Here’s Why The Belmont Stakes Is “The Test Of A Champion”

Posted on June 10, 2022

The Kentucky Derby is a classic. The Preakness Stakes is the sprint. The Belmont is the marathon.

Nicknamed “The Test of a Champion,” the 154th running of the Belmont Stakes in New York is Saturday. Post time is 6:44 p.m.

And while the nickname fits, there aren’t many champions in the 2022 eight-horse field.

Preakness winner Early Voting is focusing on the summer circuit and not running the Belmont. But Rich Strike, the 80-1 winner of the Kentucky Derby, will be out to show his win was no fluke.

At a mile-and-a-half, the Belmont Stakes stands out as the grueling final challenge for 3-year-old horses. It’s one of the longest ‘flat’ horse races in the world.

But how did it get that distance? And are there other longer horse races? Let’s run into what makes the Belmont Stakes race unique and challenging for its champions.

While you’re glued to your TV and holding on to your seats don’t forget to put some action down on your favorite horse. Maryland horse bettors can easily access the TVG online app from home.

The TVG betting app was created only for horse betting so there’ll be a ton of unique offers and bets available for the 2022 Belmont Stakes.

Get Up to $200 Back If Your First Bet Loses

Americans take a British idea and make it better

Horse racing has a longer history in England than it does in America. That’s OK. They can have the Queen, but there is no American Triple Crown without the English. The English have their Triple Crown:

  • Guineas Stakes
  • Epsom Derby
  • St. Leger Stakes

The Belmont is the oldest of the American Triple Crown races. The first run was in 1867 and won by a filly named Ruthless.

The Triple Crown, as we know it here in the US, wasn’t very organized until about a century ago. The Kentucky Derby was originally a mile and a half, then switched to its mile-and-a-quarter length in 1896.

Even the Preakness was a mile and a half for a while before it became a mile and 3/16 in 1925. The Belmont was always long. It was a mile and 5/8 before it settled in as a 1 ½ mile race in 1926.

Where did that distance come from? England. The Epsom Derby, first run in 1780 is 2,420 meters (that’s a mile and a half). So that was the distance adopted by Americans for their big races.

By the way, Desert Crown won the Epsom Derby last Saturday, coming in at 2:36.38. The horses run clockwise in England, not as the Americans do, and the course includes turns and is on grass.

Whoever wins the Belmont on Saturday will almost certainly run much faster.

What makes the Belmont Stakes “The Test of A Champion”?

Usually, it’s because there are already champion 3-year-olds in the race, either a horse is vying for the Triple Crown, or you get a battle of the Kentucky Derby winner against the Preakness winner. It’s not the case this year.

Horses are trained more for speed than endurance. They prepare all their lives for the Kentucky Derby distance, then the Preakness comes along and it’s about maintaining that speed.

The Belmont, which is on a softer, sandier track that makes it harder, is now about running faster for longer. The extra quarter-mile may not sound like much to us two-legged animals, but it’s grueling for a horse. That extra distance has cost more than one horse a Triple Crown.

What are the longest horse races in the world?

Horse races are broken down into three distinct categories:

  • Flat
  • Jump
  • Endurance races

If you’re talking just sheer length, the Mongol Derby through the Mongolian desert is 1000 kilometers and takes place over weeks with multiple horses. It’s considered the world’s longest horse race.

California hosts the Tevis Cup, a one-day, one-horse, 100-mile race that dates to 1955.

When it comes to the jumping races, go back to England. The Queen Alexandra Stakes is part of of the Royal Ascot meeting every June. It’s open to horses four years and older and is two miles, five furlongs, and change.

The Ascot Gold Cup was started in 1807 and is over two miles long in England. There’s also a two-a-half-mile race in France called the Prix du Cadran.

And then there are some famed amateur races in England. The Newmarket Town Plate was started (as the legend goes) by King Charles II. The winner gets a, you guessed it, plate and sausages. The race is over three miles.

The Kiplingcotes Derby traces its roots back to 1519 and is basically come one, come all. It’s for amateurs who meet in a field on a farm and weigh-in, then it’s off to the races. This one is measured at four miles.

Photo by Seth Wenig/Associated Press
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Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He's won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022.

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