The United States of Triple Crown Thoroughbred Racing, commonly referred to as the “Triple Crown” is the most famous and prestigious horse racing event in America’s history. To participate in the races, the horse must be 3 years old. To win the coveted “crown” the horse must win a sequence of 3 races held at 3 different flat, lengthy, dirt track race courses in as many states over a period of 5 weeks from early May to early June each year.
The famous horse tracks that host this worldwide well-anticipated and –watched race in order of occurrence include, Louisville’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Baltimore Maryland’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, and Elmont, New York’s Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.
The horse must win the Derby to continue on the road as a Triple Crown contender to the Preakness. He must then win the Preakness to advance to the crowning race at Belmont.
The long drought between wins indicates just how difficult the Triple Crown is to capture. Since 1919, when Sir Barton became the first horse to take all 3 races, only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown. The most recent winner to achieve this spectacular feat is Affirmed, who ran away with the coveted prize in 1978.
Triple Crown Victors
The current 32-year interval between winners is the longest gap in the Triple Crown’s history, although Secretariat in 1973 ended a 25-year lull that dated back to Citation’s victory in 1948.
Some horses, 21 in all, and 7 in the last 13 years of the Triple Crown, have come to the Belmont Stakes with triumphs at the Derby and the Preakness only to fall short at Belmont’s “Test of the Champion”. Real Quiet is one of those unfortunate horses, who in 1998 lost the Belmont by a nose to Victory Gallop in a photo finish.
In the last furlong of 1999’s Belmont race, Charismatic was in the lead, but fell back to third when he fractured his front left leg in the end stretch. The most recent Thoroughbreds who won both the Derby and Preakness, only to lose at Belmont were…
Winning a Triple Crown is a very rare achievement, with most horses specializing on a limited range of distances that are not on a par with the race for the crown –
The U.S. Triple Crown inspiration came from mid-19th century England, where the Epsom Derby, Two Thousand Guineas, and St. Ledger races were considered their three jewels in the crown.
The Triple Crown trophy was created in 1950 by Cartier Jewelry Company. The facets of the 3-sided vase represent each one of the crown’s races. Trophies were given retroactively to the past 8 winners of the crown.
Fueled by public interested in a “super-horse”, the Morning Telegraph’s 1930 Sportswriter Charles Hatton first used the term Triple Crown to describe the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont races when Gallant Fox won all 3 races, becoming the second horse to do so.
Two years later the Derby was changed to take place on the first Saturday in May allowing for a specific Triple Crown race schedule.
Since 1931, the order of Triple Crown races has been the Kentucky Derby first, followed by the Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes.
The Preakness was run before the Derby on 11 occasions prior to 1931.
The 1918 Preakness ran in two divisions; the winners were War Cloud in one division and Jack Hare, Jr. in the other.
The Belmont was run before the Preakness on 11 occasions.
The Belmont was not run in 1911-1912 and the Preakness in 1892-1893 due to anti-betting legislation.
The Preakness and Derby were held on the same day in the years 1917 and 1922.
The Preakness attendance ranks second in North America and typically surpasses the attendance of all other stakes races plus the Kentucky Oaks and Breeder’s Cup.
Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds and fillies carry 121 pounds.
On June 9, 1973 Triple Crown champion Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths in a record-breaking time of 2:24. His record still stands as the fastest speed in Belmont’s history. Count Fleet won the race by the second largest margin of 25 lengths in 1943.
Dancers Image was disqualified as the winner of the 1968 due to a failed drug test.
The only Triple Crown victor to have sired another Triple Crown winner is Gallant Fox, who sired Omaha.
Ten trainers claim history in Triple Crown victories; trainer Jim Fitzsimmons had two wins with Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935.
Eddie Arcaro rode two horses to the Triple Crown and is the only jockey in history to have done so.