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Horse Racing, Kentucky Derby at The Downey Profile®

Winning Belmont Stakes Patterns Since 1978


By Dick Downey

Belmont Stakes charts since the last Triple Crown was won show that, in order to succeed in the race, it almost imperative to be in the top three with a quarter-mile left in the race -- and to be on the lead at the furlong marker. Our study of the last 33 runnings follows.

The vast track at Belmont Park makes waiting, waiting and then waiting some more a demanding task for jockeys. You just can't ask your horse to run his best too soon in this race. But at the same time, as our study shows, you must have him in good, forward position when the real running starts.

At a mile into the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, there has been a fairly even distribution of placements among winners during our study. At that point in the race, nine of the 33 winners were on the lead, seven of them were second or third, 11 were fourth through sixth, and six were seventh through ninth. But not one winner was worse than ninth at this point of the race -- and 22 of the fields had more than nine horses.

With a quarter-mile left to run, 27 of our 33 winners, or 81%, were either on the lead or running second or third. Fourteen of those 27 winners just mentioned were in front, and thirteen were either second or third. Five winnners were in fourth at this point in the race, and the sole remaining winner was fifth.

At the furlong marker, the winners of 25 of the 33 runnings, or 75%, were on the the lead, and seven were second or third. Only one was fourth, and none of them was fifth or worse.

Position of Belmont Stakes Horses at Selected Calls

Postition One Mile 1 1/4 Mile 1 3/8 Mile
First 9 14 25
Second or Third 7 13 7
Fourth, Fifth or Sixth 11 6 (5 fourth, 1 fifth) 1 (fourth)
Seventh, Eighth or Ninth 6    
Tenth or More      

Remarkably, only eight of the 33 winners were seventh or worse at the first call of the race -- that call coming after the first two furlongs of running.

Temperance Hill was seventh of 10 at the first call in 1980. Caveat was eleventh of 15 in 1983. Creme Fraiche was tenth of 11 in 1985. Editor's Note was eleventh of 14 in 1996. Victory Gallop was tenth of 11 in 1998. Birdstone was seventh of nine in 2004. Afleet Alex was ninth of 11 in 2005. And in 2006, Jazil was twelfth of 12 -- the only horse in our study to come from worst to first.

Now here's the topper. Five of the last six Triple Crown winners -- Count Fleet (1943), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978) -- all won the Belmont Stakes by running on the lead at every call. Assault stalked his way to victory in 1946.

Since then -- in other words, during the last 33 years -- only two horses have won the Belmont Stakes by leading the field at each call: Swale in 1984 and Da' Tara in 2008.

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