August Belmont Trophy
The August Belmont Trophy is awarded annually to the winning owner of the Belmont Stakes run at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York since 1926. The perpetual trophy, a silver bowl, made by Louis Comfort Tiffany and donated by the Belmont family, has been presented to the winning owner for ceremonial purposes only. A silver plate is inscribed and given to the winning owner to keep.
From 1869 until 1926, this trophy remained with the Belmont family. In 1926, Mrs. Eleanor R. Belmont, the widow of Major August Belmont II, donated the trophy to the Westchester Racing Association, then a governing body of New York racing, to be established as the permanent trophy for the race.
In a letter to Mrs. Belmont dated June 8, 1926, Westchester Racing Secretary John J. Coakley wrote: “As desired by you, the Cup will be known in the future as the August Belmont Memorial Cup and will be contested for annually in the renewal of the ‘Belmont Stakes’ at Belmont Park, the winner of each renewal to retain possession of the Cup until the succeeding year.”
In addition to be presented the permanent trophy for ceremonial purposes only, the winning owner of the Belmont Stakes receives a large silver tray upon which the names of previous Belmont are engraved. This tradition also dates back to 1926, when the Westchester Racing Association committed to present to the winner each year “a suitable plate to become the property of such winning owner.” The winning trainer, jockey and exercise rider also receive silver trays, while the winning groom is given race mementos.
Description of the Trophy
The August Belmont Memorial Cup is a solid silver bowl and cover made by Tiffany & Co. measuring 18 inches tall, 15 inches across and 14 inches at the base. Atop the bowl's cover is a silver figure of Fenian, winner of the third running of the Belmont Stakes in 1869. The bowl is supported by three horses; Herod, Eclipse and Matchem, representing the three foundation sires of the thoroughbred world, the Byerly Turk, the Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Barb. Of these, the lineage of Eclipse is predominant in the modern Thoroughbred.
Blanket of White Carnations
While the origin of the white carnation as the official flower of the Belmont Stakes is unknown, it’s a fitting choice to crown the winner of the 1½-mile “Test of the Champion.” Traditionally, pure white carnations stand for love and luck, but they are also hardy, long-lasting flowers, not unlike the they come to adorn.
It takes approximately 700 “select” carnations imported from Colombia to create the 40 pound blanket draped over the winner of the Belmont Stakes. The New York Racing Association has long used The Pennock Company, a wholesale florist based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to import the carnations used for the mantle..
“They’re the best at getting us the bigger carnations that have that fluffy look,” said NYRA florist Tony Green. “When you drape the blanket over the horse you want it to look like a bed of carnations.”
To create that bed of carnations, Green keeps the flowers in water for two full days so that they hydrate properly and the blossoms thicken. When ready, Green hand glues each individual flower in staggered rows to seven yards of green velvet cloth, folded and sewn to give it the necessary heft to retain its shape and support the carnations. The process of creating the winner’s blanket takes Green about five hours on the day of the race.
There is only one winner’s blanket, but Green also makes a similar blanket in advance to adorn the Secretariat statue in Belmont’s backyard on race day. If it’s very hot and humid, or inclement weather is expected, Green makes two blankets for the statue and switches them mid-afternoon.
For fans looking to catch a glimpse of the official blanket, the best place is actually not in the winner’s circle. Starting at about 1 p.m. on the day before the Belmont Stakes, Green and several other NYRA staffers tour the building with the carnation mantle, stopping for about 20 minutes on all four floors of the Clubhouse to answer questions and pose for photos.
- ↑ New York Racing Association website, Belmont Park home page; http://www.belmontstakes.com/history/records.aspx.
- ↑ New York Racing Association website, Belmont Park home page; http://www.belmontstakes.com/history/carnationblanket.aspx; article by Ashley Herriman.