05/31/2007 11:00PM

History Challenge: Triumph in Belmont, not the breeding shed


The Belmont Stakes has long been known as the "Test of the Champion." Over the years, some prominent breeders have made statements to the effect that winning the third jewel of the Triple Crown is a better predictor of success at stud than winning the Kentucky Derby.

Empire Maker, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby, but won the Belmont Stakes in 2003, currently stands for a stud fee of $100,000 live foal.

His first offspring reach the racetrack this year and those breeders or buyers who paid the high stud fee, or even more at auction, are holding their breath to see if their gamble has paid off. The odds are against them.

In the past quarter-century, the only Belmont Stakes winner whose career at stud could be called truly outstanding is A.P. Indy.

During the 19th century and for most of the 20th century, not only did most Belmont Stakes winners fail at stud, many of them went on to undistinguished careers on the racetrack, sometimes competing for claiming prices in later years.

See how many of these unlucky Belmont Stakes winners you can identify.

1. Not only was this Belmont Stakes winner universally acclaimed Horse of the Year at age 3, he also went on to be elected to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

At age 4, he set two track records at Saratoga, the second time carrying 133 pounds to victory in the Merchants and Citizens Handicap.

After retirement, he was sold to a Virginia breeding farm, where he stood for a stud fee as high as $1,000, a huge figure at the time. Ten years later, he was sold to a Remount Division of the U.S. Army where he commanded a stud fee of $5. Name him.

2. When he romped home by six lengths in the Champagne Stakes, his stock soared. The following season, while being pointed for the Kentucky Derby, he bruised himself the day before the Louisville classic and was scratched.

A month later, he scored an easy win in the Belmont Stakes, the first of eight wins in a row (seven stakes). By the end of his 5-year-old season, he had won 22 races - 21 of them stakes - and had earned more than $133,000 in four seasons.

In his final season on the track, at age 13, he was winless in four starts and earned $40. Name him.

3. When he retired to stud in 1926, he was 12th on the list of all-time money winners. In addition to winning the Belmont Stakes by two lengths as the 8-5 favorite, his victories included the Chicago Special, Brooklyn Handicap, Saratoga Cup, and Empire City Handicap.

He was sold by his owner for a then-staggering $90,000 and retired to what was expected to be a life in the breeding shed. After two seasons where he failed to get one mare in foal, he was returned to the racetrack. He spent the remainder of his career in mostly obscure claiming races. Name him.

4. He was a member of one of the great foal crops of all time. Were it not for a stumbling incident on the clubhouse turn in the Preakness Stakes, he likely would have been a Triple Crown winner.

He retired early in his 4-year-old season. All efforts to cure his fertility problem over the next two seasons proved futile. He returned to the races at age 7 and made his final start in the United States in the inaugural Santa Anita Handicap. Name the horse.

5. This chestnut colt distinguished himself on both sides of the ocean. He won the Belmont Stakes over a sloppy track. The following year, he scored back-to-back stakes win in England. Then, before a crowd of 150,000 witnessing the 125th running of the Ascot Gold Cup, he engaged in a furious stretch battle that fell a nose short.

Unsuccessful at stud, he found himself at the Lookover Stallion Station at Avon, in upstate New York. Name the horse.


1. Sir Barton, first winner of the series now known as The Triple Crown, had periods of brilliance on the racetrack during his 3- and 4-year-old seasons. Twelve of his 13 lifetime wins were in stakes races.

A son of Star Shoot, who was judged a poor sire of sires, Sir Barton wasn't a terrible sire. His sons and daughters included eight stakes winners, the best being 1928 Kentucky Oaks winner Easter Stockings.

After a stint at an Army Remount Station in 1933, Sir Barton was placed at a ranch in the Laramie Mountains of Wyoming, where he lived out his life. He died in 1937 following an attack of colic and was buried on the range, not far from the town of Douglas, Wyo.

Sir Barton's owner erected a small fence around the grave, but when he died, the gravesite fell into disrepair.

A local civic leader convinced the Douglas Chamber of Commerce to move the grave to a local park in 1968. A fiberglass statue of a generic horse was erected above the new gravesite.

2. Grey Lag was under wraps when he captured the 1921 Belmont Stakes by three lengths as the second betting choice. The following month, he set a world record for 1 1/8 miles (1:49) in the Dwyer Stakes.

He went on to be acclaimed Horse of the Year at age 3 and champion older horse the following two years.

In three seasons at stud, Grey Lag sired fewer than 20 foals before becoming sterile. He was returned to the races at ages 9 and 10 and again at age 13, when he competed in claiming races in Canada. His original owner repurchased him that year, returned him to America, and pensioned him.

3. Mad Play, a foal of 1921, was a three-quarter brother to Man o' War. At age 3, he won four stakes, including the $50,000 Belmont Stakes, one of the richest races in America at the time.

The following year, he continued to make headlines, winning six stakes. He retired at the end of that season with earnings of more than $120,000.

After commanding a near-record price for a stallion, Mad Play proved infertile and was returned to the racetrack, where he was barely a shadow of his old self.

By the end of the decade, he was competing at Fairmount Park in Illinois for claiming prices as low as $400. He was often quoted at odds of 50-1 or higher.

Mad Play closed out his career at age 12 in 1933, running in claiming races in New Orleans. His final start was the 63rd of his career. He had won 17 times, nearly all of those during his glory years of 1924 and 1925.

4. Twenty Grand came from the 1928 crop that included Equipoise and Mate. Winner of the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, Twenty Grand also captured the Wood Memorial, Dwyer, Travers, Saratoga Cup, Lawrence Realization, and Jockey Club Gold Cup at age 3.

Proving infertile, he returned to the track in 1935 at age 7 to win one race. He then met his old rival Equipoise in the inaugural Santa Anita Handicap that year. The two cripples finished up the track. He raced twice more, in England, with no success.

Twenty Grand lived out his life as a pensioner at Greentree Stud. He died in 1948.

5. Omaha, third winner of the Triple Crown, thrilled racing fans in America and England in 1935 and 1936.

Retired to stud in 1937, he sired only seven stakes winners - none of any note - and was moved to upstate New York in 1943. He remained there until 1950, when he was given to a group of breeders in Nebraska. He lived out his life at Grove Porter Farm in Nebraska City.

Omaha died in 1959 and was buried at the now defunct Ak-Sar-Ben Racetrack. His monument was later moved to make way for construction, but his remains were not. The exact location of his grave remains a mystery today.