Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner American Pharoah will start from the No. 5 post in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, where he’ll look to become the first horse in 37 years to win the prestigious Triple Crown. There is reason to believe in American Pharoah based on superstition and the post draw alone, however, if you’re into that kind of thing. None of the last 13 Derby-Preakness double winners started from the fifth position in the third jewel, and the No. 5 post has produced the third-most Belmont wins in the last 110 years, with 14 since 1905, trailing only the No. 3 (15) and the rail (23). So will American Pharoah dominate? We’ll have to wait to find out, but in the meantime, we’ll relive 10 of the best Belmonts — or worst, depending on whom you ask — since Secretariat’s world record run in 1973:
Big Red rolls
Secretariat's 1973 Belmont is the standard by which all horses and races are judged. Big Red rolled to a 31-length victory and created indelible memories. The run was the stuff of which movies are made ... and one was.
Getty ImagesHerb Scharfman/Sports Imagery
Affirmed outdoes Alydar, I II, III
One year after Seattle Slew, Affirmed made Triple Crown history, as well, in one of the more exciting and memorable Belmonts. In a field of five, Affirmed went head-to-head with rival Alydar — whom he had gone 4-2 against as a two-year-old, then beaten by 1½ lengths in the Derby and a neck in the Preakness — in a race that went down to the wire. Ultimately, the 3-5 odds-on favorite Affirmed held off Alydar, winning by a head at 2:26⅘ in one of the closest finishes in Belmont history.
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'Easy' does it
Secretariat’s world-record time of 2:24 in the Belmont has never been and may never be challenged by another horse, but Easy Goer got as close as anyone in 1989, posting a blistering time of 2:26 in an eight-length win over Triple Crown contender and 4-5 favorite Sunday Silence. After running third behind Sunday Silence and Le Voyageur, Easy Goer made his move, leaving both horses in his dust as his lead over the field grew by nearly four lengths down the home stretch.
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Point Given surges to victory
Another blazing time in the Belmont came courtesy of Point Given, who ran 2:26⅘ in 2001 in a 12½- length win, one of the largest margins since Secretariat bested the field by 31 lengths in ‘73. Arguably the best horse to miss out on a Triple Crown, Point Given was trained by American Pharoah trainer Bob Baffert. He ran a poor race in the Derby, finishing fifth, but beat A P Valentine — ridden by American Pharoah jockey Victor Espinoza —by 2¼ lengths in the Preakness, then came from the outside to lay waste to A P Valentine, Derby-winner Monarchos and everyone else in the mile and a half.
Getty ImagesJeff Gross
Rags to Riches fits the bill perfectly
In 2007, Rags to Riches accomplished a feat rarer than a Triple Crown as she became the third filly to win the Belmont Stakes and the first to do it in more than 100 years. Before Rags to Riches won with a time of 2:28.74, Tanya (in 1905) and Ruthless (in 1867, the first running of the Belmont Stakes) were the only females to win, and Rags to Riches did it by a narrow margin, beating Preakness-winner Curlin by a head in the closest Belmont finish in the last 15 years.
Getty ImagesMatthew Stockman
'Bid' fails spectacularly
Spectacular Bid (pictured winning the Preakness) appeared poised to make it three Triple Crowns in as many years in 1979, as he took a 12-race winning streak into Belmont, the two most recent coming in a 2¾-length win in the Derby and a 5½-length win at the Preakness. Those victories led jockey Ronnie Franklin to describe Spectacular Bid’s Triple Crown bid as a “cinch.” But at Belmont, after Spectacular Bid was found to have stepped on a safety pin the morning of the race, Franklin rode a poor trip, Spectacular Bid ran out of steam and the horse was ultimately passed by Coastal and Golden Act down the stretch in a disappointing loss.
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Silver Charm's run tarnished
After eight years without a Derby and Preakness winner in the Belmont field, Silver Charm broke the trend in 1997. The Bob Baffert-trained horse came into New York expected to put the then-19-year Triple Crown drought to rest and appeared poised to do just that, but Touch Gold, ridden by Chris McCarron, made a late, hard charge and passed Free House and Silver Charm to win by a half-length. Just last year McCarron, now retired, called the spoiling a Triple Crown “bittersweet” in an interview with FOX Sports and said he felt “melancholy” after the win.
Getty ImagesAndy Lyons
A 'Real' heartbreaker
In arguably the most exciting Belmont Stakes finish, Victory Gallop stunned a crowd of 80,162 in 1998 as he surged past another Baffert Triple Crown contender, Real Quiet, preventing history by a nostril in a win that was far too close to call in real time. The margin was so narrow it led legendary Belmont announcer Tom Durkin to proclaim: “A picture is worth a thousand words. This photo is worth five million dollars,” and it’s one few racing fans in New York — or anywhere else — have forgotten.
AFP/Getty ImagesHENNY ABRAMS
Smarty Jones is run down by Birdstone
There’s no such thing as a sure thing in racing, but Smarty Jones was about as close as you could get to one in 2004, after winning the Kentucky Derby by 2¾ lengths, then winning the Preakness by a record 11½ lengths. The racing world had done everything short of engraving Smarty Jones’ name on the Triple Crown trophy, but then, in one of the most stunning results in Belmont history, 36-1 longshot Birdstone chased Smarty Jones down over the final furlong and won by a length in front of a crowd of 120,139 that remains a record.
Getty ImagesBill McCay
Big Brown pulls up
In one of the more infamous results in Belmont history, Big Brown became the only Triple Crown contender to not finish the race, as jockey Kent Desormeaux pulled up Big Brown as he and the horse came around the final turn. Desormeaux would later say that the race — won by 38-1 longshot Da’Tara — was “over by the five-eighths pole for me” and explained that he pulled up because he “had no horse” under him. Big Brown, who’d had a cracked hoof patched between the Preakness and Belmont, was ultimately not found to be injured during the race.