Who is the best horse not to win the Belmont Stakes?

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May 9th, 2022

Even though there isn't a Triple Crown at stake in 2021, Belmont week always brings up thoughts of the exclusive club of winners — as well as of near-misses. Let's remember some of the greatest horses in history to win the Kentucky Derby, win the Preakness, but not have their day in the Belmont. 

Then, you tell us: who is the greatest of them all?

Northern Dancer (1964)

Though we talk more about Northern Dancer's legacy at stud nowadays, he was a superstar on the track. He shined in both his native Canada and the United States at age two, winning the Summer S. at Fort Erie, the Coronation Futurity at Woodbine, and the Remsen at Aqueduct.

He streaked through his prep season, including wins in the Flamingo, the Florida Derby, and the Blue Grass. Northern Dancer became the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby in two minutes flat, then won the Preakness by daylight.

Though Quadrangle turned him back in the Belmont and Northern Dancer ultimately finished third, he still returned to Canada a hero and finished his racing career with a romp in the Queen's Plate, becoming the first (and still only) horse to win the Kentucky Derby and the Queen's Plate.

Spectacular Bid (1979)

Whether it was the safety pin he stepped on before the race, the aggressive ride in the early stages of the race, or both, a sense of Triple Crown "what if?" has hovered around Spectacular Bid ever since the 1979 Belmont. However, The Bid left very little wondering "what if" the rest of his career.

The gray was a champion at two, three, and four, and Horse of the Year at four as well. At four he started his dominance in California: he swept the Strub Series, then won the Santa Anita H. (G1) and the Californian (G1). He then traveled east to win the Washington Park H. (G3) at Arlington and the Amory L. Haskell H. (G1), now called the Philip H. Iselin, at Monmouth.

He completed his career at Belmont Park with a walkover in the Woodward (G1), so dominant that no one dared challenge him.

Alysheba (1987)

Alysheba was good at age two, and into the beginning of his three-year-old year. But, once he got the throat surgery that ensured his powerful body got all the oxygen it needed, Alysheba became a star.

He crossed the wire first in the Blue Grass (G1), though he was placed third for drifting out. Though he stumbled badly at the three-sixteenths in the Kentucky Derby when Bet Twice veered into his path, he regained stride quickly and reeled in that rival. The Preakness looked mighty similar; Alysheba ran down Bet Twice that day, too. Though Bet Twice had his day in the Belmont, Alysheba only got better with age. His three-year-old season ended with a thrilling stretch battle with Ferdinand; Ferdinand prevailed, but Alysheba lost nothing in defeat.

At four, Alysheba was Horse of the Year. His seven graded stakes wins included the Santa Anita H., the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), and a game score in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).

Sunday Silence (1989)

On New Year's Day, 1989, it would have been no surprise if an image of Easy Goer bounding clear to win the Belmont by eight lengths materialized in a crystal ball. Far more surprising would have been premonitions of a horse named Sunday Silence, whose young rear legs drew comparisons to things like coat hangers and parentheses, engaging the mighty Easy Goer in an all-time great rivalry. Yet, it happened.

Sunday Silence got good at three, very good. Doubters could attribute his wins in the San Felipe (G2) and the Santa Anita Derby (G1) to Easy Goer's not being there. They could attribute Sunday Silence's score in the Kentucky Derby to the slop. But, Sunday Silence went eye-to-eye with Easy Goer in the Preakness and won. And, when the two reunited for the Breeders' Cup Classic? Sunday Silence did it again. He held off Easy Goer by a neck before going on to become Japan's prepotent sire.

Silver Charm (1997)

Though Touch Gold ran him down in the Belmont, much of the rest of this gray's career was charmed. In the Kentucky Derby he held off favored Captain Bodgit; in the Preakness, he edged Free House, who had denied him earlier in the San Felipe and the Santa Anita Derby.

Off most of the rest of his three-year-old year after the Belmont, he returned with a second-place finish in the Malibu (G1), but went on a tear at age four. In the spring he won the San Fernando (G2) and the Strub (G2) before becoming the first Kentucky Derby winner to triumph in the Dubai World Cup (G1) as well.

Though Awesome Again got past him to win by three-quarters of a length in the Breeders' Cup Classic that fall, likely denying Silver Charm Horse of the Year honors, he ended his year with a win in the Clark (G2).

After standing stud in both the United States and Japan, Silver Charm moved to Old Friends in 2014, and has been happily convincing racing fans to give him carrots ever since.

Who is the best horse to not win the Belmont Stakes?

Last week, we asked your favorite summer racetrack. Though Arlington and Ellis in particular got some love, there was a runaway winner. With 67% of the vote, Saratoga Race Course is your favorite place to spend the summer.  (Though, with Del Mar and Emerald bringing up the rear — are we sensing a little East Coast bias?)