The Belmont Stakes is known as "The Test of Champions" for good reason, being the final race in the US Triple Crown and, at one and a half miles, the longest in the landmark trio of races.
Winning the Belmont Stakes takes a combination of stamina, speed and jockey judgment, but a select few have gone about this supreme challenge in clock-busting fashion.
In this article, we look at the top five fastest Belmont Stakes winners of all-time at its current length of one and a half miles*.
5. Point Given, 2001
Point Given had a point to prove in the 2001 Belmont Stakes after finishing a disappointing fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Known as the "Big Red Train", this hulking locomotive of a horse warmed up for the Belmont with victory in the Preakness Stakes by beating his Kentucky Derby vanquisher Monarchos in Maryland's marquee race.
Monarchos and Point Given lined up again in the Belmont Stakes on June 9, 2001, with Point Given in no mood to concede the advantage. With legendary jockey Gary Stevens in green and white silks, Point Given plotted a wide course but it soon became clear that no horse could live with the mega-colt as he surged to a 12-and-a-quarter length victory over A P Valentine.
The clock registered 2:26.56 as Point Given showed that he was one of the standout horses at the dawn of the new millennium. The debate raged about whether Point Given should have won the Kentucky Derby, but the huge chestnut colt had made his mark on the Belmont Stakes and was named 2001 Horse of the Year.
4. Risen Star, 1988
It was a case of star by name, star by nature for 1988 Belmont Stakes winner Risen Star, the son of the great Secretariat.
Much like Point Given, Risen Star was looking for redemption in the Belmont after falling short in the 1988 Kentucky Derby.
Risen Star was trained by Louie Roussel III, a devout Roman Catholic who donated 10% of all the horse's winnings to an order of nuns after surviving throat cancer. The nuns were said to pray for the horse every day but Risen Star did not need divine intervention to take the 1988 Belmont Stakes, putting in a show reminiscent of his father Secretariat and scoring by 14-and-three-quarter lengths.
The winning time was a rapid 2:26.40, placing Risen Star second in the all-time fastest Belmont winners behind Secretariat at the time. For a year, father and son ruled the record books in the Belmont Stakes...
3. A.P. Indy, 1992
A.P. Indy's owner Tomonori Tsurumaki named him after a motor racing circuit in his native Japan and the horse lived up to his name, speeding around racetracks like he was in the Indianapolis 500.
The Belmont Stakes is truly in A.P. Indy's blood, being part of the only three-generational winning family in the history of the race. A.P. Indy was sired by 1977 Belmont Stakes winner Seattle Slew and himself became the father of 2007 Belmont champion Rags To Riches.
In a tremendously gritty performance in 1992, A.P. Indy saw off the advances of Pine Bluff and My Memoirs to win by three-quarters of a length in New York in a time of 2:26.13.
A.P. Indy's achievements didn't stop there, however, being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000 before siring Rags To Riches later in the decade.
2. Easy Goer, 1989
Known for a head-to-head rivalry with the talented Sunday Silence, Easy Goer had the last laugh by winning the 1989 Belmont Stakes in blistering fashion under Pat Day.
Sunday Silence wouldn't have known what day it was as the Ogden Phipps-bred Easy Goer won the Test of Champions in a time of 2:26.00, denying Sunday Silence the Triple Crown. Sunday Silence's jockey Pat Valenzuela described Easy Goer's eight-length Belmont-winning performance to the New York Times as "that of a superhorse".
Ogden Phipps II, the grandson of Easy Goer's breeder Ogden Phipps, described the Belmont win to Tom Pedulla, saying: "We waited for Sunday Silence to fight on, as he had so courageously in the Derby and Preakness. But Easy Goer was too much. On this special day, he was every bit the great horse he was born to be. Day glanced over his shoulder midway through the stretch run as his mount poured it on. Not a threat in sight."
Easy Goer earned a hefty $4,873,770 in his career and was written into the United States Racing Hall of Fame in 1997. Too often in the shadow of Sunday Silence, it was in the Belmont Stakes that Easy Goer made a real noise.
1. Secretariat, 1973
It would be quicker to chronicle the races the superlative Secretariat didn't win, but his 1973 Belmont Stakes triumph is one of his most famous as it earned him a deserved and historic Triple Crown.
Coming into the New York race on the back of record-breaking victories in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, there were still some doubts over Secretariat's stamina in tackling the grueling one and a half miles at Belmont Park.
Those doubts were put to bed quickly as Secretariat out-burned his old sparring partner Sham to record a staggering 31 length victory over second-placed Twice a Prince.
The track announcer Chic Anderson summed up events in the Belmont Stakes, saying: "Secretariat is widening now. He is moving like a tremendous machine".
No horse has gotten within two seconds of Secretariat's record Belmont Stakes time of 2:24.00 since and even with advances in diet, training and veterinary science, Secretariat has proven that his class is timeless. He showed the best of it in the Belmont Stakes of 1973.
*The 2020 edition was run over one and one-eighth miles due to COVID-19.