1.  The Belmont Stakes traditionally has been called the “test of the champion.”  That appellation is more appropriate for the Epsom Derby in that a distance of 1 ½ miles is more common and more valued in Europe than it is in the United States.  Even in Europe, however, the superstar and undefeated Frankel never ran in a race beyond 10 furlongs and most of his starts came at a mile.

In America, the overwhelming majority of racehorses never run a race of 12 furlongs and most of the horses that compete in the Belmont don’t run the distance again.  The Eclipse Awards denoting champions are populated with horses that never ran 12 furlongs, as is the list of leading sires.

“Test of the champion” has a noble ring to it, but it is not factually true.

2.  Following are the average times for the Belmont Stakes in the decades since 1960:

1960-1969:  2 minutes 28.86 seconds

1970-1979:  2 28.78

1980-1989:  2 27.94

1990-1999:  2 28.51

2000-2009:  2 28.58

2010-2016:  2 29.61

To be really precise, the years when the Belmont was run on off tracks should be eliminated from the calculations.  Nonetheless, the figures are sufficiently representative to conclude that race times have not improved over the last 57 years.  On the other hand, the 21st century American-bred 3-year-old racehorse appears just as capable of running 12 furlongs as his ancestors from over a half century ago.  (This view is subject to change, however, if the average time for the decade 2010 through 2019 turns out to be about a second slower than previous decades.)

3.  Without the possibility of a Triple Crown winner, the on-track and television audiences for the Belmont are likely to be mediocre.  In fact, neither the winner of the Kentucky Derby winner nor Preakness winner will be in the race.

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