Belmont Stakes is true 'Test of the Champion'

Tue Jun 3, 2014 1:49pm EDT
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By Julian Linden

(Reuters) - The Belmont Stakes may not carry the same prestige as the Kentucky Derby but in U.S. horse racing, it is the one race that determines which horses join the stable of immortals.

As the third and final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont is the race where the greatest horses are coronated - but also the one where their dreams can be shattered.

At 1 1/2 miles (2400 meters) it is the longest and most grueling leg of the Triple Crown, run over a distance that none of the 3-year-olds in contention have attempted before.

The Belmont straight has proven the downfall of almost two dozen Triple Crown hopefuls who fell short after an exhausting campaign in which they race three times in five weeks, each in different states and over different distances on dirt tracks.

The challenge is made even more daunting because many of the top contenders who are beaten in the Kentucky Derby skip the Preakness Stakes to conserve their energy for the Belmont, which has been dubbed the "The Test of the Champion."

In almost 150 years, 11 horses have passed that test and completed the elusive treble, but more than twice as many have suffered heartbreaking losses with glory in their sight.

Pensive (1944), Tim Tam (1958), Forward Pass (1968), Majestic Price (1969), Sunday Silence (1989), Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and Smarty Jones (2004) all finished second, agonizingly close to the ultimate success.

Northern Dancer (1964), Spectacular Bid (1979), Pleasant Colony (1981), Charismatic (1999) and Funny Cide (2003) all came third.   Continued...

A microphone stand with the 146th Belmont Stakes logo is seen at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York May 30, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton