The reason the Belmont Stakes is called “The Test of the Champion” is because it requires more speed and endurance than basically any other race in American thoroughbred competition.
Usually only the best three-year-olds in the world will get on the track at Belmont Park for the last jewel of the Triple Crown, as the field is often thinned from horses that didn’t pass muster at either Churchill Downs or Pimlico over the last six weeks. And for those that do make it to the starting gate, they face a whopping 12 furlongs (1.5 miles) in front of them. The Kentucky Derby is 10 furlongs, and the Preakness Stakes a mere 9.5. And that last 440 yards is what separates good from great.
So it’s only appropriate that the speed record for the Belmont Stakes is held by the one and only Secretariat, perhaps the greatest horse that ever lived. In 1973 Big Red finished the Belmont in an incredible 2:24 flat, blowing the doors off the rest of the field by a ridiculous 31 lengths.
It remains one of the more amazing sports performances anywhere.
The closest horse to Secretariat’s Triple Crown-clinching performance is the 2:26 flat of Easy Goer in 1989. But for a horse nearly 50 years later to still hold two seconds on the entire field shows the dominance of Big Red in the history of horse racing.