The 149th running of the Belmont Stakes will take place at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, on Saturday, June 10. It’s the final jewel in North American horse racing’s Triple Crown, but there will be no Triple Crown winner this year, as Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming finished eighth at the Preakness Stakes.

The Belmont Stakes is the toughest of the three Triple Crown races at a lengthy 1 ½ miles. Here’s a look back at how it came to be known as the “Test of the Champion.”

 

History

The first Belmont Stakes was held at Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx in 1867. It was moved to Morris Park Racecourse in 1890 and then on to Belmont Park after it opened in 1905. The race has been run every year since, except for 1911 and 1912 when it was canceled due to anti-gambling laws.

The Belmont Stakes started at a mile and five furlongs, but it has been a 1.5-mile race since 1926. In total, 23 horses have missed the Triple Crown by winning the first two Triple Crown races, but failing to win the Belmont Stakes. The most recent example is California Chrome in 2014.

 

Records

Secretariat, arguably the greatest horse in the history of thoroughbred racing, holds the speed record at the Belmont. He captured his 1973 win in 2:24, two seconds faster than 1989 winner Easy Goer. Secretariat also destroyed the field in 1973, winning by an incredible 31 lengths.

In terms of jockeys, Jim McLaughlin and Eddie Arcaro lead the way with six wins at the Belmont Stakes, while Earl Sande and Bill Shoemaker are next with five. James G. Rowe Sr., who is also one of two men to win the Belmont Stakes as a trainer and a jockey, leads all trainers with eight wins here. He’s followed by Sam Hildreth with seven and Jim Fitzsimmons with six.

The largest attendance in the history of the Belmont came in 2004 when 120,139 people came through the gates. Typically, they try to cap the crowds at the Belmont Stakes, which is why attendance numbers are usually smaller than the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

 

Traditions

Like the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes has its own traditions. It’s called “The Run for the Carnations,” as the winning horse is draped in a bouquet of white carnations. The winning owner gets the August Belmont Trophy.

There has been a number of songs connected with the Belmont, starting with “The Sidewalks of New York,” then Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York.” In 2010, the Belmont tried to draw in a younger audience by using Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” but it was since changed back to Sinatra.

Originally, the official drink was the white carnation, but it was switched to the Belmont Breeze in 2011. After poor reviews, it was again changed. It’s now the Belmont Jewel, which is bourbon, lemonade, pomegranate juice and a lemon wedge or cherry for garnish.