Tomorrow, some fine thoroughbreds will face off in Elmont, New York at the 146th Belmont Stakes, including one who has a chance to make history. The race has been run since 1866, and up for grabs this year is $1.5 million and a potential Triple Crown win, which would be the first in 36 years.
Here's your guide to all things horse racing happening tomorrow:
The Race Course
The Belmont Stakes is held in Elmont, New York, at Belmont Park. It was originally held at the Jerome Park Racetrack, then briefly at the Morris Park Racecourse. When Belmont Park opened in 1905, the Stakes was moved there permanently.
This race is the longest and most challenging of the three Triple Crown races. It is one-and-a-half miles run on dirt. Last year's winner was Palace Malice, with a time of 2:30.70. The last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, finished in 2:26. In 1973, Secretariat covered the course in 2:24.00, the fastest 1.5 miles ever run on dirt.
The official flower is a white carnation. Though the origin is unknown, Belmont Park thinks the flower suits the "Test of the Champion" because "pure white carnations stand for love and luck, but they are also hardy, long-lasting flowers."
The blanket of white carnations is made of 700 select Colombia carnations, woven together to create a forty pound blanket. The Pennock Company, a wholesale florist in Philadelphia, is in charge of the blanket. The official florist of the New York Racing Association, Tony Green, keeps the flowers in water for a full 48 hours before the race, allowing the blossoms to thicken. Then he hand glues each flower across seven yards of green velvet cloth. It takes Green about five hours to create the blanket, and it is done the day of the race.
Green actually makes two blankets on race day. The second one goes to the statue of Secretariat in Belmont Park. In the event that it's supposed to be a particularly muggy, hot, or humid day (which this year is), Green makes three blankets, changing out the statue's blanket mid-afternoon to be sure it looks fresh and full all day.
The official drink is a Belmont Breeze. It was created by Dale DeGroff in 1998 to replace the White Carnation, though the two drinks are actually quite similar.
Here's the recipe:
1 1/2 ounces of a good American blended whiskey
3/4 ounces Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry
1/2 ounce of fresh lemon juice
1 ounce of simple syrup
(1 ounce of sweet and sour mix may be substituted for the lemon juice and simple syrup)
1 1/2 ounces fresh orange juice
1 1/2 ounces cranberry juice
1 ounce 7-Up
1 ounce Club Soda
Here's who is in the running for the carnation blanket tomorrow:
The Triple Crown
No horse has won a Triple Crown in 36 years. The last winner was Affirmed. Though California Chrome was an underdog, after winning both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, he now has fairly good odds of taking the Crown. He's currently the overwhelming betting favorite at 3-5 odds.
You can watch the race at home on NBC; coverage will be live from 2:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eastern but the actual race is at 6:32 p.m. Or join me and about 100,000 other people on a packed train to Belmont to catch it in person tomorrow!