The Belmont Stakes is known as “The Test of the Champion” mostly due to its marathon distance and status as the final leg of the grueling Triple Crown. It will be contested for the 153rd time this year, and after a one-year Covid-19 pandemic-related shift from its spot as the third jewel to the first jewel a year ago it is back this year on the racing calendar five weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three following the Preakness Stakes.
And in keeping with the regulations set up in New York, 11,000 spectators will be on site at Belmont Park after a 2020 with none allowed, but those in attendance will still be required to continue with safe social distancing protocols. A record crowd of 120,139 attended the 2004 Belmont Stakes when longshot Birdstone won and defeated Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, so this year will be decidedly quiet, yet more active than a year ago.
The 2021 Belmont Stakes takes place on Saturday, June 5
For the the 110th time the event takes place at Belmont Park.
Also The Belmont Stakes this year will return to its traditional 1 ½-mile distance – the traditional distance since 1926 – after a one-year cutback to nine furlongs a year ago.
The race is restricted to 3 year olds. Males carry 126 pounds and females, if they run, carry 121 pounds.
This year, eight will be in the starting gate for the Belmont Stakes and champion Essential Quality, who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby before skipping the Preakness, is the early favorite with morning line odds of 2-1.
|1||Bourbonic||15-1||Kendrick Carmouche||Todd Pletcher|
|2||Essential Quality||2-1||Luis Saez||Brad Cox|
|3||Rombauer||3-1||John Velazquez||Michael McCarthy|
|4||Hot Rod Charlie||7-2||Flavien Pratt||WDoug O’Neill|
|5||France Go de Ina||30-1||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Hideyuki Mori|
|6||Known Agenda||6-1||Jose Ortiz||Todd Pletcher|
|7||Rock Your World||9-2||Joel Rosario||John W. Sadler|
|8||Overtook||20-1||Manny Franco||Todd Pletcher|
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 also served as president of The Jockey Club.
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.
The Belmont Stakes flourished in its early years at its current location of Elmont, New York, on Long Island and just outside the New York City borough of 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 Stakes has traditionally been referred to as “The Test of the Champion” because of its 1 ½-mile distance, though this year it may have to adopt a new nickname. Also called “The Run for the Carnations” because the winning horse is draped with a garland of white carnations after the race.
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.
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 August 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.
Miriam Lee has always been a horse racing fan thanks to trips to the tracks in her home state of Maryland with her father as kid. She owns an OTTB and is an advocate for promoting the sport among her peers. Miriam studies communication arts at Hood College and will receive her master’s degree in 2021, which she plans to use for a career in screenwriting. Her all-time favorite racehorse is Man O War.