NYRA / Bob Coglianese
The Triple Crown
, racing’s most coveted prize, can only be
won at Belmont Park early in June. Eleven times that magical moment has
happened and California Chrome
to become the 12th.
So much has been written about the colt from California and
the Crown, with so much more to come, but there have been other great racing
achievements in the Belmont Stakes that did not involve a bid for the Triple
Let us go back to 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, and 1986; back to
Conquistador Cielo, Caveat, Swale, Creme Fraiche, and Danzig Connection, and back
to the Hall of Fame trainer, Woody Stephens
. Those are the five consecutive Belmont Stakes victories that
Stephens strung together.
It has been 36 years since the last Triple Crown and it has
been 28 years since Woody’s Belmont Stakes win streak. There is no doubt in my mind that
we will get another Triple Crown winner, maybe in a matter of days, but I don’t
think any trainer will ever duplicate what Stephens did in the mid-1980’s.
The win streak began on a very sloppy track in 1982, with a
horse owned by Henry deKwiatkowski. Conquistador Cielo
would beat a field
of 11 in the Belmont by 14 lengths. Most amazing, by today’s standards, is that
the horse had won the Metropolitan Mile a mere five days earlier, on Memorial
Day, by over seven lengths in 1:33. Without missing a beat Conquistador Cielo
would continue to win in the Dwyer and the Jim Dandy and be named Horse of the
Next, it was Caveat
in 1983, for August Belmont IV, another one of racing’s illustrious owners.
Caveat won the Derby Trial, six days later finished third in the Kentucky
Derby, and then beat a field of 15 in the Belmont.
In 1984, the owner was Claiborne
Farm with its solid yellow silks and its trademark one-syllable horse names.
won the Florida Derby,
Kentucky Derby, and the Belmont. The colt tragically and mysteriously died
eight days after the Belmont. Swale would later be named the Champion
would be Woody’s fourth Belmont in a row, this time for Brushwood Stables.
Creme Fraiche would become the first gelding to win the Belmont Stakes. In his
career, he would end up winning 17 races and over $4,000,000.
Stephens’ fifth Belmont victory came the way it all began,
with a horse owned by deKwiatkowski, Danzig Connection
in 1985. Danzig Connection was a home-bred by deKwiatkowski’s
prized stallion, Danzig. In this Belmont
he defeated a field, which included future champion, Ferdinand.
Stephens could get his horses to do things that today’s
thoroughbreds no longer even attempt. His Hall of Fame career included two victories
in the Kentucky Derby, one Preakness, and he trained nine champions. Woody
Stephens did not win the Triple Crown, however he did win the Belmont Stakes
five years in a row, something that no other trainer has ever done.