with the names of the principal contenders, unlike our own Derby Day, in which only regular racegoers will ever have heard of half the field.
Find a reason to follow the US Triple Crown this Spring. May 8th is Ladies Day at Ludlow, the day after this year’s Kentucky Derby, where you can order your own mint julep and put a Shropshire style on our penultimate meeting.