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Comparing Preakness and Belmont Stakes: Differences in Triple Crown horse racing

The last two races in the journey toward the end of the spring season to becoming a Triple Crown winner in thoroughbred horse racing occur at the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. 

The Triple Crown consists of a trio of races for three-year-old thoroughbreds. The Triple Crown trophy, awarded to the horses that win all three races, is an intricate three-sided vase representing the sides of the Triple Crown.

The winner of the Triple Crown series must first claim victory at the Kentucky Derby in early May, the Preakness Stakes later that month, and, finally, the Belmont Stakes in early June. After the term was coined in 1930, winners were retroactively awarded.

The first of the winners of all three races was Sir Barton in 1919.

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Two horses and jockeys compete at the Belmont Stakes

Belmont Stakes has been run at different distances and tracks throughout its history. It has been held at Belmont Park since 1905. (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

  1. What is the Preakness Stakes?
  2. What is the Belmont Stakes?
  3. What is the difference between the Preakness and Belmont?
  4. How much longer is the Belmont than the Preakness?
  5. Which horse had the fastest times for the Belmont and the Preakness?
  6. Which is the most challenging Triple Crown race?

The Preakness Stakes is held annually on the third Saturday of May at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. It occurs two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and is the second challenge racehorses must overcome on the road to the Triple Crown prize. The Belmont Stakes follows it three weeks later.

It is typically the shortest of the Triple Crown races at 1 3/16 miles (about 1900 kilometers). The Preakness Stakes in 2024 marks this distance’s 100th year of the race. 

Established in 1873, the Preakness Stakes owes its name to the victorious thoroughbred Preakness, the winner of the Dinner Party Stakes in 1870, named by Maryland Gov. Oden Bowie. The inaugural Preakness Stakes was held two years before the inception of the Kentucky Derby.

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The Preakness nearly always attracts a lot of attention and viewership, especially for the Triple Crown series fans and bettors, and it is an Armed Forces Day tradition.

The Belmont Stakes is the final challenge for a thoroughbred horse to become a Triple Crown winner. It is also the oldest and longest of the three contests. 

It occurs every year in June at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. The Belmont track features significant turns and a lengthy homestretch that has tested the limits of the best horses. 

Horses race at Belmont Stakes

Belmont Stakes has come to be known as the “Test of the Champions.” (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Millions of people worldwide watch the Belmont annually, and some of the most prominent American thoroughbred horse racing members attend the race.

For over a century, some incredible horses have cemented their legacy on the track, including Secretariat, widely considered the greatest racehorse ever. Secretariat, also known as Big Red, owns the record for fastest finish at the Belmont. 

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Horse racers at the Belmont need to consider several factors to achieve victory at the track, including conserving their horses’ stamina while being able to go the distance against some of the best breeds in the racing world.

The Belmont takes place approximately five weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks following the conclusion of the Preakness Stakes. The competition is named after financier, diplomat, politician and sportsman August Belmont. 

Closeup of horse and jockey in Triple Crown race

Secretariat has the fastest time record for all the Triple Crown races. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Preakness and the Belmont are both Triple Crown races but differ.

The Preakness is held on the third Saturday of May, while the Belmont Stakes is held three weeks later in June. The distances of the two races differ slightly, with the Belmont being the longer. 

Another difference between the two is how long they have been around. The Belmont is the oldest race in the Triple Crown series, established in 1867, followed by the Preakness in 1873 and The Kentucky Derby in 1875.

The two races take place in different parts of the country. The setting for the Preakness Stakes is the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, while the Belmont Stakes is in Elmont, New York.  

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The Preakness and Belmont also have different traditions, such as the songs sung. For example, “New York, New York” is sung at the Belmont while Preakness attendees sing “Maryland, My Maryland.”

Horses and jockeys compete at Preakness Stakes

The Preakness Stakes was named by Oden Bowie, former governor of Maryland, after a colt won the first Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Preakness Stakes is the second-longest track in the Triple Crown series at 1 3/16 miles long, while the Belmont is the longest, measured at 1 1/2 miles. In comparison, most other pre-Derby races for young horses are 1 1/8 miles long, making the Belmont one of the longest tracks in the country. 

The Belmont is commonly considered the most difficult of the Triple Crown races because of the demanding distance. The race has been named the “test of the champions.”

Secretariat has the fastest speed for all three Triple Crown races. To this day, no other horse has beaten his record-breaking times. 

Secretariat finished the Kentucky Derby with a time of 1:59 2/5. He then went on to win the Preakness and set the record of 1:53. Secretariat finished the Triple Crown series at the Belmont, winning by an astounding 31 lengths.

Horses race at the Kentucky Derby

The Triple Crown winner must win all three races: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Each Triple Crown race presents unique challenges, yet the Belmont Stakes is frequently regarded as the most grueling for horses and jockeys.

The challenge of the Belmont Stakes is primarily attributed to the 1 1/2 mile length of the track, which tests the speed and endurance of the competitors. The race’s position as the final event in the five-week Triple Crown series also requires participants’ endurance.

Phillip Nieto contributed reporting.

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