The Filly That Won the First Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park

Before Belmont Park opened in 1905, the Belmont Stakes had already been contested 38 times at two venues and counted six Hall of Famers among its distinguished winners. Talk about a rich history. 

Jerome Park, located in Westchester County, played host to the first 23 editions of the race from 1867 through 1889. The Belmont was then relocated to nearby Morris Park from 1890 through 1904. Since its opening, Belmont Park, on Long Island, has been home to the prestigious race with the only exceptions being 1963 through 1967, when it was moved to Aqueduct while Belmont was being renovated. 

More than a half-century later, Belmont Park (named after August Belmont II, founder of both the Belmont Stakes and the park) is once again undergoing a significant revitalization project, necessitating the Belmont Stakes find a new home for at least 2024 and 2025. 

Hello, Saratoga! 

While the Spa City and the legendary Saratoga Race Course prepare to step in to add a couple of new chapters to Belmont Stakes lore, the race’s iconic history will always be defined by its downstate roots.  

One of the Belmont’s most notable editions was the first one held at Belmont Park in 1905. A chestnut filly named Tanya—with famous connections and significant Saratoga achievements to her credit—stole the show. A chestnut daughter of English sire Meddler out of the Hanover mare Hardspun, Tanya was bred in New Jersey by William Collins Whitney. Before Tanya made it to the track, Whitney died in early 1904. Tanya, along with numerous other horses from the powerful Whitney stable, raced that year under a lease agreement for Herman B. Duryea. Tanya was later purchased outright for $7,000 by Whitney’s son, Harry Payne Whitney. 

Trained by future Hall of Famer John W. Rogers, Tanya was a precocious juvenile, winning both the Hopeful and Spinaway stakes at Saratoga in the summer of 1904. After her victory in the Hopeful, The New York Times said Tanya’s performance was “the most remarkable run by a filly in the memory of turfmen” and her reputation “ranks with the best of her age and sex that the American turf has ever produced.”

As a sophomore, Tanya had raced only once, finishing off the board, prior to being entered in the Belmont. Although some were doubting her ability to replicate her 2-year-old success, Tanya found her best form and delivered on the big stage. 

Contested at 1¼ miles, the 1905 Belmont “was one worthy of the stakes,” said The New York Times. “On the stretch (Eugene) Hildebrand, who rode Tanya, eased her up for a few strides, seemingly confident she had the race won, but the field … closed so fast at the end that Hildebrand was compelled to urge the filly out. Tanya, tiring at the end, lasting in the lead just long enough to win by a neck from Blandy.”  

The only filly prior to Tanya to win the Belmont was Hall of Famer Ruthless in the inaugural 1867 edition. After Tanya, 102 years passed before another filly, champion Rags to Riches, achieved the rare glory of a Belmont victory. 

Injuries plagued the remainder of Tanya’s career. She was retired after two starts in 1907 with a career record of 6-2-1 from 12 starts and earnings of $71,372. She is retrospectively recognized as the Co-Champion 2-Year-Old Filly of 1904 and Co-Champion Filly of 1905, sharing both honors with Hall of Fame member Artful.   

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