The Champagne Stakes (G1) has been running since 1867, and the 1-mile event at Belmont Park is considered New York’s premier race for two-year-olds. The Grade 1 Champagne is the oldest race of its kind and is held in early October with a purse of $500,000.
The Champagne S. is a ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ prep qualifying race, as the winner is awarded 10 points towards qualifying for the Kentucky Derby and the top four finishers receive a point distribution of 10-4-2-1.
The Champagne has become part of a big day for racing at Belmont Park as the track hosts four Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge races with the winner of the Champagne earning an automatic fees paid entry into the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Five horses have completed the double, winning the Champagne and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile: Fly So Free (1990), Timber Country (1994), War Pass (2007), Uncle Mo (2007) and Shanghai Bobby (2012).
Recent winners of the Champagne Stakes include Firenze Fire, Practical Joke, Greenpointcrusader, Daredevil and Havana. Only Havana came close to winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile finishing 2nd as the favorite.
The Champagne has been run at various distances during its long history, but contested at 1 mile for more than 50 years starting in 1940 and again starting in 2005. From 1994-2004 it was contested at 1 1⁄16 miles.
The 1 mile race record was set by Devils Bag (1983) in 1:34.20, just eclipsing the record set by Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew (1976) of 1:34.40. Count Fleet was the other Triple Crown winner to win the Champagne. Eventual Triple Crown winner Secretariat won the race in 1972, but was disqualified to 2nd behind Stop the Music.
Other notable horses that have won the race include Riva Ridge, Colin, Foolish Pleasure, Alydar, Spectacular Bid, Buckpasser, Hoist the Flag, Count Fleet, Ben Brush, Alsab, Forty Niner, Easy Goer, Sarazen, Grey Lag, Union Rags and Scat Daddy. A total of 13 Hall of Fame horses won the Champagne Stakes.