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At 12 furlongs and the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes lives up to its nickname as “The Test of the Champion”. Many of the greatest horses in American racing history have proved themselves a champion over the demanding and expansive course at Belmont Park.
The greatest Triple Crown winner of them all, Secretariat, turned in his very best performance in this race and is forever immortalized with a statue in the paddock. While his record will likely never be broken, the best 3-year-olds in the nation each year will continue to try.
Without further adieu, here are the eight fastest Belmont Stakes times in history.
After dazzling displays in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the champion chestnut came to Belmont Park expecting to become the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. Let’s just say that he did not disappoint.
With a final time of 2:24 flat, Secretariat not only set a track record for 1 1/2-miles at Belmont Park which still stands, but he ran away from his competition with breathtaking ease. The final margin at the wire was a staggering 31 lengths.
The Penny Chenery-owned star etched his name in history with the greatest performance in the history of the Triple Crown. His final time has not been approached since and will likely stand as long as the race is run.
A champion at 2, this strapping son of Alydar was expected to roll through the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but it did not happen. A new star had emerged from California named Sunday Silence. After upsetting Easy Goer in the Kentucky Derby, he also defeated his rival in a thrilling battle in the Preakness.
Back home at Belmont Park, Easy Goer would have his revenge in the Belmont Stakes. A powerful surge on the far turn carried Easy Goer right by his rival and the Shug McGaughey-trained star rolled home to an eight-length victory in the second fastest time in Belmont history.
After having to miss the first two legs of the Triple Crown due to a bone bruise, the son of Seattle Slew was back ready to regain his position atop the 3-year-old crop. He battled by the Preakness winner Pine Bluff in the stretch, and had plenty to hold off the late run of My Memoirs to win by three-quarters of a length in the excellent time of 2:26.13.
A regally bred $2.9 million yearling purchase, A.P. Indy would go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic later that year at Gulfstream Park, securing his title as the Horse of the Year. Retired after the season, he went on to become one of America’s great sires.
A tough trip in the Kentucky Derby only allowed for a fast-closing third-place finish, but this son of Secretariat was only getting started. A victorious run in the Preakness sent him to the Belmont Stakes as the favorite, and there he reminded many of his sensational sire.
Staying in touch of the early pace set by the Kentucky Derby-winning filly Winning Colors, Risen Star took control early and powered down the stretch to win by 14 3/4 lengths in a final time 2:26.4, which at the time was the second fastest in history. Unfortunately, an injury prevented him from ever running again.
A strong favorite for that season’s Kentucky Derby, being too close to a fast early pace ultimately did in the powerful son of Thunder Gulch. That would prove his only hiccup in an otherwise perfect sophomore year. Consecutive wins in the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, and Travers were more than enough to secure a championship.
His win in the Belmont Stakes was the most impressive of all, as he seized command at the top of the lane and cruised home an easy winner by more than twelve lengths. The 2001 Horse of the Year stopped the timer in 2:26.56, which remains the fastest Belmont of the 21st Century.
While most of these fastest times in Belmont history happened after Secretariat, Gallant Man is the one outlier. As part of one of America’s greatest crops in history, this son of Migoli was denied victory in the Kentucky Derby when rider Willie Shoemaker misjudged the finish line.
Undeterred, the future Hall of Famer came back to run right by the favored Bold Ruler on his way to a big eight-length victory. The final time of 2:26.60 stood as the Belmont Park track record for 16 years until it was shattered by the all-time performance of Secretariat.
It had been 37 long years without a Triple Crown winner, until this son of Pioneerof the Nile came along. A champion at 2, the Bob Baffert-trained colt was even better at 3. Wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness sent him to New York as a big favorite to end the drought.
Taking over from the outset, American Pharoah cruised along on the lead, rattling off solid and consistent fractions from gate to wire. Down the lane, he pulled away to win by 5 1/2 lengths in front of a raucous Belmont Park crowd. His final time of 2:26.85 is the second fastest recorded in the 21st Century. A win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland later that year, secured his place in racing history.
While Sunday Silence and Easy Goer was an excellent rivalry, there was nothing quite like the consistent battles of Affirmed and Alydar. Contested before and after the Triple Crown, it was in this series where they will always be remembered. While Alydar got the best of his great rival a few times, the Triple Crown was all Affirmed.
After running 1-2 in the first two legs, the pair had an epic duel in the Belmont Stakes, which will never be forgotten. Battling together for most of the race, the pair came down the stretch together. It briefly looked like Alydar was going to get by, but Affirmed courageously battled back on the inside to prevail by a short head in racehorse time of 2:26.80.
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
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