2002 Belmont Stakes

134th Belmont Stakes
Belmont Stakes
LocationBelmont Park
Elmont, New York
DateJune 8, 2002
Winning horseSarava
JockeyEdgar Prado
TrainerKenneth McPeek
OwnerNew Phoenix Stables and Susan Roy
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The 2002 Belmont Stakes was the 134th running of the Belmont Stakes. The 1 12-mile (2,400 m) race, known as the "test of the champion" and sometimes called the "final jewel" in thoroughbred horse racing's Triple Crown series, was held on June 8, 2002, three weeks after the Preakness Stakes and five weeks after the Kentucky Derby.

War Emblem, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Victor Espinoza, was the race favorite after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in front-running fashion. However, he lost all chance of completing the Triple Crown after stumbling at the start of the race. Lightly regarded Sarava won at odds of 70-1, the biggest long-shot in the history of the Belmont Stakes.


War Emblem established himself as the horse to beat in the Belmont Stakes after wire-to-wire wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Despite his racing ability, he was a temperamental colt known around the stable as "Hannibal Lector" for his habit of trying to bite anyone who came too close.[2] Baffert was optimistic about the colt's chances, saying, "With [jockey] Victor [Espinoza], there's no thinking involved. Just get him out of the gate and let him go."[3]

With Puzzlement a late scratch, ten other horses entered the race but only a few were given serious consideration by the bettors. War Emblem had already beaten most of the horses in the field, including Proud Citizen (2nd in the Derby, 3rd in the Preakness), Perfect Drift (3rd in the Derby), Medaglia d'Oro (4th in the Derby and 8th in the Preakness) and Magic Weisner (2nd in the Preakness). Of the "new shooters", the most highly regarded was Sunday Break, who had won the Peter Pan Stakes in May.[4]

Trainer Kenneth McPeek had trained the beaten favorite for the Kentucky Derby, Harlan's Holiday. However, his entry in the Belmont was the lightly regarded Sarava, whose only win was the Sir Barton Stakes in May. "He's a nice horse," said McPeek. "He's a horse that's kind of coming together late. He's been a bit of a surprise for everybody, but at the same time, he's very well bred."[5]

A then record crowd of 103,222 attended the race.[6]

Race description[]

War Emblem stumbled badly at the start and lost several lengths to the rest of the field. Baffert knew immediately that his chance to win the Triple Crown was over. "If I was on the walkie-talkie, I would have told Victor to pull him up. I didn't want him to go a mile and a half like that."[6]

Espinoza tried to salvage the situation by moving War Emblem to the rail behind the early leaders, Wiseman's Ferry and Medaglia d'Oro. War Emblem disliked being behind horses though and fought with Espinoza's attempts to settle him. He moved to the lead with about half a mile left in the race, but then ran out of energy, eventually finishing eighth. Medaglia d'Oro recovered the lead but was run down by Sarava in the stretch, who won by half a length. The two were well clear of Sunday Break in third.[7][6]

"Of course we were shocked," said Gary Drake, Sarava's part-owner. "You don't lead a horse over there at 70-1 and not be surprised when he wins." McPeek added, "We just didn't know how good he was. You never do until you throw him in the ring with this kind."[8]


Finish Program
Horse Margin Jockey Trainer Post Time
1 12 Sarava 12 Edgar Prado Kenneth McPeek 70.25 $600,000
2 8 Medaglia d'Oro 9 12 Kent Desormeaux Robert Frankel 16.00 $200,000
3 5 Sunday Break (JPN) 1 Gary Stevens Neil Drysdale 8.10 $110,000
4 11 Magic Weisner 1 14 Richard Migliore Nancy Alberts 7.30 $60,000
5 9 Proud Citizen 1 14 Mike E. Smith D. Wayne Lukas 7.00 $30,000
6 4 Essence of Dubai 4 14 Jerry Bailey Saeed bin Suroor 20.60
7 2 Like a Hero 1 34 Pat Day C. Greely 25.50
8 10 War Emblem 30 34 Victor Espinoza Bob Baffert 1.25
9 3 Wiseman's Ferry 1 Jorge Chavez Niall O'Callaghan 18.80
10 6 Perfect Drift 20 34 Eddie Delahoussaye Murray Johnson 5.60
11 1 Artax Too Jose Santos Jennifer Pedersen 71.75

Source: Equibase[1]
Times:14 — 0:24.11; ​12 — 0:48.09; ​34 — 1:12.38; mile — 1:37.01; ​1 14 — 2:03.50; final — 2:29.71.
Fractional Splits: (:24.11) (:23.98) (:24.29) (:24.63) (:26.49) (:26.21)[1]


The 135th Belmont Payout Schedule[1]

Horse Name Win Place Show
12 Sarava $142.50 $50.00 $22.40
8 Medaglia d'Oro - $16.00 $10.80
5 Sunday Break - - $7.10

See also[]


  1. ^ a b c d "Chart of the 2002 Belmont Stakes". equibase.com. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  2. ^ Haskin, Steve. "Belmont Preview: All About War Emblem". bloodhorse.com. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  3. ^ Milbert, Neil. "War Emblem's post has Baffert smiling". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  4. ^ Joseph, Dave. "Last Laugh (and Triple Crown) Could Be War Emblem's". sun-sentinel.com. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  5. ^ "McPeek's Late Developing Sarava Preps for Belmont Stakes". bloodhorse.com. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Drape, Joe (9 June 2002). "Early Stumble Dooms War Emblem's Triple Crown Bid". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  7. ^ Chemer, Reid. "War Emblem falters in bid for Triple Crown". usatoday30.usatoday.com. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  8. ^ Kieckhefer, Robert. "War Emblem stumbles, Sarava wins Belmont". UPI. Retrieved 5 October 2016.