The Belmont Stakes, the third race in the coveted Triple Crown, will be held on Saturday, June 11th. While we won’t have a Triple Crown winner in 2022, the races are always a spectacle. Following the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and the Preakness at Pimlico in Maryland, the Belmont Stakes happens at Belmont Park in New York. The horses are the stars, but an entire culture has grown around the event. So, what’s with all the pageantry of the Triple Crown? Let’s look at the history of these important events in horse racing.
Hats and Southern Formal Culture
The Kentucky Derby owes its race culture directly to British and French racing traditions that go back long before the inaugural US race in 1875. But in Louisville, there was already a culture of finery most often associated with going to church on Sundays. It was always a part of Southern formal culture, but making it a part of the Kentucky Derby shared it with the world.
The Decadence of British Racing
Horse racing in Great Britain went back centuries before the first Kentucky Derby and was known for its decadence. It was once the sport of kings and knights, as men returned from the crusades with small, fast Arabian horses. In the early 20th century, it became a leisure sport for the rich to follow, including betting.
Bands, Roses, and Celebrations
At the three races that make up the jewels of the triple crown, they’ve become a spectacle for more people than those who attend. With television coverage, now everyone can experience the pageantry of the races in their own home. The races always start with a band playing the state song: “My Old Kentucky Home” in Churchill Downs, “Maryland My Maryland” before the Preakness, and “Empire State of Mind” in New York for the final race. The races are also dotted with meticulously grown flowers and other traditional celebrations, including Mint Juleps.
The Triple Crown
These three races for three-year-old thoroughbreds have become the most significant accomplishment in horseracing. A horse that can will all three will be celebrated and revered. There are triple crown races worldwide, but we focus on these three in the US. Only a handful of horses have won the honor. The first was Sir Barton in 1919, and the most recent was Justify in 2018, nearly a century later.
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