This year’s Triple Crown took off on May 7 with the Kentucky Derby.
With the excitement brewing and CT sports bettors preparing to place more bets, it’s a good time to reminisce about the Triple Crown Winners of the past.
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What does it mean to be a Triple Crown winner?
The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing refers to a series of the three–horse races held annually between May and June.
3-year-old horses compete in the first race held in early May after they’ve qualified appropriately during the road to the Kentucky Derby.
To earn a Triple Crown title, a competing horse needs to win all three races.
The Kentucky Derby
Occurring every year on the first Saturday in May, the Kentucky Derby opens up the Triple Crown races. It is a 1.25-mile race held at Churchill Downs, and a maximum of 20 horses can compete.
The Derby is often referred to as the “Run for the Roses” because the winner is traditionally draped with a blanket made of 554 roses.
Back in February we put together a guide for how to bet on the Derby. Although it’s passed you can use these pointers for any horse race.
The Preakness Stakes
The Preakness Stakes is called the “Run for the Black–Eyed Susans” because the blanket given to the winner in this race is made with Maryland’s state flower by the same name.
Being held every year at Pimlico Race Course, this race occurs on the third Saturday in May. It is a 1 3/16-mile race in which a maximum of 14 horses can compete.
The Belmont Stakes
Held at Belmont Park every year, this race has been dubbed the “Test of the Champion” due to the lengthy 1.5–mile track that the horses compete on. The race is one of the longest among first-class races held on dirt in the U.S.
Occurring on one of the first two Saturdays every June, Belmont Stakes sees a maximum of 12 total horses competing every year.
Only 13 horses have ever won the Triple Crown
Winning one of the Triple Crown races is a challenge for any competing horse. That’s why winning all three races is a feat that puts a horse onto the pages of history.
Over the past century, only 13 horses have achieved the Triple Crown, and their names will be remembered for generations to come.
Sir Barton in 1919
The first–ever to win the Triple Crown, Sir Barton’s racing career got off to a rocky start. He lost all six of his starts the previous year.
His 3-year-old debut, though, earned him the win in the 1919 Kentucky Derby. He earned $116,857 over his career, which would amount to over $1.5 million today.
Gallant Fox in 1930
One interesting fact about Gallant Fox is that not only did he win the Triple Crown in 1930, but his son also did the same five years later. He is the only Triple Crown winner to produce offspring that would go on to earn the title.
Omaha in 1935
Sired by the previous title winner, Gallant Fox, Omaha was bred to be a champion. Still, even though he won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes in 1935, he lost at the Withers before returning for a win at Belmont Stakes to earn his title.
War Admiral in 1937
While not the offspring of a title winner like Omaha, War Admiral was the son of a stallion that came close to the Triple Crown. His sire, Man o’ War, didn’t win the Kentucky Derby but won both the Preakness and the Belmont.
During War Admiral’s championship year, he won his title even after getting injured at the beginning of the Belmont Stakes.
The stallion later went on to father 320 starters and a whopping 40 stakes winners.
Whirlaway in 1941
A steady winner throughout his career, Whirlaway didn’t just the Triple Crown in 1941. He also won the Travers Stakes, the Brooklyn Handicap, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup during his multi-year career.
Count Fleet in 1943
The skinny, gangly appearance of Count Fleet almost made his owner sell him before his win. Luckily, he won 10 of his 15 2-year-old starts.
Count Fleet went on to win all three races in 1943, winning the Belmont by a whopping 25 lengths.
Assault in 1946
This champion had a deformity in one of his front hoofs, earning him the nickname, “club–footed comet.” He won the Derby by eight lengths in 1946, but was found to be infertile at stud and sired no offspring.
Citation in 1948
The first horse to ever break the $1 million mark in career earnings, Citation would have made over $10.6 million in today’s dollars.
The 1948 Kentucky Derby saw only 6 total horses competing, and only 16 competed in the Triple Crown series that year. Nonetheless, Citation finished his season as a 3-year-old with a whopping 19 wins on 20 starts.
Secretariat in 1973
The famous Secretariat set stakes records in all three of the 1973 triple crown races. He won the Belmont by an unheard-of distance of 31 lengths.
Belmont Park memorialized his achievement by placing a permanent pole in his honor at the 31 length mark from the finish line.
Seattle Slew in 1977
This Triple Crown winner’s career record of 17–14–2–0 was undefeated until 2018. Seattle Slew’s first loss didn’t even take place until after he won the 1977 Triple Crown series.
Affirmed in 1978
The very first horse to achieve over $2 million in career earnings, Affirmed not only won the Triple Crown in 1978, but also the Horse of the Year award.
He also won six Grade 1 races in succession the following year, earning him the award for the second year in a row.
American Pharoah in 2015
After almost four decades with no Triple Crown winners, American Pharoah made history in 2015 with his sweeping wins. His trainer, Bob Baffert, and his Jockey, Victor Espinoza, had attempted the title multiple times before earning it with this champion.
Justify in 2018
This champion won the 2018 Triple Crown even though he never raced as a 2-year-old. Justify is the second horse to achieve this feat. He’s also the second title winner that won as an undefeated champion.
He’s currently living out his retirement on stud duty at Ashford Stud.
The Triple Crown legacy
There are many elite champions among horse racing stallions and mares, but there are few that can call themselves Triple Crown winners. You can check back with us to find out which champions 2022 might provide.
The feat makes a horse revered, remembered and respected among horse racing enthusiasts.