Chasing the Triple Crown – The Belmont Stakes, Part III


{Heather’s View}

The Belmont Stakes are held in Elmont, NY just east of Queens on Long Island. Days after the Preakness, Belmont felt so hopeful and exciting.  As time drew closer to the final race, the excitement started to change to disappointment.

The Bodemeister, I’ll Have Another’s biggest rival, team decided to pass on Belmont leaving it all but locked in for our boy to sweep the crown – or so we wished. There were grumblings of a tendon issue and as the time got closer to the race the grumblings grew louder.

Our boy had tendon issues. Having a beloved horse that was forced into retirement early due to a bowed tendon, I understood the severity of the race horses reported injury.  It was a devastating injury not just for the horse but for the entire team behind I’ll Have Another (including us).

Heather and Matt sad their Triple Crown hopes were crushed.

Heather and Matt sad their Triple Crown hopes were crushed.

The official scratch from the race didn’t come until the day before the race.  After the announcement, the energy deflated like a sail without wind. All hopes for a Triple Crown season gone. We had already gotten our grandstand tickets and were still set on going. Belmont was a beautiful location located just outside of NYC. The atmosphere was calmer but still really fun.

One thing we did notice right away was the piles of I’ll Have Another hand posters trashed all over the grounds.  It was sad to see everyone walk and kick right over all of them. It was such a “done and move on” type scenario. A reminder of how horses are washed up and forgotten so quickly in this business.

I'll Have Another's posters littered the floor.

I’ll Have Another’s posters littered the floor.

We spent a lot of time wandering in and out of the inner field and the grandstand.  The fever for the race was just blah compared to the other two races. Which was a shame because I liked the setup at Belmont. The paddock area was outside the grandstand and more of an open area. You couldn’t get quite as close to the horses and jockeys as you could at KY, but the grounds are beautiful.

We grabbed our Belmont Jewel, the new official drink of the race,  made our bets but just couldn’t gather the muster of excitement we had previously. The race was good, and the racetrack views were lovely with all the trees and greenery.

The leaders pulling away from the pack.

The leaders pulling away from the pack.

As we left Belmont and walked over all those trashed posters with our boys photo,  we reminisced how we almost were part of a Triple Crown season.  We had a great time chasing the dream. Thank you, I’ll Have Another!

Heather and Matt happy to have chased the triple crown.

Heather and Matt were happy to have chased the triple crown.

[Matthew’s View]

Having been to two previous horse races, I began fooling myself into thinking I knew the first thing about the sport. Telling myself that I’ll Have Another‘s style was to come from behind near the end of the race and just annihilate the competition. So Belmont having the longest track would be the perfect place for this horse to complete the Triple Crown. It was practically like this was predetermined fate that this race was for all the marbles on the longest of the three tracks. Especially, since he almost didn’t have enough room to pull his popular move at Preakness, which in turn is the shortest track. Consequently, the wait for the final race was becoming unbearable, and when race day came I was ripe with anticipation until I heard the worst news ever…

I’ll Have Another was being pulled from the race, mere hours before he was set to compete. All of the excitement for the day just let out of me, and I felt like a deflated balloon. He had an injury to his left front foot, similar to tendinitis. As we reached Belmont Park, the atmosphere was subdued, and it certainly seemed as though this news had affected attendance, as the insane crowds didn’t seem to be present. The horse that was set to end a 35-year gap of Triple Crown winners was sorely missed.

One of the races before the Belmont Stakes.

One of the races before the Belmont Stakes.

We had gotten seats for this race as well, and as we explored the grounds and slowly made our way towards them, I had to bring my attention to new things. First of all, Belmont Park was by far the most beautiful of the three tracks we visited. A very lush green made up the infield, replace the throngs of drunken partiers. We had time to sit in the stands and watch a few of the races, with no skin in the game you were able to be truly impressed by the magnificent animals. I ended up betting on a few different horses for the stakes race, none of which panned out, and none of which were quite as extraordinary as I’ll Have Another.

Union Rags on his way to win the Belmont Stakes.

Union Rags on his way to winning the Belmont Stakes.

We would recommend to anyone to chase the spectacle that is the Triple Crown one year. All three tracks are quite distinct from each other, and all have their traditions and special beverage. It is fun and crazy addictive. If you can make only one race before you die, we would put our money on the Kentucky Derby.


The Belmont Stakes is an American Grade 1 stakes Thoroughbred horse race held every June at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. The race is the third and final leg of the US Triple Crown, following exactly five weeks after the Kentucky Derby, and three weeks after the Preakness Stakes. Consequently, it is run on Saturday, but never before June 5, nor after June 11. It is nicknamed “The Test of the Champion” due to its staggering 1 ½ mile course. Belmont Stakes, which is the oldest of the Triple Crown races, is sometimes dubbed the “Run for the Carnations” because the winning horse is blanketed with white carnations.

The first Belmont Stakes was held at Jerome Park Racetrack in The Bronx, built in 1866 by stock market speculator Leonard Jerome and financed by August Belmont, Sr., 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 acres (1.7 km) racetrack in Elmont, New York, on Long Island just outside the New York City borough of Queens. When anti-gambling legislation was passed in New York State, Belmont Racetrack was closed, and the race was cancelled in 1911 and 1912.

Would you or have you chased the Triple Crown?

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Comments 2

  1. I really enjoyed your three-part account of all three races. My wife and I throw a Derby-viewing party most years. It’s pretty much the main reason we grow mint in our garden. My wife was a big horse rider in childhood, I’ve been on a horse once, but love putting on a bowtie and my white bucks. I’ve been toying with the idea of actually going to the Derby, but at 42, the infield just doesn’t appeal to me (and no way I’d be able to keep my bucks clean 🙂 ), and tickets with an actual seat are just so expensive. Preakness grandstand is really affordable though, but sounds like the overall experience isn’t quite the same as Derby. And Belmont, do you think the atmosphere seemed subdued to you because of the letdown of I’ll Have Another not racing, or do you think it would have felt lackluster even if he had run and won the Triple Crown?

    It’s a shame about the physical condition of Pimlico, and the area around it. You’d think the city and/or state would put some money into revitalizing the venue and regentrifying the area around it, make it a real destination. I know Baltimore is rough, but they did a good job making and keeping the Inner Harbor a nice place, you think they could expand that.

    Have you gone to any other famous racetracks, like Saratoga, Santa Anita, Keeneland or to any other fun horse race events, like Foxfield, the Carolina Cup, etc?

  2. Pingback: Chasing the Triple Crown - The Preakness Stakes, Part II - Travelationship

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