Belmont Stakes: Some close calls, high payouts, small crowds

NEW YORK (AP) If you're looking for close calls in the Belmont Stakes, there's been a few. Nine have been decided by a neck, six by a head and three by a nose – one of which quashed a Triple Crown.

In 1998, Derby and Preakness winner Real Quiet opened a four-length lead into the stretch under Kent Desormeaux. But Victory Gallop – second in each of the first two legs – gained ground steadily, and the two crossed the wire together. It took an agonizing few minutes for the officials to determine Victory Gallop had won.

The other nosers were Granville over Mr. Bones in 1936, and Jaipur over Admiral's Voyage in 1962.

The most significant victory by a head was Affirmed over Alydar to clinch the Triple Crown in 1978.


Last year with American Pharoah seeking a Triple Crown, New York racing officials placed an attendance cap at 90,000 for the Belmont. The record crowd stands at 120,139 in 2004, when Triple Crown hopeful Smarty Jones was upset by Birdsong.

Even with a Derby vs. Preakness rematch, crowds fall way off. In 2013, 47,562 showed up for Derby winner Orb vs. Preakness winner Oxbow (Palace Malice won); and in 2011, 55,779 showed up for Derby winner Animal Kingdom vs. Preakness winner Shackleford (Ruler on Ice won).

Saturday's Belmont has Preakness winner Exaggerator; Derby winner Nyquist isn't running.

The last time the Preakness winner did not face the Derby winner in the Belmont field was 2007, which resulted in the lowest attendance in the past 20 years. An announced crowd of 46,870 turned out to watch the filly Rags to Riches beat Preakness winner Curlin.


Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux has had some of the more memorable rides in Belmont Stakes history. He was aboard Real Quiet in 1998 when Victory Gallop ran down the Derby and Preakness winner and won at the wire by the slightest nose, spoiling what looked to be a certain Triple Crown. The jockey also stunningly pulled up Derby-Preakness winner Big Brown in 2008 around the far turn. The colt finished so far behind he did not officially complete the race. He won one, too – with Summer Bird in 2009. He will be aboard expected favorite Exaggerator on Saturday.


It looks like nearly half the field for the Belmont Stakes could have a touch of gray. While the Kentucky Derby had an unusually high four grays in the 20-horse field, the Belmont is looking like it, too, will have four grays in a field about half the size. They are familiar names: Lani (ninth in Derby, fifth in Preakness), Cherry Wine (second in Preakness), Creator (13th in Derby) and Destin (sixth in Derby).

By the way, only two grays have won the Belmont: Native Dancer in 1953 and High Echelon in 1970.


In the past 20 years, the Belmont favorite has won only three times – Point Given in 2001, Afleet Alex in 2005 and American Pharoah in 2015.


The Belmont Stakes is the oldest of the Triple Crown races. It was first run in 1867 … six years before the Preakness Stakes and eight years before the Kentucky Derby. … The 1921 Belmont was the first to be run counter-clockwise – at 1 3/8 miles over the main course. Previously, the race was run in a clockwise direction, in accordance with English custom. … The first post parade in the U.S. came in the fifth running in 1871.


The highest priced winner on a $2 win bet was Sarava, who returned $142.50 in 2002; the lowest priced winner was Count Fleet ($2.10) in 1943.


Exaggerator will attempt to become the 19th horse to pull off the Preakness-Belmont double. The last to do it was Afleet Alex in 2005 (he finished third in the Derby). Exaggerator was second in the Derby before winning the Preakness. The colt also could become the fifth first letter ''E'' winner. The others were Eric in 1889, Easy Goer in 1989, Editor's Note in 1996 and Empire Maker in 2003.


John Velazquez, who will be aboard likely entry Stradivari in the Belmont, has not fared well recently in the final leg of the Triple Crown. A two-time winner with Rags to Riches (2007) and Union Rags (2012), he was last aboard Materiality in 2015 and did not finish aboard Ride on Curlin in 2014.

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