33 Fastest Horses to Win the Belmont Stakes
The final horse race in the U.S. Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, is known as "The Test of Champions," and rightly so. It is the longest, most challenging and most unpredictable of the three races (including the Preakness Stakes and the Kentucky Derby) — and the oldest.
The Belmont was named after financier and sportsman August Belmont, who helped fund the first race on June 19, 1867, at Jerome Park in New York. At that time, the track was only 1.625 miles, which accounts for the faster race times when looking at the scores of past champions. The 1.5-mile race was not established until 1926, but in 1921, it was the first to be run in the counter-clockwise direction. Interestingly, only three fillies have won the Belmont Stakes, the first of which was Ruthless in 1867, followed by Tanya (1905) and Rags to Riches (2007).
The year 2020 was the first time since 1925 that the Belmont was temporarily shortened to 1.125 miles. The change was due to COVID restrictions when many racetracks were closed, and training schedules for the horses were interrupted. Tiz the Law won that year with a recorded time of 1.46.5. In 2021, the length returned to 1.5 miles, the equivalent of one lap around the track's wide oval, and the winner of the Belmont was Essential Quality.
It takes great strength, speed and stamina for a horse to win the Belmont Stakes as well as good jocky. These fastest winners of past Belmont Stakes are only for the horses who ran the entire 1.5-mile race after 1925 and are listed in descending order (although many have tied scores and are equally ranked). Six of these horses won the Triple Crown (only 13 have ever won in history) and are marked with an asterisk.
Year won: 2016
Creator was a 3-year-old gray colt who won the 148th Belmont Stakes by a slim margin. He narrowly beat Destin, who came in second, followed by Lani. All three finishers were gray colts.
Bobby Flay purchased a minority interest in Creator from WinStar Farms after the Arkansas Derby and shortly before the colt won the Belmont.
* All race times sourced from Belmont Stakes and Twinspires.
30. Sword Dancer
Year won: 1959
An American Hall of Fame Champion Thoroughbred racehorse, Sword Dancer was the leading colt of his generation. He was a chestnut born in Virginia in 1956 who went on to win the Belmont, the Travers, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Woodward in 1959, while also finishing second in the Kentucky Derby.
Sword Dancer was crowned United States Horse of the Year in 1959 and inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1977.
Year won: 1964
Foaled at the Rokeby Farm near Upperville, Virginia, in 1961, Quadrangle was trained by future Hall of Fame trainer Elliott Burch. He was well known for being the horse that spoiled Nothern Dancer's chance to win the 1964 U.S. Triple Crown after taking the lead at the Belmont. That same year, he won the Dwyer Handicap, the Travers and the Lawrence Realization Stakes.
At the end of Quadrangle's 3-year-old campaign, he bowed a tendon and was rested. He passed at the age of 17 in 1978 after suffering a broken leg.
30. Hail to All
Year won: 1965
Hail to All was foaled in Florida, owned by Zelda Cohen and trained by Eddie Yowell. The large bay horse was born with a crooked left hock that prevented him from walking, but corrective splinting straightened the leg.
Hail to All went on to win the Belmont in 1965 as well as the Travers, the Jersey Derby and the Hibiscus Stakes.
29. Sir Winston (Tie)
Year won: 2019
This chestnut-colored American thoroughbred racehorse is one of the newer winners of the Belmont. Bred by Tracy Farmer and trained by Mark E. Casse, he has already earned about $1.2 million to date.
He last competed at the 2022 Pegasus World Cup.
28. Empire Maker (Tie)
Year won: 2003
Born in 2000, Empire Maker was a thoroughbred racehorse who lived up to his name by being the grandsire of the 2015 Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah. He was the only colt of his generation to win three Grade 1 races: the Belmont, the Florida Derby and the Wood Memorial.
Unfortunately, Empire Maker died at the age of 20 from damaged caused by a rare disease that compromised his immune system.
22. Justify* (Tie)
Year won: 2018
The first horse on this list to win the American Triple Crown, Justify is one of two horses to do so with an undefeated record. He is also the first of the American Triple Crown Winners who did not race as a 2-year-old.
He was officially retired soon after his winnings on July 25, 2018, which means he wasn't a bid for the Grand Slam (winning the Triple Crown as well as either the Travers Stakes or the Breeders' Cup Classic).
22. Bet Twice (Tie)
Year won: 1987
Bet Twice was a racehorse that you definitely wanted to bet on twice, if not more.
After all, he earned a whopping $3.3 million during his career; however, his competitive rivalry against Gulch and Cryptoclearance kept him from ever winning the Triple Crown.
22. Conquistador Cielo (Tie)
Year won: 1982
Conquistador Cielo (a Spanish name that means "conqueror in the sky") won the Metropolitan Handicap in 1982 as well as the Belmont within six days. He was called a "superhorse" and went on to win the Dwyer and the Jim Dandy Stakes.
However, this handsome bay fell in the ranks after a shocking upset in the Travers Stakes. He came out of the race with a career-ending injury and was sent to stud in Claiborne, where he later passed at the age of 23 due to complications of laminitis.
22. Avatar (Tie)
Year won: 1975
Avatar was an American thoroughbred racehorse famous for winning the Belmont in 1975. He also finished second in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness.
He retired to stud in 1977 and sired 19 stakes winners before he passed away in 1992.
22. Citation* (Tie)
Year won: 1948
The eighth winner of the American Triple Crown, Citation won 19 out of 20 races in 1948. He was a speedy horse with staying power and an endless desire to win.
He came from exceptional bloodlines and was trained by the famous Jones boys at the Calumet Farm. Citation lived to be 25 years old.
22. Count Fleet* (Tie)
Year won: 1943
The sixth winner of the American Triple Crown, Count Fleet won the Belmont by a then-record margin of twenty-five lengths.
After remaining undefeated in his season, he was named the 1943 Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old.
Year won: 1991
Although Hansel's career was repeatedly derailed by injuries, the handsome bay horse reached his peak in 1991 when he won the final two legs of the Belmont in 1991 and was voted the Eclipse Award for Outstanding 3-Year-Old Male Horse.
20. Riva Ridge
Year won: 1972
This first-class racehorse won championships at 2 and 4 while just missing at 3. Riva Ridge had trouble racing on muddy, wet tracks, so he missed a chance at the Triple Crown when he ran in the Preakness Stakes.
Nevertheless, he had a somewhat successful stud career until passing away at 16 from a heart attack.
18. Jazil (Tie)
Year won: 2006
Foaled in Kentucky, Jazil was a beautiful colt of regal pedigree who won the Belmont in 2006 and placed second in the Wood Memorial Stakes. After suffering bruising at the end of a hind cannon bone, his career was cut short.
However, Jazil sired 83 winners and eight stakes winners from 139 named foals.
18. Lemon Drop Kid (Tie)
Year won: 1999
Lemon Drop Kid is a lengthy bay horse also foaled in Kentucky who won the Belmont and Travers Stakes in 1999. He had difficulty staying focused until blinkers were added to his regular equipment as a 4-year-old.
He went on to win the Whitney, Suburban, Brooklyn Handicap and the Woodward Stakes in 2000. Lemon Drop Kid earned the prestigious Eclipse Award for best American older male that same year and later sired 100 stakes winners.
Year won: 1983
Considered a classic one-horse racer, Caveat went into early retirement after the Belmont when he strained a ligament in his right foreleg. Although his career was cut short, this beautiful dark bay became a successful regional sire, leading the Maryland list from 1991 to 1993.
He sired 300 winners before passing away at age 15.
15. Birdstone (Tie)
Year won: 2004
Although Birdstine had a reputation as a hit-or-miss runner during his early racing career, he was good enough to win the Champagne Stakes in 2003 and the Belmont and the Travers Stakes in 2004. At the time, he was also an Eclipse Award finalist American champion 3-year-old.
However, after the Breeder's Cup Classic in 2004, Birdstone suffered an ankle chip in his left foreleg and was sent into retirement. As of February 2022, he has sired 350 winners and 24 stakes winners from 663 foals of racing age.
15. Summer Bird (Tie)
Year won: 2009
Summer Bird was a chestnut horse with a trademark ability to deliver a long, sustained drive. In 2009, he was the first to win the Belmont, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup since a horse named Easy Goer won all three in 1989.
Unfortunately, a fracture in Summer Bird's right front cannon bone ended his racing career in 2010. However, he went on to sire 164 winners, most notably a horse named Second Summer, who won the California Stakes in 2016.
12. Go And Go (Tie)
Year won: 1990
There was a bit of controversy surrounding Go and Go's win at the Belmont Stakes due to a debate over diuretic furosemide (a medication used to prevent respiratory bleeding in horses running at high speed).
The chestnut horse who was foaled in Ireland was not considered a superstar racer in the U.S. However, he was the eighth horse outside North America to win the Belmont Stakes and the first Irish-bred horse to do so since Cavan's win in 1958.
12. Swale (Tie)
Year won: 1984
Swale's sire was the amazing Seattle Slew, but he held his own by winning numerous races during his racing career. In 1983, he won the Young American Stakes, Breeder's Futurity, Futurity Stakes and the Saratoga Special Stakes. In addition, in 1984, he took the Belmont as well as the Florida Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Hutchinson Stakes.
Sadly, Swale died from unexplained causes just eight days after his triumph at the Belmont Stakes.
12. Stage Door Johnny (Tie)
Year won: 1968
Although his racing career was brief, Stage Door Johnny won the Belmont, Dwyer Handicap and Saranac Handicap in 1968 and was voted a shared championship with Forward Pass in the America 3-year-old male division.
The gorgeous chestnut retired early due to a bowed tendon that he suffered in the 1968 Travers Stakes. He went on to sire 297 winners.
11. Essential Quality
Year won: 2021
Foaled in Kentucky, Essential Quality has had numerous wins in his racing career, including the Belmont, Runhappy Travers, Toyota Blue Grass, Jim Dandy and the Southwest Stakes, all in 2021. He also won the TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile before those races and the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity in 2020.
Although he often had poor starts, he was a consistent racehorse and considered one of the top performers of his crop. Essential Quality entered stud in Kentucky in 2022 at Jonabell Farm.
10. Creme Fraiche
Year won: 1985
Creme Fraiche was a rambunctious bay who was gelded early before beginning his racing career and soon became a fan favorite. He won the Belmont and Derby Trial Stakes in 1985 and the Super Derby Invitational Handicap, the American Derby and the Jerome Handicap.
Creme Fraiche was also awarded two editions of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. After finishing his racing career, he lived out his final days at Brushwood Farm in Pennsylvania before passing in 2003.
8. Tobasco Cat (Tie)
Year won: 1994
This handsome colt first made national headlines when he inflicted a near-fatal injury on Jeff Lukas, son of Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Tobasco Cat went on to win the Belmont and Preakness in 1994 but placed third in the Travers Stakes that same year.
He was one of the best colts of his crop and a moderately successful sire after being sent to Japan. He sired 323 winners and 24 stakes winners from 501 named foals.
8. Affirmed* (Tie)
Year won: 1978
The 11th American Triple Crown winner, Affirmed was a chestnut colt said to be a racing machine gifted with speed and stamina. He won numerous races between 1977 and 1979 and was inducted into the National Museum Racing Hall of Fame in 1980.
In addition, this handsome horse had a reputation for being affectionate with people and was a willing participant as both a racer and a stallion. Since Affirmed, no other horse has won the Hopeful Stakes at age 2 and the Kentucky Derby at 3.
7. American Pharoah*
Year won: 2016
Scoring the second-fastest winning time ever for a Triple Crown champion, American Pharoah was the 12th American winner of this prestigious title. He is an exceptional horse who has won nine races and numerous honors, including being elected into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 2021.
Interestingly, this gifted bay had to race with cotton in his ears to avoid being upset by crowd noise. American Pharoah went into retirement in 2015 and now stands stud at Ashford Stud in Kentucky.
5. Gallant Man (Tie)
Year won: 1957
An attractive colt with questionable feet and ankles, Gallant Man was bought by Texas oilman Ralph Lowe who decided to take a chance on the horse. It was the right decision since the colt went on to win his fair share of races.
There were 14 wins between 1957 and 1958, and once the racehorse retired, he was the holder of track records from six to 12 furlongs. Gallant Man later became a successful sire with 331 winners and 51 stakes winners from 498 foals.
5. Point Given (Tie)
Year won: 2001
After finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby, Point Given (nicknamed Big Red Train and the T-Rex due to his vast size) proved his talents when he won the Belmont Stakes in 2001 by a 12-and-a-quarter length victory over AP Valentine. He also won the Preakness and Travers Stakes that same year.
Point Given later retired due to a tendon injury in his left foreleg. He is the fifth American Horse of the Year to take up residence in the Hall of Champions.
4. Risen Star
Year won: 1988
Risen Star was the son of the famous racehorse Secretariat (later on this list). Although he fell short in the Kentucky Derby, he proved himself at the 1988 Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. He dominated the track by 14-and-three-quarter lengths.
Risen Star's winning time was 2:26.40, placing him second in the all-time fastest Belmont winners, just behind Secretariat (at that time). However, after suffering an injury during his Tour de Force, the powerful dark bay was sent into retirement.
3. A.P. Indy
Year won: 1992
Named after a motor racing circuit in the owner's native Japan, A.P. Indy lived up to his name for his speed on the track. In 1992, he won five races, including the Belmont Stakes.
It was no surprise that he had racing in his blood; he was sired by the famous Seattle Slew and later fathered the 2007 Belmont champion winner Rags to Riches. In 2000, A.P. Indy was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.
2. Easy Goer
Year won: 1989
Easy Goer edged out his competition Sunday Silence in the 1989 Belmont, preventing his rival from winning the coveted Triple Crown. The handsome chestnut won 14 races between 1988 and 1990 and ranked 34 among the top 100 American racehorses of the 20th century.
Sadly, he passed away at a young age from anaphylactic shock in 1994, near the end of his fourth season as a stud.
Year won: 1973
This magnificent, massive chestnut was the first horse in 1973 to win the American Triple Crown in 25 years, setting a world record of 2:24 for 12 furlongs — a win that has yet to be equaled or broken. Between 1972 and 1973, he dominated the racing circuit with 16 wins and numerous honors and awards. He made the covers of TIME Magazine, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated, and is the only figure in history to do so.
Secretariat was also a fan favorite not just because of his superior track record but also because he was an even-tempered horse that loved to ham it up for the camera, winning over the hearts of many spectators.