Horses racing on a track.

Here we are, at long last, about to see the Belmont Stakes, the traditional third and last leg of the Triple Crown. The “Test of the Champion” posts up on Saturday, June 11 at the Belmont Park track in New York, in the final and oldest of the Triple Crown races.

The Belmont is a Grade 1 stakes race designed for three-year-old thoroughbreds, and it’s a tough, challenging one. At 1 ½ miles – a full lap of the Belmont track known as ‘The Big Sandy’ – it takes a lot of stamina to run it, and run it fast.

The Big Sandy is also known as “The Championship Track”, because almost every single American champion in racing history has competed on it. Some past speed record breakers have included Man o’War, who won in 1920 with a speed of 2:14.20; the legendary Secretariat zoomed to a finish at 2:24 flat in 1973, and in 2020 Tiz The Law broke all the records at a mind-blowing 1:46.53. Just for a bake-your-noodle-comparison: The speed record for a human running a mile and a half is the United Kingdom’s Eddie Hall, the “World’s Strongest Man”, who pounded it out in 11:24 back in 2020. That’s pretty impressive for bipedals, but every horse we just mentioned would have passed him five times.

Put simply, this race is tactically all about speed, and it’s rare for a horse to come from behind in a surprise win the way Rich Strike did in the Kentucky Derby six weeks ago. That being said, never say never – especially since he’s running in this one, after having earlier taken a break after the Derby and opted out of the Preakness.

This is also a comparatively smaller race, with only eight horses competing for the big blanket of carnations and the $1.5 million winner’s purse. Three of them are connected to Ocala: Mo Donegal, Creative Minister, and SkippyLongstocking.

Contenders with Florida Ties

Mo Donegal
Color Sex: Bay Colt
Kentucky Derby Qualifying Points: 112
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Owner: Donegal Racing
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Breeder: Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stables (Kentucky)
Breeding: Uncle Mo – Callingmissbrown, by Pulpit
Auction History: 2020 Keeneland September, Purchased by Donegal Racing for $250,000 from Ashview Farm consignment
Last Race: Won Wood Memorial presented by Resort World Casino (Grade 2) at Aqueduct on April 9.
Record: 5-3-0-2
Earnings: $621,800
Ocala/Florida Notes: Early training at AbraCadabra Farms in Ocala, Florida
Creative Minister
Post Position: 2
Morning Line Odds: 10-1
Color Sex: Grey or Roan colt
Trainer: Kenneth G. McPeek
Owner: Fern Circle Stables and Back Racing LLC
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
Breeder: Dell Ridge Farm LLC (Kentucky)
Breeding: Creative Cause – Tamboz, by Tapit
Auction History: $180,000 by Kenneth McPeek as agent at 2020 Keeneland September where he was consigned by St George Sales.
Last Races: Won an allowance race at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard on May 7.
Record: 3-2-1-0
Earnings: $140,595
Ocala/Florida Notes: Trained at Silverleaf Training Center, Summerfield, Florida.

Post Position: 9
Morning Line: 20-1
Color Sex: Bay colt
Trainer: Saffie A. Joseph Jr.
Owner: Daniel Alonso
Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Breeder: Brushy Hill LLC (Kentucky)
Breeding: Exaggerator – Florida-bred mare Twinkling, by War Chant
Auction History: $37,000 Purchase by Daniel Alonso at 2021 OBS Spring Sale where he was consigned by Top Line Sales.
Last Race: Third in Wood Memorial won by Mo Donegal and Preakness contender Early Voting Second at Aqueduct on April 9.
Record: 9-2-1-2
Earnings: $165,100
Ocala/Florida Notes: Early training by Jimbo and Tori Gladwell’s Top Line Sales located in Ocala.

The Belmont Stakes will be televised at NBC Sports and the app as well as the Peacock network for full pre-and-post coverage beginning at 3 pm Saturday. If you want to have a more immersive experience, though – check out World Equestrian Center’s viewing event at Yellow Pony Pub & Garden with fellow enthusiasts for a live watch. The event features Triple Crown Cocktails for $14 and will show the race outside on the patio, where you can cheer on your favorite jockey team on a large 16-foot jumbotron.

And remember – never count out the long shots.

Be sure and check out our previous Triple Crown blog posts Kentucky Derby Contenders with Florida Connections and Preakness Contenders with Florida Connections.