Top 10 Upsets Prove Belmont Stakes to Be No Easy Task
Top 10 Upsets Prove Belmont Stakes to Be No Easy Task: The Belmont Stakes is considered to be the Graveyard of Champions but seems to have adopted that name only in the last 55 years. Between 1960 and 2014, the biggest upsets in the Belmont Stakes have occurred. The largest upset before that was in 1944 when Bounding Home won the Belmont Stakes at odds of 16.35-1. Since then, the Belmont Stakes has seen huge upsets more often than not. In the last 10 years since Afleet Alex won the Belmont Stakes, the average odds of Belmont Stakes winners have been 12.6-1.
This year, American Pharoah will offer Bob Baffert his fourth chance to win the Triple Crown and Victor Espinoza his third attempt. If any horse is going to defeat American Pharoah, they are going to have work hard to do so.
The top ten upsets in Belmont Stakes history have come many times when there was a Triple Crown on the line, whereas in other editions the race was anyone’s for the taking. Check out the top ten upsets in Belmont Stakes.
1. Sarava (2002) – In the face of a pending Triple Crown, Sarava played spoiler at odds of 70-1 after War Emblem tripped at the start and never factored into his final Triple Crown race. However, War Emblem was able to win the Grade I Haskell while Sarava never finished better than fourth in eight subsequent starts. He retired to Bridlewood Farm in Florida and failed to accomplish much as a stud, and he has since been sent to a pleasant life of retirement at Old Friends Farm in Kentucky.
2. Sherluck (1961) – Sherluck won the Belmont Stakes over Carry Back at odds of 65-1, ending that colt’s bid for the Triple Crown. In his prep season before the Kentucky Derby, Sherluck won the Blue Grass Stakes before going on to finish fifth in the Kentucky Derby behind Carry Back. Coming back in the Preakness Stakes, he again finished fifth. Reuniting with original jockey Braulio Baezo for his upset in the Belmont Stakes, Sherluck crossed the wire first while Carry Back finished seventh of nine. Retiring to stud, the colt didn’t experience much success and was sent to France and then Denmark.
3. Temperence Hill (1980) – In 1980, not only would Temperence Hill play spoiler to Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk and Preakness winner Codex in the Belmont Stakes at odds of 53-1 but he would also win major races including the Travers Stakes, Super Derby, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, events that would boost his status enough to warrant the Champion 3-Year-Old Colt honors. He also won the Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby while preparing for a start in the Derby. As a stallion, he stood in Lexington and then at Thailand’s only Thoroughbred breeding farm. He died in 2003.
4. Da’ Tara (2008) – The only horse to defeat Big Brown, Da’ Tara led the 2008 Belmont Stakes from gate to wire while Big Brown was pulled up on the turn for home. Da’ Tara was the longest shot in the field at odds of 38-1. After his Belmont shocker, however, Da’ Tara was unable to win another race, even in the allowance optional claimers that Zito ran the son of Tiznow. Da’ Tara retired in 2011; he was sold to Venezuela for stud duty.
5. Birdstone (2004) – Birdstone was the horse that was “hated” by the racing public for spoiling Smarty Jones’ chances at the Triple Crown. If Birdstone had not done so, Smarty Jones would have become the twelfth horse to complete the Triple Crown and only the second to do so while undefeated. However, Birdstone passed Smarty Jones late at odds of 36-1. Birdstone would receive little respect throughout the rest of his racing career, even after winning the Travers Stakes as well. He did retire to become a successful sire at Gainseway Farm in Kentucky. His most accomplished sons are 2009 classic winners Mine That Bird and Summer Bird.
6. Pass Catcher (1971) – Anther shocker delivered in the Belmont Stakes came when Pass Catcher ended Canonero II’s chances at the Triple Crown. Pass Catcher delivered the upset at odds of 34.5-1 after dueling with Canonero II throughout the race. He managed to hold on to his lead over fast closing Jim French and Bold Reason. Canonero II finished fourth. Pass Catcher experienced mild success at stud.
7. Lemon Drop Kid (1999) – The best upsets seem to come in the face of a possible Triple Crown. Lemon Drop Kid was sent to the Belmont starting gate at odds of 29.75-1. With Charismatic finally being the post-time favorite after winning two-thirds of the Triple Crown, he would manage only a third-place finish due to an injury to his front left leg. Lemon Drop Kid would go on to win multiple graded stakes races and was voted Champion Older Male in 2000. He is currently enjoying a successful stud career at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky.
8. Ruler on Ice (2011) – In a year that seemed to be anyone’s game, Ruler on Ice popped up in the Belmont Stakes to surprise the crowd at odds of 24-1. In 2011, Animal Kingdom and Shackleford had taken the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Ruler on Ice continued to race after his Belmont shocker, winning only an allowance but finishing second and third to very good horses in high class races. He was retired in 2014 to live out his days on his owner’s farm.
9. Commendable (2000) – In a year that saw the $4.1 million dollar yearling Fusaichi Pegasus win the Kentucky Derby, Commendable seemed to be out of place. He seemed like a cheap horse compared to what many thought of Fusaichi Pegasus. Commendable lost four straight races leading up to the Kentucky Derby, adding a seventeenth-place finish after that classic. His owners skipped the Preakness where Fusaichi Pegasus was defeated by Red Bullet and opted to run their colt in the Belmont. Going to post at odds of 18.8-1, Commendable needed a career best to defeat a field that was devoid of both Fusaichi Pegasus and Red Bullet. However, he did deliver. After his Belmont win, he failed to finish better than third in four subsequent starts and was retired. In 2005, he was sold to South Korea for stud duty.
10. Bounding Home (1944) – Bounding Home is the only horse on the list to deliver an upset before 1960. This colt was able to stop the Triple Crown threat that Pensive carried into the race. At odds of 16.35-1, the colt achieved his best career victory. After that, the horse failed to win another race but was consistently second or third in all of his starts following the Belmont Stakes.
The Belmont Stakes is the Graveyard of Champions for multiple reasons. It is quite possible that the horses today are not bred for the 12 furlongs they are being asked to run after a grueling campaign in the early part of their three-year-old years. Maybe the horses simply do not adapt well to the Belmont track. Whatever the reasons may be, many Belmont Stakes upsets have occurred in the years where Triple Crowns are lost. These upsets also seem to have found a home with horses given seemingly no shot to win the race.
This year, American Pharoah looks unstoppable after his dominating win in the Preakness and hard-fought finish in the Kentucky Derby. However, history shows that American Pharoah is more likely to join a long list of horses that couldn’t do it rather than the list of those who could. If he can do it, American Pharoah will not only be an immortal legend in the world of horse racing, he will be a hero.
The 147th running of the belmont Stakes takes place on Saturday, June 6, 2015 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. The third and final jewel of the Triple Crown will be the eleventh race scheduled for 6:50 p.m. ET and will air on NBC.