Best Belmont Stakes in History

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Derek Simon

June 3rd, 2014

With California Chrome standing on the precipice of equine greatness — a win in the Belmont Stakes would make him just the 12th Triple Crown winner in history — social media has been all atwitter (see what I did there?) about the Test of Champions.
In recent days, I’ve seen videos of Secretariat’s 31-length romp in 1973 (never gets old), Risen Star’s runaway win in 1988 and photos of other past champs, including Citation (1948) and Man o’ War (1920).
But it was when a friend of mine asked me about the pace figures of 2005 victor Afleet Alex that my curiosity was truly piqued.
I wondered: What were the best performances of all time, from a pace perspective, in the Belmont Stakes?
I say from a “pace perspective,” because pace is something I believe I can assess fairly accurately. The various speed figure services — Beyer, Brisnet, “The Sheets” and Thoro-Graph — were simply not around in days of yore, but fractional times have been available since 1921, at least for the Belmont. And my pace figures (speed rations) are relative measurements of energy disbursement and, thus, the perfect analytical tool for a challenge of this type.
Hence, I scoured the result charts and looked for the best overall pace performances among Belmont champions. I did this by comparing each winner’s early speed ration (ESR) to its late speed ration (LSR). Simply put, I looked for the greatest Pace Profile, which describes this ESR/LSR relationship numerically. (The higher the Pace Profile, the better the overall performance; the lower the Pace Profile, the worse the overall performance.)
The results were somewhat surprising: