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Remembering the Top 6 Upsets in Belmont Stakes History

| June 9, 2022 8:02 am PDT
Belmont Stakes, Sarava, and Temperence Hill, horse racing background

The Belmont Stakes marks the final leg of the Triple Crown. Belmont Park has hosted the Belmont Stakes for the majority of the last 100 years. It’s extremely tough to complete the Triple Crown because of the grueling 1.5-mile track.

Because of that, it’s not uncommon to see a Belmont Stakes upset. Everyone has their eyes on the top contenders, but a fresh horse can surprise the top contenders. We’ve seen this many times in the 150+ year history of the Belmont Stakes.

I’ve listed the biggest Belmont Stakes upsets below, ranking them from 6 to 1. You can jump to which horse you want to check out first, or join me as I work my way to the biggest upset the Belmont Stakes has ever seen.

6. Temperence Hill Over Genuine Risk (1980)

We don’t need a horse going for the Triple Crown to have an upset at the Belmont Stakes. That was the case in the 1980 Belmont Stakes, as Genuine Risk followed up his Kentucky Derby win with a second-place finish in the Preakness Stakes.

Most people expected Genuine Risk and Preakness Stakes winner Codex to battle for the Belmont Stakes. No one was talking about Temperence Hill.

The horse won the Arkansas Derby but didn’t compete in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes. There wasn’t much hope as he entered the race as a 53/1 long shot.

A few horses staked their claim for the 1980 Belmont Stakes, but Temperence Hill, Genuine Risk, and Rockhill Native entered the final stretch with the advantage. That’s when we saw a surprising Belmont Stakes winner.

It was a three-way battle in the final stretch, but Rockhill Native and Genuine Risk could hang with Temperence Hill. He pulled away to win by two lengths over Genuine Risk.

Coming into the Belmont Stakes, Temperence Hill was 0-6 in races away from Oaklawn Park. That plays into his victory being a top Belmont Stakes upset. The horse proved his performance wasn’t a fluke.

Temperence Hill won Champion three-year-old of 1980 after winning the Travers Stakes, Super Derby, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. His performance in the Belmont Stakes kick-started the impressive run.

I can’t imagine many people underestimated him following that performance. Looking back, you wonder why he entered the Belmont Stakes at 53/1.

5. Lemon Drop Kid Over Charismatic (1999)

The hype surrounding a potential Triple Crown winner was at an all-time high in 1999. Silver Charm and Real Quiet fell short in the previous two years, but Charismatic had a chance to finish the job.

Charismatic was an upset winner himself. He won the Kentucky Derby at 30/1 and claimed the Preakness Stakes at 8/1. He went into the Belmont Stakes as the favorite.

Most people expected Menifee and Silverbulletday to compete with Charismatic, but Lemon Drop Kid wasn’t mentioned. The horse finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby.

Silverbulletday led most of the race, but Charismatic made his move entering the final stretch.

Charismatic briefly held the lead, but he couldn’t hang with Lemon Drop Kid and Vision and Verse. Lemon Drop Kid pulled away, with Vision and Verse making one final run. Lemon Drop Kid pulled off the Belmont Stakes upset at 29/1.

Obviously, losing the Triple Crown was challenging for Charismatic and his group. However, that was the least of their concerns as the horse suffered a leg injury in the final stretch.

Jockey Chris Antley jumped off the horse and held his leg to prevent further injury. Charismatic didn’t race again, but many people attribute Antley with saving the horse’s life. It puts the shocking Belmont Stakes upset into perspective.

There’s no doubt it was a tough day for bettors supporting Charismatic winning the Triple Crown. It has been over 20 years, and the best online gambling sites continue supporting horse racing betting.

4. Sherluck Over Carry Back (1961)

I can’t imagine many people remember the 1961 Belmont Stakes, but it serves as one of the biggest upsets in Belmont Stakes history. The 1930s and 1940s saw multiple Triple Crown winners, but there was a 12-year gap going into 1961.

It looked like that would change in 1961. Carry Back came from over 15 lengths back to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. His performances were hardly surprising, as he won four of his seven starts before the Kentucky Derby.

Sherluck had a pair of fifth-place finishes in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Carry Back had his challengers, but no one expected Sherluck to be one of them.

Sherluck didn’t let that faze him. He had a performance worthy of being one of the best Belmont Stakes upsets.

Globemaster set the pace with Sherluck close behind. Carry Back had his typical race, running well off the pace. However, his late-race charge never materialized. Sherluck pulled ahead of Globemaster to cap off one of the greatest Belmont Stakes upsets.

Sherluck became the then biggest longshot winner in Belmont Stakes history at 65/1. The odds likely stemmed from winning one of his ten starts before the Belmont Stakes.

This wasn’t the only time Sherluck defeated Carry Back. The two went head-to-head a few months later in the Lawrence Realization Stakes. It wasn’t as big of an upset, but Sherluck scored another victory.

The horse had the original Belmont Stakes upset.

3. Da’ Tara Over Big Brown (2008)

We’ve often seen the Triple Crown on the line at Belmont Stakes. We often talk about a horse’s chance to complete the Triple Crown, but I’m not sure anyone had more hype than Big Brown.

Big Brown looked unbeatable ahead of the Belmont Stakes. He won his first five starts, including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. His 3/10 odds were the lowest for the favorite since 1979.

Honestly, anyone beating Big Brown would’ve been an upset at the Belmont Stakes. Especially a horse with the accomplishments of Da’ Tara. Check out his finishes in the seven races ahead of the Belmont Stakes.

  • 7 starts
  • 1 win
  • 2 second-place finishes

The biggest race for Da’ Tara ahead of the Belmont Stakes was the Florida Derby. Big Brown won, with Da’ Tara finishing ninth of 12 horses. He went into the Belmont Stakes with 38/1 odds.

Da’ Tara set the early pace in the Belmont Stakes, with Big Brown running third. Big Brown looked erratic as he moved away from the rail to run on the outside. Still, he maintained a strong pace.

However, it all went away, heading into the final stretch. Big Brown quickly dropped to last as jockey Kent Desormeaux pulled him up. Meanwhile, Da’ Tara completed a wire-to-wire victory to pull off one of the most shocking Belmont Stakes wins.

Big Brown had a few issues ahead of the race that likely contributed to his downfall. He recovered to win his final two starts, including the Haskell Invitational.

2. Birdstone Over Smarty Jones (2004)

A few years before Big Brown was a sure-fire pick to end the Triple Crown drought, there was Smarty Jones. You didn’t need our horse racing betting guide to know Smarty Jones was the favorite for the Belmont Stakes.

Smarty Jones entered the Belmont Stakes 8-0. He aimed to become the first horse since Seattle Slew in 1977 to win the Triple Crown as an undefeated horse. Like Big Brown, it didn’t look like anyone had a chance.

Birdstone entered the race as a 36/1 long shot. He finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby, over 15 lengths behind Smarty Jones. That set the stage for one of the top Belmont Stakes upsets.

Smarty Jones battled Purge early before taking the lead. He held a slight advantage over Rock Hard Ten and Eddington. Smarty Jones began to stretch his lead, but there was one horse that refused to go away.

It looked like Smarty Jones had enough to hold off Birdstone, but he lost the lead in the final 50 yards. The record-setting crowd at Belmont Park suddenly went silent as Smarty Jones lost for the first time in his career.

Birdstone’s victory may not have been popular with the Smarty Jones fans, but it stands out as one of the best Belmont Stakes upsets. He remained within striking distance before making a late pass.

Most horse racing fans will never forget this shocking Belmont Stakes winner. This was the final race of Smarty Jones’ career.

1. Sarava Over War Emblem (2002)

We couldn’t have the biggest Belmont Stakes upset without a horse going for the Triple Crown. Three years after Charismatic lost in the Belmont Stakes, War Emblem took his shot at ending the Triple Crown drought.

War Emblem started his Triple Crown journey as a long shot. He won the Kentucky Derby with 25/1 odds before winning the Preakness Stakes.

Trainer Ken McPeek had three horses vying in the Triple Crown races. Harlan’s Holiday was the Kentucky Derby favorite, while Repent won the Louisiana Derby. Sarava was the third wheel in the group.

Check out his 2002 results ahead of the Belmont Stakes.

  • Allowance (Keeneland): 2nd
  • Allowance (Churchill Downs): 2nd
  • Sir Barton Stakes (Pimlico): 1st

War Emblem was the favorite for the Belmont Stakes, while Sarava was the biggest longshot at 70/1.

The plan was for War Emblem to immediately set the pace. However, that went away when he stumbled out the gate. He remained with the leaders and briefly took the lead before the final turn. However, he quickly fell back, giving way to Sarava and Medaglia d’Oro.

They had an intense battle to the finish line, with Sarava edging ahead. He became the biggest longshot winner in Belmont Stakes history at 70/1. What more can you ask for from a top Belmont Stakes upset.

War Emblem’s slow start effectively ended his chances. He burned too much energy trying to make it to the lead. That cleared the way for Sarava’s shocking victory.

Betting on Upsets in the Belmont Stakes

Finding a Belmont Stakes upset isn’t easy, but it can earn people a ton of money. We’ve seen plenty of horses win the Belmont Stakes with 30/1 odds or worse.

Honestly, you almost have to root against a Triple Crown winner if you want to capitalize on a longshot. Those horses have the best odds, so they don’t give as much respect to the others. I’d also recommend a fresh horse that didn’t compete in the Preakness Stakes.

It’s only a matter of time before we see another longshot win the Belmont Stakes. Please visit the Belmont Stakes betting sites to wager on the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Nicholas Sterling
Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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