05/28/2004 12:00AM

History challenge


Crown's third jewel once a contrary route

Despite all the hoopla a year ago about Funny Cide being bred in New York, the popular gelding would not have been the first horse from the Empire State to win the Belmont Stakes.

Ruthless, the winner of the first Belmont Stakes in 1867, was bred in New York, as were the winners in 1869 and 1882, Fenian and Forester. (For trivia buffs, it is a statue of Fenian that today sits atop the perpetual Belmont Stakes trophy.)

This year, a Pennsylvania-bred, Smarty Jones, comes to New York with a chance to become the 12th Triple Crown winner. And, he too, would not be the first Belmont Stakes winner bred in his home state.

Belmont winners Saunterer (1881), Panique (1884), and Foxford (1891) were all Pennsylvania-breds.

But Smarty Jones could become the first horse bred in Pennsylvania to win the Triple Crown, just as Funny Cide would have been the first from New York. Of the 11 winners of the Triple Crown, eight were bred in Kentucky. The exceptions were Assault in 1946 (Texas), Secretariat in 1973 (Virginia), and Affirmed in 1978 (Florida).

Test your knowledge of other firsts in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

1. Construction on Belmont Park began in 1903. When it was completed in 1905, the total cost exceeded $2.5 million. The Westchester Racing Association, owners and operators of the new track, wanted it to be the most lavish and unique racetrack in America. For this reason, the course was 1 1/2 miles around - the longest in the country - and races were run in European fashion: clockwise. All other major tracks ran the American way: counterclockwise. It would be nearly two decades before Belmont abandoned clockwise racing.

Who was the first counterclockwise winner of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park?

2. The Belmont Stakes held its ninth running in 1875, the year the Kentucky Derby was inaugurated by the Louisville Jockey Club. Most of the Eastern racing establishment didn't think too much of the Derby and for decades it languished in the shadows of more prominent 3-year-old fixtures like the Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes, and American Derby.

Who was the first Kentucky Derby winner to compete in the Belmont Stakes, and who was the first Derby winner to capture the Belmont?

3. In the early 1980's, jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. won three consecutive runnings of the Belmont Stakes, all with horses trained by Woody Stephens. Pincay won with Conquistador Cielo (1982), Caveat (1983), and Swale (1984).

But Pincay was the second rider to win three consecutive Belmont Stakes. The first was this jockey who remarkably won three Belmont Stakes in a row twice.

Name him.

4. Between 1875 and 1902, African-American jockeys won 15 of the 28 runnings of the Kentucky Derby.

African-American riders were not as prominent in either the Preakness Stakes or Belmont Stakes, primarily because of Kentucky's proximity to the Southern states. The hub of American racing in the first half of the 19th century was in the South and slaves were regularly used as jockeys.

George "Spider" Anderson was the first African-American rider to win the Preakness (with Buddhist in 1889). Name the first African-American jockey to win the Belmont Stakes.

5. From 1982 through 1986, Woody Stephens trained a remarkable five consecutive winners of the Belmont Stakes. While five straight is a record that may never be equaled in any of the Triple Crown races, Stephens was the fourth trainer to send out five or more winners of the Belmont Stakes in his career.

Name the first person to train five winners of the Belmont Stakes.

History challenge answers

1. Bowing to the desires of owners and trainers, Belmont Park switched its racing from clockwise to counterclockwise in 1921. It has remained that way ever since.

Grey Lag won the 1921 Belmont Stakes for the Rancocas Stables, trainer Sam Hildreth, and jockey Earl Sande. Grey Lag, Hildreth, and Sande are all today members of the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The final clockwise running of the Belmont Stakes in 1920 was won by the immortal Man o' War, owned by Samuel D. Riddle, trained by Louis Feustel, and ridden by Clarence Kummer. Man o' War, Feustel, and Kummer also are all members of racing's Hall of Fame.

While the first Belmont Stakes was run at 1 5/8 miles, the distance changed several times - being as short as 1 1/8 miles twice - until 1 1/2 miles became the permanent distance in 1926.

From 1906 to 1920, the Belmont Stakes was run at 1 3/8 miles on an odd, fishhook course, where the race started and continued for a short distance on the training track before the horses entered the main oval.

2. Aristides, who scored an upset victory in the inaugural Kentucky Derby in 1875, ran second a month later in the ninth running of the Belmont Stakes.

Owned by H. Price McGrath, Aristides had been coupled in the wagering in Louisville with another McGrath runner, Chesapeake, the race favorite. In the Belmont Stakes, Aristides was again coupled with a stablemate - but this time it was Calvin, and this time Aristides would not finish in front of his stablemate. Calvin won by two lengths.

A Kentucky Derby winner did not win the Belmont Stakes for more than 40 years. In 1919, Sir Barton won the Derby and Belmont. One month before the Belmont, Sir Barton also became the first Kentucky Derby winner to capture the Preakness Stakes.

In 1923, Zev was the second horse to win two legs of what would become racing's Triple Crown. He won the Derby and Belmont, but ran 12th in the Preakness.

3. Hall of Fame jockey James McLaughlin rode in the Belmont Stakes only seven times, winning an almost unbelievable six of them - his first three and his last three.

Born in Connecticut in 1861, McLaughlin began his career riding in Tennessee in the late 1870's. For four years, 1884-1887, he was America's leading rider.

McLaughlin won the Belmont Stakes aboard Forester (1882), George Kinney (1883), and Panique (1884), before finishing third the following year aboard Tecumseh, a colt upon whom he had won the Preakness Stakes. He then won three more Belmont Stakes: Inspector B. (1886), Hanover (1887), and Sir Dixon (1888).

4. The chart of the 1870 Belmont Stakes at Jerome Park, as published in sporting publications of the day, noted that the winning jockey aboard Kingfisher was named simply, "Dick." He was the first African-American jockey to win the race. (As was the custom in America, slaves were usually given only first names.)

A freed slave, Dick in 1874 adopted the legal name of Ed Brown. When weight forced Brown to quit riding, he became a trainer for Daniel Swigert, the nephew of the man who had owned Brown as a slave. Brown trained Baden-Baden to win the 1877 Kentucky Derby.

5. When Hall of Fame member Peter Pan won the Belmont Stakes in 1907, James Rowe Sr. became the first trainer to train five winners of the classic. He went on to train three more, and his record of eight Belmont Stakes winners tops the list.

Rowe also had ridden two Belmont Stakes winners as a jockey, before he turned to training.

Second on the Belmont Stakes trainer list is Sam Hildreth, who trained seven winners between 1899 and 1924. Third is Jim Fitzsimmons, who trained six Belmont Stakes winners from 1930 through 1956.