Contested at 1 ½ miles at Belmont Park in New York, the 2012 Belmont Stakes, for 3-year old thoroughbreds, is the longest and final race of the American Triple Crown series. It is aptly known as the "Test of a Champion" for being the most demanding and challenging race for a prospective winner in pursuit of the crown. With its 12-furlong distance being the furthest any 3-year old horse will have run in its career thus far, the Belmont Stakes tests the stamina of a racehorse.
It is a rare horse that can not only withstand the demands of the 3 race grueling schedule: Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, but be versatile enough to win all three races. During this intense five-week stretch, the trainer's mental and emotional strength are put to the test as well. The conditioner of such a prized athletic equine has to make sure the horse is rested yet ready to run and perform in all three of those races.
As with any goal worthy of tireless pursuit, attaining the ultimate prize in the sport of kings is not easy.
Twenty-nine horses have entered the Belmont Stakes having won the Derby and Preakness: Only 11 of those runners achieved Triple Crown immortality with a victory at Belmont Park, the most recent being Affirmed in 1978.
1919- SIR BARTON
1930- GALLANT FOX
1937- WAR ADMIRAL
1943- COUNT FLEET
1977- SEATTLE SLEW
The 11 winners have been broken up by significant dry spells- starting with an 11-year gap between the original champion, Sir Barton (1919), and his successor, Gallant Fox (1930): A 25 year absence between Citation (1948) and Secretariat (1973): and the current 34-year drought since Affirmed (1978).
-OH SO CLOSE-
After 1978, there have been 11 horses who won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness before falling short in the Belmont Stakes.
1979- SPECTACULAR BID (3rd)
After waiting 25 years between Citation and Secretariat, the sport nearly witnessed a consecutive three-year streak of 3-year olds winning the big three. However, a fluke accident prevented a shot a the Triple Crown. Spectacular Bid stepped on a safety pin on the morning of the Belmont Stakes and despite taking an early lead, faded late in the race, finishing behind Golden Act and Coastal.
1981- PLEASANT COLONY (3rd)
1987- ALYSHEBA (4th)
1989- SUNDAY SILENCE (2nd)
1997- SILVER CHARM (2nd)
1998- REAL QUIET (2nd)
The Bob Baffert trained Real Quiet lost by a scant nose to Victory Gallop, who finished second to Real Quiet in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Despite going down to defeat at the wire and falling short on Belmont Day, Real Quiet came closer to ending the Triple Crown drought than any thoroughbred to date.
1999- CHARISMATIC (3rd)
2002- WAR EMBLEM (8th)
2003- FUNNY CIDE (3rd)
2004- SMARTY JONES (2nd)
2008- BIG BROWN (DNF)
Although trainer Rick Dutrow called the Triple Crown a "foregone conclusion," a hoof injury leading up to the race and a loose shoe on race day resulted in Big Brown suffering his first career loss--As 38-1 longshot Da' Tara led wire-to-wire, while the overwhelming favorite failed to finish after jockey Kent Desormeaux pulled up because he "had no horse."
The Kentucky Derby may lay claim to be the "most exciting two minutes in sports" but throughout the history of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Sakes has been the scene of some of the most exciting moments in thoroughbred racing.
There's a reason why we root for a Triple Crown winner every year. There's also a reason why it seldom occurs. It's so hard for a horse to finish atop such a good crop of thoroughbreds for three consecutive contests that bring out the best horses in the sport. Will there ever be another thoroughbred capable of capturing the elusive Triple Crown? Will 2012 be the year the dry spell ends? There is no greater moment in the sport of horse racing than the crowning of a Triple Crown champion, which always takes place in New York.