07/01/2013 9:53AM

The Triple Crown, and Experience at Belmont Park

Email

A railbird at Belmont Park recently posed a question/theory to me concerning Triple Crown attempts in the Belmont Stakes. My cigar-chomping acquaintance said that he thinks all 11 Triple Crown winners raced at Belmont Park before completing their Triple Crown sweeps in the Belmont Stakes. He went on to say that he thinks all of the horses in recent years who were denied a sweep of the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes (that leaves out I’ll Have Another; he did not start in the Belmont) had either no previous starts or wins at Belmont Park.

Since I have a bit of a weakness for this sort of historical trivia, I thought I would look into it. And what I found is this railbird was almost completely correct.

It turns out that all 11 Triple Crown winners indeed raced at Belmont before the Belmont Stakes. What follows is a list of the Triple Crown winners, and their previous performances at Belmont:

Sir Barton (1919) – Second in the Futurity at 2, first in the Withers immediately prior to the Belmont.

Gallant Fox (1930) – Second in an allowance race, and third in the Futurity at 2.

Omaha (1935) – Second in the Champagne and fourth in the Futurity at 2, second in the Withers.

War Admiral (1937) – First in an allowance, and third in the National Stallion at 2.

Whirlaway (1941) – Fifth in an allowance, and third in the Futurity at 2, first in an allowance immediately prior to the Belmont.

Count Fleet (1943) – Second in a maiden special weight, first in an allowance, third in the Futurity, and first in the Champagne at 2, first in the Withers right before the Belmont.

Assault (1946) – Twelfth in a maiden special weight, fifth in a maiden special weight, second in a maiden special weight, and first in the Flash at 2.

Citation (1948) – First in the Futurity Trial, and first in the Futurity at 2.

Secretariat (1973) – First in the Futurity, and first in the Champagne at 2.

Seattle Slew (1977) – First in a maiden special weight, first in an allowance, and first in the Champagne at 2.

Affirmed (1978) – First in a maiden special weight, first in the Youthful, second in the Great American, first in the Futurity, and second in the Champagne at 2.

Now, let’s take a look at the nine most recent horses who were denied the Triple Crown in the Belmont, and their racing experience at Belmont Park prior to the Belmont:

Alysheba (1987) – None.

Sunday Silence (1989) – None.

Silver Charm (1997) – None.

Real Quiet (1998) – None.

Charismatic (1999) – None.

War Emblem (2002) – None.

Funny Cide (2003) – First in a New York-bred maiden special weight, first in the New York-bred Bertram F. Bongard, and first in the New York-bred Sleepy Hollow at 2.

Smarty Jones (2004) – None.

Big Brown (2008) – None.

The obvious implication here is Belmont Park is and always has been so comparatively unique to other American tracks that prior racing experience with it is very useful. But what I found interesting is that, even during an era when squeezing a start in between the Preakness and Belmont was commonplace and the Withers was an over-the-track option, all 11 Triple Crown winners still had 2-year-old starts at Belmont, with 10 of them having two or more starts. And it should be noted that four Triple Crown winners – War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, and Citation – were not exclusively New York-based as 2-year-olds.