Even when the Triple Crown is not up for grabs, like this year, the Belmont Stakes can produce plenty of drama. Such was the case in 2007, when Rags to Riches, left, edged the great colt Curlin to become the first filly in 102 years to win the race. Shaun O'Neill revisits the five most memorable Belmont moments of recent generations.
Might as well start with the last Triple Crown winner. We have to go back 33 years to find him. That was Affirmed, guided by 18-year-old jockey Steve Cauthen. The Affirmed-Alydar rivalry, legendary in the sport, peaked in the Triple Crown races as Alydar finished second to Affirmed in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and, finally, the Belmont Stakes.
Rags to Riches, 2007
Trainer Todd Pletcher was atop his profession, except for an embarrassing 0-for-28 record in Triple Crown races. So who can blame him for taking a chance by running a filly in the the Belmont, which at 1-1/2 miles is the longest race of the series. Rags to Riches was impeccably bred for the distance, sired by Belmont winner A.P. Indy by a dam, Better Than Honour, who produced the previous year's Belmont champion, Jazil. Rags to Riches overcame a stumble at the gate to edge Curlin in a thrilling stretch duel and end Pletcher's drought.
Victory Gallop, 1998
Of all the Triple Crown close calls since Affirmed's sweep in 1978, this is the one to replay over and over, hoping for another outcome. Lightly regarded Real Quiet was a surprise victor in the Derby and Preakness and then opened a four-length lead in the stretch. But Victory Gallop was moving fast after a move from the rear. Real Quiet and Victory Gallop went shoulder to shoulder in deep stretch, bumping all the way. It took a photo to discern Victory Gallop, left, got a nose in front at the wire. Had the photo been reversed, the stewards very well might have had to disqualify a horse out of a Triple Crown.
This one makes the list not just because of what happened in the race — Charismatic's bid for the Triple Crown fell just short when he faded to third in the stretch — but because of what happened after the race. The duality of the horse as both a worker and a friend was on fulll display. Charismatic, it turned out, had suffered a broken left front leg in the final strides as Lemon Drop Kid prevailed. Jockey Chris Antley sensed something was wrong, hopped off the horse immediately and held up the injured leg while calming the animal until help arrived. His actions likely saved the life of Charismatic, who never raced again.
The top Belmont moment just might be the sport's greatest moment. Secretariat destroyed the field by 31 lengths to complete his Triple Crown coronation. The words of CBS race-caller Chick Anderson, "He is moving like a tremendous machine," are enough to make any race fan's spine tingle. He's every bit as tremendous 38 years later.