The first Belmont in the United States was not the famous stakes race or even the man for whom it is named. Rather, the first Belmont was a race horse that arrived in California in 1853 from his breeding grounds of Franklin, Ohio. The Belmont Stakes, however, are named after August Belmont, a financier who made quite a name and fortune for himself in New York politics and society. Obviously, Mr. Belmont was also quite involved in horse racing, and his imprint is even intertwined within the history of the Kentucky Derby. The race remained at Morris Park Racecourse until the May 1905 opening of the new Belmont Park, 430 acres (1.7 km2) racetrack in Elmont, New York on Long Island, just outside the New York City borough of Queens. When anti-gambling legislation was passed in New York State, Belmont Racetrack was closed, and the race was cancelled in 1911 and 1912.
The Belmont Stakes trophy is a Tiffany-made silver bowl, 18 inches high, 15 inches across and 14 inches at the base. Atop the cover is a silver figure of Fenian, winner of the third running of the Belmont Stakes in 1869. The bowl is supported by three horses representing the three foundation thoroughbreds -- Eclipse, Herod and Matchem. The trophy, a solid silver bowl originally crafted by Tiffany's, was presented by the Belmont family as a perpetual award for the Belmont Stakes in 1926. It was the trophy August Belmont's Fenian won in 1869 and had remained with the Belmont family since that time. The winning owner is given the option of keeping the trophy for the year their horse reigns as Belmont champion. The owner of the winner of the Belmont Stakes also receives, permanently, a large silver tray with the names of the previous Belmont winners engraved on it. There are also trays for the winning trainer, jockey and exercise rider as well as mementos for the groom.
THE BELMONT'S AGE
One thing the Belmont does have over the Derby is that it is the oldest of the three Triple Crown events. The Belmont predates the Preakness by six years, the Kentucky Derby by eight. The first running of the Belmont Stakes was in 1867 at Jerome Park, on, believe it or not, a Thursday. At a mile and five furlongs, the conditions included an entry fee of $200, half forfeit with $1,500 added. Furthermore, not only is the Belmont the oldest Triple Crown race, but it is the fourth oldest race overall in North America. The Phoenix Stakes, now run in the fall at Keeneland as the Phoenix Breeders' Cup, was first run in 1831. The Queen's Plate in Canada made its debut in 1860, while the Travers in Saratoga opened in 1864. However, since there were gaps in sequence for the Travers, the Belmont is third only to the Phoenix and Queen's Plate in total runnings.
SOME MONUMENTAL BELMONT MOMENTS
2015, American Pharoah wins the Belmont Stakes to become the 12th champion of the Triple Crown. After 37 years (1978 Affirmed) of waiting and various close attempts to conquer the Crown.
- In 1890, the Belmont was moved from Jerome Park to Morris Park, a mile and three-eighths track located a few miles east of what is now Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The Belmont was held at Morris Park until Belmont Park's opening in 1905.
- Here's a tidbit you didn't see in Derby or Preakness history. When Grey Lag won the Belmont in 1921, it marked the first running of the Belmont Stakes in the counter-clockwise manner of American fashion. This 53rd running was a mile and three-eighths over the main course; previous editions at Belmont Park had been run clockwise, in accordance with English custom, over a fish-hook course which included part of the training track and the main dirt oval.
- The first post parade in this country came in the 14th running of the Belmont in 1880. Until then the horses went directly from paddock to post.
- The Belmont has been run at various distances. From 1867 tp 1873 it was 1 5/8 miles; from 1874 to 1889 it was 1 1/2 miles; from 1890 through 1892, and in 1895, it was held at 1 1/4 miles; from 1896 through 1925 it was 1 5/8 miles; since 1925 the Belmont Stakes has been a race of 1 1/2 miles.