There aren’t many greater achievements in the history of horse racing than winning the Triple Crown. It is a feat that only 13 horses have managed since 1919.
However, the achievement of winning the Triple Crown trophy wasn’t officially commissioned until 1950. But, previous horses that managed to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes in the same calendar year before their commission were also handed awards.
What Is The Triple Crown?
The Triple Crown shapes the showpiece of the horse racing calendar in the United States, as three-year-olds line-up in prestigious Grade 1s between May and June. The first leg of the Triple Crown takes place in early May at Churchill Downs, as the Kentucky Derby is staged.
Just two weeks later, the Preakness Stakes is run at Pimlico, before the Belmont Stakes rounds off the Triple Crown series in early June. You can check the past and future results of this event here: https://www.twinspires.com/preakness-stakes/results
On a number of occasions, the order of races has been altered, including in 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Early Triple Crown Winners
The first horse to win all three races was Sir Barton, who achieved the feat in 1919. He was trained by Billy Walker and H. Guy Bedwell, and won 13 of his 31 starts, collecting $116,857 in prize money. Unlike future Triple Crown winners, Sir Barton continued to race when he was four, but he was famously beaten in a match race at Kenilworth Road by Man o’ War. However, the term ‘Triple Crown’ wasn’t regularly used across the media until Gallant Fox’s success in 1930. The term was first used in the Daily Racing Form by Charles Hatton.
The 30s would be a good period for Triple Crown victors, with both Omaha and War Admiral achieving the feat in 1935 and 1937, respectively. It would become even more common throughout the 40s, with four more horses achieving the feat, including Whirlaway, Count Fleet and Citation.
Secretariat’s Dominant Year
After Citation’s Triple Crown success in 1948, there would be an extended period before the next horse achieved that feat. However, Secretariat was certainly a horse for the ages, and excitement was growing in 1973 that he could end the wait. Secretariat won the Gotham Stakes on his way to the Derby but was beaten in shocking fashion in the Wood Memorial. However, in front of a record crowd in North America for racing, Secretariat would put any doubts surrounding his stamina to bed, as he won the race in the first-ever sub-two-minute race.
Success in the Preakness Stakes followed, before a win in the Belmont Stakes secured his place as one of the greatest horses the world has ever seen. The legend still holds the stakes time records for each of the Triple Crown races, which includes his 2:24 over ½ miles in the Belmont Stakes, which remains a world record. However, he wouldn’t be the only Triple Crown winner in the 70s, with both Seattle Slew and Affirmed achieving the feat.
Grand Slam Champion
A considerable 37 years went by before another bold bid for the Triple Crown was made, but in 2015, the world was dazzled by American Pharoah. Trained by Bob Baffert, the horse would go on to win the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year and was later inducted into the American Racing Hall of Fame. He remains one of the most celebrated horses that has ever run in the United States, and only tasted defeat on one occasion in eleven starts.
Early in 2015, he would land the Kentucky Derby, before easily adding the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. However, he made history in his final race, as he added the prestigious G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic to his collection, as he held off the older horses to win by a commanding six and a half lengths.
Baffert would also have Triple Crown success once again three years later when Justify won all three races, but his success remains one of the most controversial after he tested positive for a banned substance but the ruling was made after the Kentucky Derby.