The 2015 Belmont Stakes

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In 150th Year, Belmont Stakes Steeped In Tradition

June 09, 2018 - 7:00 am
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By Laurie Jo Miller Farr

Hello, Long Island. Twenty miles west of Times Square, the Belmont Stakes in Elmont is the third and final race of the famous Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing. On Saturday, it could produce a Triple Crown winner in Justify, a chestnut colt with a bold, white blaze on his forehead who is being challenged by nine worthy contenders. That guarantees a 100,000-plus sellout crowd in the largest grandstand in thoroughbred racing, in addition to a massive television viewing audience of 20 million-plus viewers. All eyes will be on the starting gate for post time at 6:46 p.m.  

A Triple Crown Contender

Excitement builds during the five weeks following the Kentucky Derby and the three weeks following the Preakness Stakes, heightened manifold when a 3-year-old has a chance at the greatest accomplishment in thoroughbred racing. Having won both earlier races (in rain-soaked and muddy conditions), Justify could cinch it at Belmont this year, a rare accomplishment that has occurred only 12 times previously. 

A Long Tradition of Thoroughbred Racing

This June, the racing world marks the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, 107 times held at Belmont Park. For more than a century, dreams have been crushed and legends have been made on this hallowed ground. Nicknamed the "Test of the Champion," and the "Run for the Carnations," the Belmont Stakes is a 1 1/2-mile-long race on a dirt track, one of the longest for a first-class race, with a purse of $1.5 million. The 1973 Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown winner Secretariat holds the track and world record on dirt of 2:24.

MORE: Best Horse Racing Movies Of All-Time

Song Traditions At Belmont

Steeped in history, Belmont has traditions, including an official song, drink and flower. The song tradition is also in place at the first two Triple Crown races: "My Old Kentucky Home" at the Kentucky Derby and "Maryland, My Maryland" at the Preakness Stakes. While the New York-themed song has shifted several times over the years, the theme from “New York, New York," famously sung by Frank Sinatra in 1978, is currently "king of the hill" at Belmont Park.   

Drink Tradition At Belmont

The Kentucky Derby has its fancy hats and mint juleps, and the Belmont Stakes also has an official drink. Have you ever had a Belmont Breeze? Twenty-one years ago, the drink won out over the White Carnation to be selected. In 2011, the Belmont Breeze name was tweaked, and since 2011, the official drink has been known as the Belmont Jewel. If you can't make it to the races in person, fix up a Belmont Jewel at home. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 ounces of bourbon, 2 ounces of lemonade and 1 ounce of pomegranate juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and pour over a glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge and enjoy!

LISTEN: Belmont Stakes Racing Festival Podcast

Flower Traditions At Belmont

If Justify becomes the 13th Triple Crown champion, he will have a 40-pound blanket of 700 top quality flowers draped over him after the race in the winner's circle as the world looks on. Pure white carnations are a symbol of love and luck, and surely the Belmont Stakes champ will be showered with plenty of both.  

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