Top 5 Favorite Belmonts
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

We ranked the Kentucky Derby, we ranked the Preakness and now our panelist rank their favorite installments of the Belmont Stakes. As in our previous Triple Crown Indexes, it’s a mighty classy field, and we even have a tie for fifth!

As always, we assigned points for each vote 1-5 and calculated a total to arrive at the final list.

And the winners are (including their score):

1. Secretariat – 1973 (9.2)
Just like in real life, Secretariat crushes the field.

2. Affirmed – 1978 (6.8)
Dueling almost all the way, Affirmed and Alydar were racing’s greatest rivalry.

3. Rags to Riches – 2007 (6.6)
A seriously gutsy performance that takes down over 100 years of history and an eventual two-time Horse of the Year in a single stretch duel.

4. Point Given – 2001 (1.6)
Recent Hall of Famer reminders us why.

5. Easy Goer – 1989 (1.4) – tie
Revenge is oh so sweet.

5. Birdstone – 2004 (1.4) – tie
An exciting finale to another year of dashed Triple Crown dreams.

Years with 1.2 points:
1988 – Risen Star

Years with 1 point:
1977 – Seattle Slew

Years with .08 points:
1984 – Swale
1983 – Caveat
1976 – Bold Forbes

Years with .06 points:
2005 – Afleet Alex
1982 – Conquistador Cielo
1920 – Man o’War

Years with .04 points:
2009 – Summer Bird
1998 – Victory Gallop

Years with .02 points:
2006 – Jazil
1993 – Colonial Affair
1982-1986 – Woody Stephens
1943 – Count Fleet
1919 – Sir Barton

And last but not least, here’s what our panelists had to say about their selections:

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  • The 1973 and 1978 races are at the top of my personal list. I feel fortunate to be old enough to have seen them on live TV after anticpating them, first vaguely, then sharply, through the juvenile and classic campaigns of Secretariat, Affirmed, and Alydar.

    I just thought I’d mention one that I also felt lucky to see, this time in person: the 1997 race in which Touch Gold denied Silver Charm the Triple Crown, with Free House a gallant third.

    It was an oddly-run race, with Touch Gold inheriting the lead around the first turn when nobody else seemed to want it, then taking back and going from the inside to the outside, circling the latest chapter of the ongoing Silver Charm/Free House battle. Nobody spit the bit, nobody yielded, and it still looked like anybody’s race in mid-stretch.

    Although many fans were disappointed that a Triple Crown didn’t happen, the crowd didn’t seem to feel the disappointment that accompanied the ’04 finish. Touch Gold wasn’t perceived as some kind of interloper; he’d run a phenomenal race to overcome plenty of trouble and finish a close fourth in the Preakness. And I think most fans knew that Silver Charm, just a little bit better than Free House and Captain Bodgit in the Derby, and just a little bit better than Free House, Captain Bodgit and Touch Gold in the Preakness, might just be a little bit worse than any one of those on some other day.

    When I watch the recordings of the ’97 Triple Crown races, including the Belmont, they’re still a thrill.

  • How could you rank Man O’War’s Belmont so low unless you understand little about his 20 length victory…The WORLD RECORD for the distance at that time was 2:16 4/5 set in Liverpool England and he destroyed it in 2:14……

    Not everything marvelous happened yesterday

  • People around the WORLD use the 1973 Belmont as the pinnacle to compare all other races to……1:09 and change for 6 panels and he still kept running? NO horse could do that today, or for that matter, in the last 60 years

  • Thanks for the comments!

    A.Charles – thanks for sharing the insight about the depth of the 97 TC, I personally think a situation like that is much more interesting than one with a dominate favorite, which is what we might had this year with Eskendereya if it had worked out differently.

    Jurmon – you’ll note the title of the post is “Top 5 Favorite Belmonts”, not “5 Best Belmonts”. You’ll also note if you read some of the panelists selections that many, myself included, ranked races that they witnessed personally higher than races that were arguably better.

    Incredible races such as Man o’War’s and Citation’s are at a huge disadvantage in a situation like this because we can’t see the replays. But, every single Belmont race chart is available at the Belmont site, which is pretty great! It certainly helps give more context to some of the stellar races that we have no way of seeing.

  • Arcaro used to mention that Citation went down on his nose out of the gate in his Belmont and recovered to handle the challenge not unlike the little lady handing it to Curlin as she too went down at the start.

  • NO ONE has any historical perspective any longer. You mention Equipoise Imp or Pan Zareta and you are greeted with a blank stare…….Nashua and Native Dancer won this with ease as well. Stage Door Johnny ran a remarkable race as well.

  • re: historical perspective & only speaking for myself, I discovered racing four years ago so even becoming acquainted with the recent racing history of the last 20-30 years is taking time.

    It sounds like you’ve got a lot of historical insight to share, and I might suggest that you take a page from the A.Charles playbook and do so in the spirit of clueing new folks in vs. complaining that “NO ONE has any historical perspective any longer”. While I can see how that would be frustrating, this would be an opportunity to provide historical perspective vs. being alienating.

    and re: Citation/Rags to Riches – that was one of the things that made her performance so impressive (and going wide… I was sitting right on the turn and got good look at her winding up, it was incredible!).

  • Jumron, I’ve highlighted Pan Zareta, Imp and Equipoise on my site over the years (although I like to make things a little more international than just the US & Europe – it’s Ajax this month) – and I highly recommend you check out Colin’s Ghost for more on racing history. As for Man O’ War, he had a little help in breaking that earlier record, too – he was on dirt, not grass, and that (coupled with natural ability) made a difference in the times – insofar as you can consider early times terribly accurate, that is. But as Dana says, we’re talking about our favorites – which are, typically, ones you can actually see, whether it was live or on a replay. It doesn’t mean we don’t love history (speaking as someone who is still a professional historian, at least until Friday), but it’s an entirely different question – perhaps an idea for a future Index.

  • world records are comparable on both surfaces. One is not inherently faster than the other……Data states otherwise

  • No, one is not inherently faster than the other – but the fact remains that track maintenance patterns, the weather and changes in each individual surface over time mean that you’re never comparing them on a one-to-one basis – and an early twentieth-century dirt track was almost certainly ‘faster’ than a nineteenth-century turf track. Add in the fact that timing equipment improves over time and you have to call into question the accuracy of earlier readings – many eighteenth and nineteenth century records had more to do with folklore than reality.

  • I love these lists because they give the panelists to say what their top five was. I loved Secretariat’s run and I watch it on YouTube once/month just because but it didn’t make my list here for no particular reason except five others are dearer in my heart.

    I simply love Hello Race Fans! It’s the freshest site for horse racing to come along in some time.

  • Thanks Turk, and thanks for participating!


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