07/01/2013 8:53AM

The Triple Crown, and Experience at Belmont Park

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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.

God More than 1 year ago
I think the reason for failure to capture the Triple Crown is not lack of experience at Belmont Park but lack of experience anywhere. In the Triple Crown years 2 and 3 year olds raced a lot. Horses would have raced over 10 times before the Derby. Today's horses have started only a hand full of times before the Derby. They are then asked to compete in three grueling races in five weeks. They just don't have the conditioning to do it.
NeilNap More than 1 year ago
I think jockey unfamiliarity, or lack of extensive experience with the course is a bigger factor in recent TC failed bids than the horses'.
Earl Dorsey More than 1 year ago
How man winners of the Belmont Stakes had not previously raced at Belmont Park?
Michael More than 1 year ago
When in doubt..trifecta and exacta boxes..jockey winners of the Ky Oaks,Ky Derby and Preakness.. $60 turns into $1100.
kc m More than 1 year ago
um...charismatic broke his leg in the belmont, so i think, perhaps, that may have had a little more to do with his loss then not having run at belmont before...and had the photo in real quiet's belmont gone differently, your article would be as moot as saying that only home breds win the TC (since seattle slew was sold at auction)...was big brown even in the belmont? oh yeah i forgot, he stop racing after a quarter mile because his shoe was lose...that darn tricky belmont track!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He was already beat when he was pulled up.
DavidM More than 1 year ago
Charismatic was already beat when he got hurt. What got him beat was a poor ride by one of my favorite jockeys. He was just too concerned early on with Silverbulletday. Lukas was rightfully not happy with the ride.
Tim More than 1 year ago
I guess the lesson here is that NY-bred races at Belmont don't count. Man was that a miserable day at Belmont Park when Funny Cide ran 3rd. Place was packed to the gills and it was cold, rainy, and full of drunks. Sad, sad day.
jttf More than 1 year ago
good handicapping article. it is too bad that lasix doesnt allow today's horses to race more often and with less rest. look at what cielo did. he contributed to woody's 5 in a row. i think the homefield advantage is do to the long distance of the turns at belmont. they are so much longer than most tracks. this means the horse will be on it's left lead much longer.
Cover2 More than 1 year ago
Not a good compare, even if not based NY, it was where the good races were Don't think they were called MdnSpwt in the 30-40-50's.......IHA would of been 12, the connections will forever regret not running in Bel....slight tendon ?
Tim More than 1 year ago
IHA could have been missing a leg and he'd have won for fun that day. Union Rags ran a 94 Beyer, if memory serves....
Scott More than 1 year ago
Exactly Tim! It was one of the weakest fields I've seen in years running in the Belmont that year. The funniest part is that had Mike Smith closed off the rail like he should have, then Union Rags would have never got past Paynter in the stretch. It truly was a case where a better ride would have produced a winner. Note: I'm not saying Paynter was the better horse that way, but he could have won despite being second best with a better ride by Smith.
Old timer More than 1 year ago
I believe that Secretariat was not technically 1st in the Champagne in 1972. Although he may have been first under the wire, wasn't he disqualified in that race?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I believe the question was ' did they run at Belmont Park? '
Laura Buenaventura More than 1 year ago
The importance of history,pedigree,training and track stats all have a say in the most demanding test oa all.I believe and would take place in a study regarding the Triple Crown.I have been posting the Belmont Stat since I first read it years ago and have cashed accordingly-got big brown at 20-1 to not be in the first 4.TRAINING has cost quite a few a chance-this year no matter the outcome Orb was eliminated almost immediately with shipping twice and an unnecessary bullet work at Belmont--you do not need to breeze in between derby and Preakness and even though Oxbow di breeze it was at Churchill and a 1/2 in 50 and he did not gallop out a 1-1/2 miles in the derby.Funny Cide had a great chance because he raced at Belmont but became a runoff and breezed faster than he should have and got a sloppy track.IF I could get horses they would definetly race at Belmont and potentially Churchill as well but the most impotant aspect would be pedigree and TRAINING or for better analysis do not OVERTRAIN
scott More than 1 year ago
What on earth are you talking about..... Orb eliminated because of shipping? You say no need to breeze, but then talk about Oxbow's work. Of course he didn't gallop out in the derby, he was close to a hot pace and gave it all he had. Some horses on the TC trail need to work in between, some don't.