The Belmont Stakes is a prestigious American Grade I stakes race held yearly in June at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. The race is the third leg of the Triple Crown, following five weeks after the Kentucky Derby, and three weeks after the Preakness Stakes. It is a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old colts and geldings carrying a weight of 126 pounds (57 kg) and for fillies with a weight of 121 pounds (55 kg).
The Belmont Stakes is called the "Run for the Carnations" because of the blanket of white carnations that are draped over the winner's neck. Through 1996, the post parade song was "Sidewalks of New York." Beginning in 1997, the audience was invited to sing the Theme from New York, New York following the call to the post. This tradition mirrors the singing of two other songs at the post parades of the first two Triple Crown races, My Old Kentucky Home at the Kentucky Derby and Maryland, My Maryland at the Preakness Stakes.
The first Belmont Stakes was held at Jerome Park Racetrack in The Bronx, built in 1866 by stock market speculator Leonard Jerome (1817-1891) and financed by August Belmont, Sr. (1816-1890) for whom the race was named. The race continued to be held at Jerome Park until 1890 when it was moved to the nearby facility, Morris Park Racecourse. The race remained there until the May 1905 opening of the new Belmont Park, 430 acre (1.7 km²) racetrack in Elmont, New York.
Anti-betting legislation was passed in New York State, closing Belmont and canceling the race for two years between 1911 and 1912.
The first post parade in the United States was at the 14th Belmont, in 1880. Until 1921, the race was run in the clockwise tradition of English racing.
The race was run "English style" or in a clock-wise direction, until 1921, with the winner Grey Lag, which was the first time the Belmont was run in the American or counter-clockwise direction.
Since 1926, a silver bowl, made by Louis Comfort Tiffany and donated by the Belmont family, has been given to the winning owner. Atop the bowl's cover is a silver figure of Fenian, winner of the third running of the Belmont Stakes in 1869. The bowl is supported by three horses - Herod, Eclipse and Matchem, representing the three foundation sires of the thoroughbred world, the Byerly Turk, the Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Barb.
Because of its length (one lap around the enormous Belmont main track), and because it is the final race of the Triple Crown, it is called the "Test of the Champion". Most three-year-olds are unaccustomed to the distance, and lack the experience, if not the ability, to maintain a winning speed for so long. In a long race such as the Belmont, positioning of the horse and the timing of the move to chase for the lead can be critical.
The race distance has varied: from 1867 until 1873, it was 1⅝ miles (2.6 km). In 1874 the distance was reduced to 1½ miles (2.4 km), and from 1890 to 1892, and in 1895, the distance was 1¼ miles (2 km). From 1896 until 1925, the distance was increased to 1 3/8 miles (2.3 km). In 1926, the race distance was set at the present 1½ miles (2.4 km).
Due to the reconstruction of Belmont from 1963-1967, the race was held at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Evolution of the Triple Crown series
Since 1931, the order of Triple Crown races has been the Kentucky Derby first, followed by the Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes. Prior to 1931, eleven times the Preakness was run before the Derby. On May 12, 1917 and again on May 13, 1922, the Preakness and the Derby were run on the same day. On eleven occasions the Belmont Stakes was run before the Preakness Stakes. 
The first official recognition of the Triple Crown was the 1919 series won by Sir Barton.
The Belmont Stakes is held on the first Saturday that falls on or after June 5. The Kentucky Derby is always held on the first Saturday in May; the Preakness Stakes is held two weeks later; and the Belmont Stakes is held three weeks after the Preakness. The earliest possible date for the Derby is May 1, thus the earliest possible date for the Belmont is June 5.
Changes in distance
Run at a mile and five furlongs from 1867 to 1873; a mile and a quarter in 1890, 1891, 1892, 1895, 1904 and 1905; a mile and a furlong in 1893 and 1894; a mile and three furlongs from 1896 to 1903 and from 1906 to 1925. The current distance of a mile and half was established in 1926.
Despite the fact that the Belmont Stakes is the oldest of the triple crown races, its traditions have been less venerable and more subject to change. The theme song, which for decades was "The Sidewalks of New York," was changed in 1997 to "New York, New York" in an effort to appeal to younger fans. That same year the official drink was also changed, from the "White Carnation" to the "Belmont Breeze." The New York Times reviewed both cocktails unfavorably, calling the Belmont Breeze "a significant improvement over the nigh undrinkable White Carnation" despite the fact that it "tastes like a refined trashcan punch."
More longstanding are the silver winner's trophy designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, first presented to a Stakes winner in 1869 and donated by the Belmont family for annual presentation in 1926; and the blanket of white carnations with which the winner is decorated after the race.
From 1986 until 2005, the Triple Crown television rights comprised a single package. In late 2004, the New York Racing Association withdrew from that agreement to negotiate independently.
- CBS Sports 1960–1985
- ABC Sports 1986–2000
- NBC Sports 2001–2005
- ESPN on ABC 2006–present
Trainers with most wins
- 8 - James G. Rowe, Sr.
- 7 - Sam Hildreth
- 6 - Jim Fitzsimmons
- 5 - Woody Stephens (all consecutive from 1982–1986)
- 4 - Max Hirsch, D. Wayne Lukas, R. Wyndham Walden
- 3 - J. Elliott Burch, John M. Gaver, Sr., Lucien Laurin, Frank McCabe, David McDaniel
- 2 - Thomas J. Barry, Scotty Schulhofer, Sylvester Veitch, Oscar White, John W. Rogers, Nick Zito
Jockeys with most wins
- 6 - Jim McLaughlin, Eddie Arcaro
- 5 - Earl Sande, Bill Shoemaker
- 3 - Braulio Baeza, Pat Day, Laffit Pincay, Jr., James Stout, Gary Stevens
- 1874 - Saxon Flag of the United Kingdom
- 1898 - Bowling Brook Flag of the United Kingdom
- 1917 - Hourless Flag of the United Kingdom
- 1918 - Johren Flag of the United Kingdom
- 1957 - Gallant Man Flag of the United Kingdom
- 1958 - Cavan Flag of Ireland
- 1960 - Celtic Ash Flag of the United Kingdom
- 1990 - Go And Go Flag of Ireland
- 1998 - Victory Gallop Flag of Canada
Only James G. Rowe, Sr. and George M. Odom have won the Belmont Stakes as both jockey and trainer.
On June 5, 1993 thoroughbred racing's all-time leading female jockey, Julie Krone, became the first woman to win a Triple Crown race when she rode to victory in the Belmont Stakes aboard Colonial Affair.
In 1984, Sarah Lundy became the first female trainer to saddle a horse in the Belmont Stakes.
Secretariat's 1973 Belmont victory set a world record (2:24 flat) not only for the race, but for the mile and a half (2.4 km) on dirt, that still stands going into the 2009 race. At 31 lengths, his margin of victory is not only the race record, but the largest in the history of American Grade 1 stakes races.
Note: D. Wayne Lukas swept the 1995 Triple Crown with two different horses.