How the Belmont Stakes Began: History and Traditions

By US Racing Team

The first Belmont Stakes was contested at Jerome Park Racetrack in The Bronx, New York, in 1866. Jerome Park was named for Leonard Jerome, who was Winston Churchill’s grandfather and a native New Yorker who made his fortune as a stock speculator. He was also part of the founding of The Jockey Club. The Belmont Stakes was named for August Belmont, a German immigrant and politician who was once head of the Democratic National Committee and once served as president of The Jockey Club.

Belmont Stakes Location

In 1890 the Belmont Stakes moved to Morris Park Racecourse, where it was held until 1905 when Belmont Park, located on Long Island, opened. Morris Park replaced Jerome Racecourse, which was demolished for the construction of the Jerome Reservoir, which is still in use today. Morris Park, which hosted both the Belmont and Preakness in 1890, gave birth to some of the best races still in existence today, including the Met Mile, Champagne Stakes and Matron Stakes. Thanks to declining attendance, Morris Park was closed for good in 1904.

Belmont Park – Photo Courtesy of NYRA

The Belmont Stakes flourished in its early years at its current location of Elmont, New York on Long Island, just outside the New York City borough Queens. Thanks to anti-gambling laws passed in New York State in the late 1910s, the Belmont Stakes wasn’t contested in 1911 or 1912, but was back in 1913 and has continued ever since.

The Belmont was held at Aqueduct from 1963 to 1967.

The Belmont Stakes has traditionally been referred to as “The Test of the Champion” because of its traditional 1 ½-mile distance. It is also called “The Run for the Carnations” because the winning horse is draped with a garland of white carnations after the race, much like the garland of red roses for the Kentucky Derby winner and garland of Black-Eyed Susans for the Preakness winner. The origin of the white carnation as the official flower of the Belmont Stakes is unknown, however the white carnation traditionally symbolizes both love and luck. The 700 carnations sewn into the garland by the Pennock Company of Philadelphia, are imported from Colombia. The blanket is reported to weigh 40 pounds.

Belmont Stakes Winner

The winning Belmont Stakes owner is presented with the August Belmont Trophy, a silver cup (or bowl depending on perspective) designed by George Paulding Farnham, a jewelry designer, sculptor and metallurgist who worked for Tiffany & Co. The trophy is adorned with a prominent acorn and oak motif symbolizing the development of the modern Thoroughbred from the three foundation sires. The lid was crowned with a statue of the Belmont’s Fenian, who won the Belmont Stakes in 1869.

The Belmont Stakes trophy was first presented to August Belmont Jr. in 1896 and donated to the event by the Belmont family for annual presentation in 1926. Though the presentation of the trophy to the winning connections is for ceremonial purposes only, they are presented with a large silver tray engraved with the names of all of the previous Belmont Stakes winners. The winning trainer, jockey and exercise rider also receive silver trays.

Like the Derby and Preakness, where “My Old Kentucky Home” and “Maryland My Maryland” are played during the race’s post parade, the Belmont Stakes also has a signature song. Until 1996, the song was “Sidewalks of New York” by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra and then from 1997 to 2009 the song was Frank Sinatra’s “Theme from New York, New York.” In 2010, the New York Racing Association adopted Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” before going back to the classic Sinatra version in 2011.


2023 Belmont Stakes Contenders, Odds and Post Positions

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
1 Tapit Shoes 3-1 Brad H. Cox Jose Ortiz
2 Tapit Trice 3-1 Todd A. Pletcher Luis Saez
3 Arcangelo 8-1 Jena M. Antonucci Javier Castellano
4 National Treasure 5-1 Bob Baffert John R. Velazquez
5 Il Miracolo 30-1 Antonio Sano Marcos Meneses
6 Forte 5-2 Todd A. Pletcher Irad Ortiz, Jr.
7 Hit Show 10-1 Brad H. Cox Manuel Franco
8 Angel of Empire 7-2 Brad H. Cox Flavien Prat
9 Red Route One 15-1 Steve M. Asmussen Joel Rosario
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