The U.S. Triple Crown
Author: Jana Nemeckova, published: 11th January 2018, updated 12th June 2018. A quick switch for the full-screen version.
The American Triple Crown is one of the most famous terms in the whole thoroughbred racing. The Kentucky Derby is not much less prestigious than the Epsom Derby itself, and its popularity is further enhanced by the extensive fan base and by the perfect accessibility of the news and photos worldwide. Another major difference is that the series of preparation races - the "Triple Crown trail" - lasts four months, compared to about one month before classic races in Great Britain, and starts right after the juvenile season. The American Triple Crown has always been the source of immense thrill and excitement, and besides the fact it virtually concludes the first part of the racing season in the U.S., before the big summer races and autumn handicaps leading to the Breeders' Cup, it's also one of the greatest sources of legendary stories in the thoroughbred history.
|Kentucky Derby||1875||1 1/4m||Churchill Downs|
|Preakness Stakes||1873||1 3/16m||Pimlico|
|Belmont Stakes||1867||1 1/2m||Belmont Park|
Brief history notes
Quite little-know fact is that all of today's Triple Crown races were originally run at the distance of the Epsom Derby, or even longer. The oldest one, the Belmont Stakes, was first run at Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx, a venue built by Leonard Jerome and financed by August Belmont Sr. The original distance was 13 furlongs (2600m) and the first run ever was won by filly Ruthless, a bay daughter of British-bred Eclipse by Orlando. It was cut to 12 furlongs or 1 1/2 miles in 1875, and from 1890 to 1925 it changed the distance several times, from ten to even nine, back to ten and eleven furlongs, before finally settling at 1 1/2 miles for good in 1926. Its venue changed too; it was moved to the nearby Morris Park Racecourse in 1890 and stayed there until 1905, when the new Belmont Park racetrack was opened in Elmont, on Long Island. It's a home of the Belmont Stakes since then, except the years 1911 and 1912, when the track was closed and the race canceled due to anti-gambling legislation passed in the state of New York.
Pimlico racetrack introduced the Preakness Stakes in 1873, as a new stakes race during the first spring meet ever. The racetrack itself opened three years earlier, and the Dinner Party Stakes was won by a colt named Preakness; the new race was named in his honor. It was run at the distance of 1 1/2 miles and the winner was bay colt Survivor, the son of Vandal and the grandson of Lexington. After a break from 1891 to 1893, the distance of the race was shortened to 1 1/16 miles and even to only a mile in 1909 and 1910; it rose back to nine furlongs in 1911, and the current distance of 1 3/16 miles, or 9.5 furlongs, was set in 1925. In 1918, the race was run in the two divisions, won by War Cloud and Jack Hare Jr.
The Kentucky Derby is far the most prestigious, yet the youngest one of the whole series. Dubbed "the Run for the Roses", the idea of its creation came from Europe. Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. traveled to Europe in 1872 and he not only saw the Epsom Derby itself, but also visited France, where the French Jockey Club inaugurated the Grand Prix de Paris only 9 years earlier. Inspired by that, he formed the Louisville Jockey Club in 1874 in order to raise money for the new racetrack, which soon became known as Churchill Downs - in honor of John and Henry Churchill, who leased the land for the racetrack to their nephew Clark. The very first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875, at the distance of 1 1/2 miles, which was cut for 1896 running to 1 1/4 miles, and this distance stayed up to today. The very first winner was Aristides, the son of Leamington and also the grandson of Lexington.
The idea of the Triple Crown was sometimes used since 1923, but it's believed it was Charles Hatton of the Daily Racing Form who put the term into common use in 1930.
So far, thirteen horses were able to accomplish this unique feat.
|1919||Sir Barton||ch.c.||Star Shoot - Lady Sterling, Hanover|
|1930||Gallant Fox||b.c.||Sir Gallahad - Marguerite, Celt|
|1935||Omaha||ch.c.||Gallant Fox - Flambino, Wrack|
|1937||War Admiral||br.c.||Man o'War - Brushup, Sweep|
|1941||Whirlaway||ch.c.||Blenheim - Dustwhirl, Sweep|
|1943||Count Fleet||b.c.||Reigh Count - Quickly, Haste|
|1946||Assault||ch.c.||Bold Venture - Igual, Equipoise|
|1948||Citation||b.c.||Bull Lea - Hydroplane, Hyperion|
|1973||Secretariat||ch.c.||Bold Ruler - Somethingroyal, Princequillo|
|1977||Seattle Slew||br.c.||Bold Reasoning - My Charmer, Poker>|
|1978||Affirmed||ch.c.||Exclusive Native - Won't Tell You, Crafty Admiral|
|2015||American Pharoah||b.c.||Pioneerof the Nile - Littleprincessemma, Yankee Gentleman|
|2018||Justify||ch.c.||Scat Daddy - Stage Magic, Ghostzapper|
- Owner - breeder - trainer - jockey:
- Sir Barton - John E. Madden - J. K. L. Ross - H. Guy Bedwell - Johnny Loftus
- Gallant Fox, Omaha - Belair Stud - Belair Stud - Jim Fitzsimmons - Earl Sande
- War Admiral - Samuel D. Riddle - Samuel D. Riddle - George H. Conway - Charley Kurtsinger
- Whirlaway - Calumet Farm - Calumet Farm - Ben A. Jones - Eddie Arcaro
- Count Fleet - Fannie Hertz - Fannie Hertz - Don Cameron - Johnny Longden
- Assault - King Ranch - King Ranch - Max Hirsch - Warren Mehrtens
- Citation - Calumet Farm - Calumet Farm - Horace A. Jones - Eddie Arcaro
- Secretariat - Meadow Stud - Meadow Stable - Lucien Laurin - Ron Turcotte
- Seattle Slew - Ben S. Castleman - Mickey and Karen L. Taylor, Tayhill Stable/Jim Hill, et al. - William H. Turner, Jr. - Jean Cruguet
- Affirmed - Harbor View Farm - Harbor View Farm - Laz Barrera - Steve Cauthen
- American Pharoah - Zayat Stables - Ahmed Zayat - Bob Baffert - Victor Espinoza
Curiosities connected to the Triple Crown
The only sire - offspring duo, who won the Triple Crown, was Gallant Fox in 1930 and his son Omaha in 1935. And moreover, both horses were bred and owned by the same proprietor, the Belair Stud, and trained by the same man: "Sunny" Jim Fitzsimmons. The ownership double was tied the next decade by Claiborne Farm, which bred and owned boh Whirlaway and Citation, but Jim Fitzsimmons's achievement remained unique until the 21st century, when Bob Baffert conditioned his two winners in span of only four years. The Claiborne pair, however, is special in one more way - both were ridden by Eddie Arcaro, who remains the only jockey in history who rode two Triple Crown winners.
Speaking of owners and breeders, another interesting fact is that 10 of 13 Triple Crown winners were homebreds. The only exceptions were the first winner Sir Barton, Seattle Slew in 1977, and Justify in 2018.
Seattle Slew and a year younger Affirmed remain the only Triple Crown winners who met each other. Despite the situation in the 1930s and the 1940s, where seven winners were very close to each other, no-one raced long enough to meet his younger rival. The only exception was Assault, but he was already far from his championship form when Citation delivered into the nation's top horse. Seattle Slew and Affirmed met twice in 1978 - for the first time in history, two Triple Crown winners competed in the Marlboro Cup Handicap G1, with Affirmed favored at 1:2 against Seattle Slew at 2:1. However, the older dark bay broke on top and managed to hold off his rival by three lengths, winning in 1:45.80 for 1 1/8 miles; just 2/5 of a second off the Secretariat's track record.
The pair met once more though, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Affirmed's slipped saddle destroyed every chance for the highly-anticipated rematch, and Seattle Slew succumbed to his own suicidal pace. Still, he managed to finish second - behind Exceller, the exceptional horse who won no less than 11 G1 races. Exceller still remains the only horse in the history who defeated two Triple Crown winners in one race. But he's not the only one who defeated two Triple Crown winners - this honor belongs also to Noor, the British-bred son of Nasrullah. Noor became the arch-rival to Citation, whom he defeated four times in 1950, and he reportedly also beat his Triple Crown predecessor Assault.
The stakes records of all three races are held by only one horse out of almost 4200 entrants, who ever competed in the Triple Crown races, and this horse is Secretariat. Considered by many to be the best racehorse ever, Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby in 1:59 2/5 for 1 1/4 miles, the Preakness in 1:53 for 1 3/16 miles, and the Belmont in 2:24 - a world record time for 1 1/2 miles, which still stands even after more than 40 years. We should take into count that the distance of all three races varied during the decades; however, it takes away only a little from Secretariat's unbelievable achievement.
The most famous horse, who didn't win the Triple Crown, is probably Man o'War. The legendary chestnut, who is Secretariat's archrival in the fan battle for 'the best racehorse ever' title, not only didn't run in the Kentucky Derby - he wasn't even entered. His owner Samuel Riddle didn't like the Kentucky Derby, for he believed it's too early in the season for three-year-olds to run the distance of a mile and a quarter. Also, the Kentucky Derby was only 10 days before Man o'War's preferred target, which was the Preakness Stakes, and it's worth noting that Riddle's farm lies only about 100 miles from Pimlico, but almost 600 miles from Louisville, which was one of the reasons why Man o'War was pointed to Preakness - 10 years before the term 'Triple Crown' became commonly used. Man o'War won the Preakness Stakes comfortably, as well as the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown.
Closely behind would probably be Native Dancer, the phenomenal grey colt, who won 21 of 22 races - except the Kentucky Derby, where he wasn't able to catch outsider Dark Star only by a head while gaining ground.
The most unlucky horse ever competing in the Triple Crown was Alydar, who ran second in all three legs of the Triple Crown behind Affirmed, by a combined margin of only two lengths. His trainer John Veitch is still the only trainer who accomplished this unlucky with one horse; Bob Baffert in 2012 emulated him with two horses, Bodemeister and Paynter. Much less known is the fact that there's also the horse who finished third in all three legs of the Triple Crown, and he also remains alone in the whole history: Mane Minister in 1991, in the runnings won by Strike the Gold and Hansel.
While the Belmont Stakes is often proudly dubbed "the test of the champions", it sometimes had a little to do with a real one in its early years. The Belmont Stakes was run five times as a match race, twice in the 20th century. The winners were Hanover over his old rival Oneko in 1887, Sir Dixon over Jerome Handicap winner Prince Royal in 1888, when he won by twelve lengths; Patron over Shellbark in 1892, he two-year-old champion Sweep over Duke of Ormonde in 1910, and finally, the mighty Man o'War over Donnacona in 1920.
With the Travers Stakes being the most prized target for every horse successful in any leg of the Triple Crown, there's still only one Triple Crown winner who ever won it, at it was Whirlaway in 1941. This seems a little strange, so let's sum it up: Count Fleet never ran again after the Belmont Stakes, and both Assault and Citation didn't run in the Travers. And so didn't Secretariat, who missed the Travers due to the effects of infection, which "helped" to defeat him in the Witney Stakes. Seattle Slew was sent to California for the Swaps Stakes, where he finished fourth, ending his season with physical problems. Affirmed ran in the Travers and actually won - only to be disqualified to the second place behind Alydar for severe interference going into the far turn. And finally, American Pharoah lost the Travers to Keen Ice after winning the Haskell Invitational - and flowing accross the country back to California in the meantime.
Since the inauguration of the Breeders' Cup in 1984, American Pharoah was the only horse who won the Triple Crown - and was also able to win the Breeders' Cup Classic as the unofficial, yet often quoted "Grand Slam".
Sometimes horses, which failed to finish the Triple Crown after victories in its first two legs, are equally famous as those who won it. This is certainly the case of Northern Dancer, who ran the fastest Kentucky Derby in the history in 2:00 flat - a figure which stood for 12 years before being shattered by Secretariat. A big part of remembering Northern Dancer as double classic winner lies within his incredible stud career, but it doesn't change anything. Equally famous was Sunday Silence in Japan - and his rivalry with Easy Goer, which arose during the Triple Crown and continued to the Breeders' Cup Classic, went into history books. These two will be mentioned once more in a while.
Another well-known story is the one of Spectacular Bid, who stepped on a safety pin a few days before the Belmont Stakes, embedding the pin into his hoof, which led to an infection. In the race itself, Spectacular Bid got the lead early, but faded and eventually finished third. Majestic Prince ten years earlier had somewhat similar fate: he didn't come out of the Preakness well, and although his owner McMahon originally stated he "doesn't want a Crippled Crown", he later changed his mind and ran the colt in the Belmont. Majestic Prince was fairly defeated in the race, and it was recognized by many people, his jockey Bill Hartack included, that he shouldn't have run in the Belmont at all. Ironically, it was Majestic Prince's son Coastal who marred Spectacular Bid's Triple Crown 10 years later.
However, the most heartbreaking ending of the Triple Crown was the one of 1998, when Real Quiet lost his bid in the Belmont Stakes by the shortest possible margin - only a nose in the final strides. And only a year later, even much bigger drama took place before the Belmont crowd, as double classic winner Charismatic was pulled up right after the wire after finishing third. Pictures of his jockey Chris Antley, who dismounted immediately and protected the colt's leg, went viral worldwide and touched hearts of millions of fans, as it was later discovered that the colt suffered multiple fractures in the race.
|1932||Burgoo King||Bubbling Over - Minawand, Lonawand||did not run|
|1936||Bold Venture||St. Germans - Possible, Ultimus||did not run|
|1944||Pensive||Hyperion - Penicuik, Buchan||2nd to Bounding Home|
|1958||Tim Tam||Tom Fool - Two Lea, Bull Lea||2nd by six lengths to Cavan|
|1961||Carry Back||Saggy - Joppy, Star Blen||7th of 9 to winner Sherluck|
|1964||Northern Dancer||Nearctic - Natalma, Native Dancer||3rd to Quadrangle|
|1966||Kauai King||Native Dancer - Sweep In, Blenheim||4th to Amberoid|
|1968||Forward Pass||On-And-On - Princess Turia, Heliopolis||2nd by 1 1/4 lengths to Stage Door Johnny|
|1969||Majestic Prince||Raise a Native - Gay Hostess, Royal Charger||2nd by 5 1/2 lengths to Arts And Letters|
|1971||Canonero II||Pretendre - Dixieland, Nantallah||4th to Pass Catcher|
|1979||Spectacular Bid||Bold Bidder - Spectacular, Promised Land||3rd to Coastal|
|1981||Pleasant Colony||His Majesty - Sun Colony, Sunrise Flight||3rd to Summing|
|1987||Alysheba||Alydar - Bel Sheba, Lt. Stevens||4th to Bet Twice|
|1989||Sunday Silence||Halo - Wishing Well, Understanding||2nd by 8 lengths to Easy Goer|
|1997||Silver Charm||Silver Buck - Bonnie's Poker, Poker||2nd by 3/4 length to Touch Gold|
|1998||Real Quiet||Quiet American - Really Blue, Believe It||2nd by a nose to Victory Gallop|
|1999||Charismatic||Summer Squall - Bali Babe, Drone||3rd to Lemon Drop Kid, pulled up|
|2002||War Emblem||Our Emblem - Sweetest Lady, Lord At War||8th of 11 to Sarava|
|2003||Funny Cide||Distorted Humor - Belle's Good Cide, Slewacide||3rd to Empire Maker|
|2004||Smarty Jones||Elusive Quality - I'll Get Along, Smile||2nd by 1 length to Birdstone|
|2008||Big Brown||Boundary - Mien, Nureyev||eased to last|
|2012||I'll Have Another||Flower Alley - Arch's Gal Edith, Arch||scratched the day before the race|
|2014||California Chrome||Lucky Pulpit - Love the Chase, Not For Love||DH 4th to Tonalist|
Double classic winners
Of course, some horses lost the Triple Crown much earlier than in the Belmont Stakes. They deserve to be remembered too:
|Year||Derby + Belmont||Preakness + Belmont||The Third Race|
|1877||Cloverbrook||did not run|
|1878||Duke of Magenta||did not run|
|1880||Grenada||did not run|
|1881||Saunterer||did not run|
|1895||Belmar||did not run|
|1920||Man o'War||did not run|
|1922||Pillory||did not run; the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes were run on the same day, May 13th|
|1923||Zev||12th; the Preakness was run before the Kentucky Derby|
|1931||Twenty Grand||2nd to Mate|
|1940||Bimelech||2nd to Gallahadion|
|1942||Shut Out||5th to Alsab|
|1949||Capot||2nd to Ponder|
|1950||Middleground||2nd to Hill Prince|
|1953||Native Dancer||2nd to Dark Star|
|1955||Nashua||2nd to Swaps|
|1956||Needles||2nd to Fabius|
|1963||Chateaugay||2nd to Candy Spots|
|1967||Damascus||3rd to Proud Clarion|
|1972||Riva Ridge||4th in the slop|
|1974||Little Current||5th to Cannonade|
|1976||Bold Forbes||3rd to Elocutionist|
|1984||Swale||7th to Gate Dancer|
|1988||Risen Star||3rd to Winning Colors|
|1991||Hansel||10th to Strike the Gold|
|1994||Tabasco Cat||6th to Go For Gin|
|1995||Thunder Gulch||3rd to Timber Country|
|2001||Point Given||5th to Monarchos|
|2005||Afleet Alex||3rd to Giacomo|
It's a well-known fact that the first winner of the Belmont Stakes was filly Ruthless, and the first female winner of the Kentucky Derby was Regret - followed by Genuine Risk and Winning Colors in the 1980s. However, the Triple Crown has much more stories about fillies to tell.
Successful fillies in the Triple Crown races were common until the 1920s. Let's not forget that the most of the races of fillies' Triple Tiara series were established much later than the original Triple Crown races, namely the Coaching Club American Oaks in 1917, the Acorn Stakes in 1931 and the Mother Goose Stakes even much later in 1957. When champion filly Snowflake ran third in the 1930 running of the Preakness Stakes, she was the last filly who hit the board in the classic races for the next fifty years. But before her, the total number of 26 fillies was successful, compared to only six after the year 1980.
And fillies did really well. The actual harvest time was soon after the beginning of the century - in 1905, three different fillies stole the three of nine top spots in the classic races - Kaimesha and Coy Maid placed in the Preakness, and Tanya won the Belmont. And they repeated the same only a year later when Whimsical and Content were 1-2 finishers in the Preakness Stakes, and Lady of Navarre ran second in the Kentucky Derby.
In 1915 fillies have won two of three Triple Crown races. Regret won the Kentucky Derby, and Rhine Maiden the Preakness Stakes. The only male winner of this year was The Finn.
Also, it was nothing unusual in those early days to run a filly in the Kentucky Oaks, and then directly in the Kentucky Derby. Lady of Navarre placed second in both of them in 1906, and Gowell was third-place finisher in both of them in 1913. Bronzewing and Viva America actually won the Kentucky Oaks, only to run third in the Kentucky Derby in 1914 and 1918, respectively, and Prudery went for the third-place finish in the Derby 1921 after second place in the Oaks. Nellie Morse ran a Pimlico double in 1924, coming off a second-place finish in the Pimlico Oaks to win the Preakness; Snowflake six years later placed third in both races.
Overall, fillies have won three runnings of the Kentucky Derby, five of the Preakness Stakes and three of the Belmont Stakes. The indisputable queen of the Triple Crown was Genuine Risk, who won the Derby and ran second in both other legs - an achievement which still wasn't tied up. The only other filly who was able to place in more than one of its legs was Winning Colors eight years later, as she won the Derby and ran third in the Preakness, before finishing out of the money in the Belmont Stakes.
From the total 34 fillies, who were successful in the Triple Crown, only two of them didn't have any other stakes victory, and two others, namely Hill Top and Flocarline, had only minor stakes successes; three of them were the Preakness third-place finishers, and Flocarline the Preakness winner. All others were major winners, and aside of the previously mentioned fillies who ran well in the Kentucky Oaks or the Pimlico Oaks (later the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes), let's mention some facts:
- - Flying Fairy, Snowflake, and My Flag won some of the race of New York Triple Tiara, and Prudery and Flambino placed in them.
- - Both modern winners Rags to Riches and Rachel Alexandra were for their Triple Crown victories in the Preakness and the Belmont, respectively, coming off a victory in the Kentucky Oaks.
- - Ruthless won the Travers Stakes and Invercauld ran third in it. Other fillies who had major success against sophomore colts, whether in trials or in summer races, were Tanya - second to Sysonby in the Lawrence Realization, Gowell, Bronzewing, Regret, Genuine Risk, Winning Colors and Rachel Alexandra, who remarkably won both the Haskell Invitational and the Woodward Stakes on the way to the Horse of the Year honors.
- - Some other fillies were able to fire in big handicaps. To name them - Invercauld, who ran third in the 2 1/2 mile long Monmouth Cup; Flying Fairy, Prudery and Polly Ann.
- - Six fillies went on to earn championship honors for the best three-year-old filly: Nellie Morse, Snowflake, Genuine Risk, Winning Colors, Rags to Riches, and Rachel Alexandra.
|1867||Ruthless||1. Kentucky Derby||Eclipse - Barbarity, Simoom|
|1868||Fanny Ludlow||3. Belmont Stakes||Eclipse - Mollie Jackson, Vandal|
|1869||Invercauld||3. Belmont Stakes||St. Albans - Eleanor, Voltigeur|
|1870||Midday||3. Belmont Stakes||Eclipse - Ninette, Revenue|
|1880||Emily F||3. Preakness Stakes||Kingfisher - Bonnie Doon, Balrownie|
|1895||Sue Kittie||3. Preakness Stakes||Darebin - Kathleen, Hurrah|
|1896||Intermission||3. Preakness Stakes||Galopin - Vacation, Tom Ochiltree|
|1901||Sadie S||2. Preakness Stakes||Charaxus - Eolee, Eolus|
|1903||Flocarline||1. Preakness Stakes||St. Florian - Carline, King Ban|
|1905||Tanya||1. Belmont Stakes||Meddler - Handspun, Hanover|
|Kaimesha||2. Preakness Stakes||Esher - Reflection, Zorilla|
|Coy Maid||3. Preakness Stakes||Kingston - Bonnie Gal, Galopin|
|1906||Lady Navarre||2. Kentucky Derby||Pirate of Penzance - Catharine of Navarre, Knight of Ellerslie|
|Whimsical||1. Preakness Stakes||Orlando - Kismet, Hindoo|
|Content||2. Preakness Stakes||Bridgewater - Phalia, Hindoo|
|1909||Hill Top||3. Preakness Stakes||Clifford - Whiplash, Ben Strome|
|1912||Flamma||3. Kentucky Derby||Hastings - Flittermouse, Rayon d'Or|
|1913||Gowell||3. Kentucky Derby||Ort Wells - Responsive, Mirthful|
|Flying Fairy||3. Belmont Stakes||Aeronaut - Millie A, Phillip D|
|1914||Bronzewing||3. Kentucky Derby||Stalwart - Miss Dolly, St. George|
|1915||Regret||1. Kentucky Derby||Broomstick - Jersey Lightning, Hamburg|
|Rhine Maiden||1. Preakness Stakes||Watercress - Gold, Golden Garter|
|1918||Viva America||3. Kentucky Derby||McGee - Pink Rose, Fonso|
|1921||Prudery||3. Kentucky Derby||Peter Pan - Polly Flinders, Burgomaster|
|Polly Ann||2. Kentucky Derby||Superman - Princess Nettie, Hig Highness|
|1924||Nellie Morse||1. Preakness Stakes||Luke McLuke - La Venganza, Abercorn|
|1927||Flambino||3. Belmont Stakes||Wrack - Flambette, Durbar|
|1930||Snowflake||3. Preakness Stakes||Mad Hatter - Snowdrop, Cicero|
|1980||Genuine Risk||1. Kentucky Derby, 2. Preakness Stakes, 2. Belmont Stakes||Exclusive Native - Virtuous, Gallant Man|
|1988||Winning Colors||1. Kentucky Derby, 3. Preakness Stakes||Caro - All Rainbows, Bold Hour|
|1996||My Flag||3. Belmont Stakes||Easy Goer - Personal Ensign, Private Account|
|2007||Rags to Riches||1. Belmont Stakes||A.P. Indy - Better Than Honour, Deputy Minister|
|2008||Eight Belles||2. Kentucky Derby||Unbridled's Song - Away, Dixieland Band|
|2009||Rachel Alexandra||1. Preakness Stakes||Medaglia d'Oro - Lotta Kim, Roar|
- Ruthless - 1. Travers Stakes
- Fanny Ludlow - 3. Ladies Stakes, Champion Stakes
- Invercauld - 2. Ladies Stakes, 3. Travers Stakes, Monmouth Cup
- Midday - 1. Long Branch Stakes, 2. Ladies Stakes, 3. Champion Stakes
- Intermission - 1. Ladies Handicap, Gazelle Handicap; 2. Brooklyn Derby
- Sadie S - 3. Canadian Derby
- Flocarline - 3. Speculation Stakes
- Tanya - 1. Hopeful Stakes, Spinaway Stakes, 2. Lawrence Realization
- Kaimesha - 2. Alabama Stakes, 3. Gazelle Handicap, Delaware Handicap
- Coy Maid - 2. Gazelle Handicap, 3. Ladies Handicap
- Lady Navarre - 1. Tennessee Derby, Tennessee Oaks, 2. Latonia Derby, Kentucky Oaks
- Whimsical - 1. Standard Stakes, 2. Champagne Stakes
- Content - 1. Latonia Oaks, Huron Handicap
- Hill Top - stakes winner
- Flamma - 1. Ladies Handicap
- Gowell - 1. Latonia Derby, Ashland Oaks, 3. Blue Grass Stakes, Kentucky Oaks
- Flying Fairy - 1. Alabama Stakes, Ladies Handicap, Brookdale Handicap, 2. Champlain Handicap, , 3. Ladies Handicap, Carter Handicap, Saratoga Handicap, Metropolitan Handicap
- Bronzewing - 1. Kentucky Oaks, Blue Grass Stakes, Ashland Oaks
- Regret - 1. Hopeful Stakes, Saratoga Special, Saranac Stakes, Gazelle Handicap
- Rhine Maiden - 1. Ladies Handicap
- Viva America - 1. Kentucky Oaks, 2. Ashland Oaks
- Prudery - Champion 2-year-old filly; 2. Hopeful Stakes, Kentucky Oaks, Alabama Sakes, 3. Merchants and Citizens Handicap, Saratoga Handicap
- Polly Ann - 2. Pimlico Oaks, Champlain Handicap, 3. Brooklyn Handicap, Ladies Handicap
- Nellie Morse - Champion 3-year-old filly; 1. Pimlico Oaks, 2. Kentucky Oaks, Matron Stakes, Spinaway Stakes, Ladies Handicap
- Flambino - 1. Gazelle Handicap, 3. Coaching Club American Oaks
- Snowflake - Champion 3-year-old filly; 1. Coaching Club American Oaks, Illinois Oaks, Ladies Handicap, 3. Spinaway Stakes, Pimlico Oaks
- Genuine Risk - Champion 3-year-old filly; 1. Ruffian Handicap, 3. Wood Memorial Stakes
- Winning Colors - Champion 3-year-old filly; 1. Santa Anita Oaks, Santa Anita Derby, 2. Maskette Stakes, Breeders' Cup Distaff
- My Flag - 1. Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Coaching Club American Oaks, Ashland Stakes, Gazelle Handicap, 3. Alabama Stakes
- Rags to Riches - Champion 3-year-old filly; 1. Kentucky Oaks, Gazelle Stakes, Santa Anita Oaks, Las Virgenes Stakes
- Eight Belles - 1. Fantasy Stakes; euthanized after pulling up after the Derby
- Rachel Alexandra - Champion 3-year-old filly and Horse of the Year; 1. Kentucky Oaks, Mother Goose Stakes, Haskell Invitational Handicap, Woodward Stakes
The fastest runnings
There may be a lot of doubts who was the best horse of the century, but not who was the fastest horse of the Triple Crown, as Secretariat in 1973 set the stakes records of all three races. But it's interesting to look a bit further than that, so we created the table of the approximately 20 fastest runnings of all three races. However, it should be clearly stated that the fast final time always depends on the surface.
It's not that much surprising that Affirmed is in the tables too, and with all his Triple Crown runnings, being pushed by Alydar to the eleventh, twelfth and eighth best time ever, which are really nice numbers. On the other hand - the third recent Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew is nowhere near except the Preakness Stakes, as he shares the 23rd fastest time in the Derby, and the 31st time in the Belmont Stakes. But we all know who was the winner when these two titans met each other...
As for the rest of the Triple Crown winners, American Pharoah won the "slow" Kentucky Derby after a really bad trip, and the Preakness Stakes in the slop, but he ran excellently in the Belmont Stakes, winning easily in the seventh fastest time ever. And Whirlaway set up the biggest surprise of the following table, still being the sixteenth fastest Kentucky Derby winner ever after more than 75 years.
Speaking of the influence of time, the steadiest race of these three is the Kentucky Derby. While the "oldest" Preakness winner in the following table comes from 1955 (Nashua, the 15th best time) and the Belmont winner from 1943 (Count Fleet, shared 21st best time), Twenty Grand's final time from the 1931 Kentucky Derby was exactly the same as the one of Majestic Prince almost 40 years later. But this is really not about one horse: as we summed up about 24 fastest horses of each race, in the case of the Preakness Stakes, only one of them was born earlier than in the 1970s. In the Belmont Stakes, only three horses were born before this mark. And as for the Kentucky Derby, eleven horses were born before 1970, which already is a really big difference.
In the language of curiosities, Street Sense in 2007 ran exactly the same time as Tomy Lee 50 years earlier; Gato Del Sol and Sea Hero would easily beat American Pharoah, as well as Forward Pass from 1968; Alysheba would get beaten by both War Admiral from 1937 and Old Rosebud from 1914, and California Chrome would be just about the right match for Johnstown or Bubbling Over.
But let's get serious again, as there is, surprisingly, one more very fast year, that probably few people would expect, and it's 1985. It was a year marred by two breakdowns during the Triple Crown - Hajji's Treasure in the Preakness Stakes, and the Preakness winner Tank's Prospect in the Belmont. Both colts were, however, saved for stud duties. But it was also a year when each single winner ran a really good time: Spend a Buck destroyed Stephan's Oddysey and Chief's Crown by almost six lengths, winning the Kentucky Derby in the fourth fastest time ever; the same position belongs to Tank's Prospect, who defeated Chief's Crown in the Preakness only by a head. Creme Fraiche was "slower" when defeating Stephan's Odyssey in the Belmont, but still ran the tenth fastest time ever; Chief's Crown finished once more third.
Besides 1973, 1978 and 1985, when all of the races were very fast, several other years are memorable for at least two of them. In the chronological order:
- 1955. Both Swaps and Nashua were fast horses; Nashua set or equaled three track records from six furlongs to two miles, and Swaps set five world records and equaled another one. And although none of them occurred in the Triple Crown races, it's no surprise that both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes are still among the top twenty fastest races.
- 1972. Riva Ridge would probably never beat Secretariat (but who would), but he was a hell of a horse himself, winning seventeen races and setting or equaling three records, including the world record of 1:52 2/5 for 1 3/16 miles - the time which even Secretariat couldn't set in Preakness. Riva Ridge himself finished off the board in the Pimlico slop, but he's in the top 20 with both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes times.
- 1984 was another year when the Triple Crown hopes ended in the Preakness, as the Kentucky Derby champion Swale finished uncharacteristically seventh, leaving the victory to Gate Dancer. However, Swale went on to win the Belmont Stakes before his tragic death only eight days later, and Gate Dancer was forced by future champion Precisionist to run a new track record in the Super Derby - before his memorable epic battle against older horses in the inaugural running of the Breeders' Cup Classic. Both horses achieved more than enough, but for their Triple Crown victories - Gate Dancer's Preakness were the shared fifth fastest ever, from only seven horses who ever ran the race under 1:54; and Swale won the Belmont in the shared eleventh best time ever.
- 1989 won't surprise anybody, as this was another year of a great rivalry, this time between black Sunday Silence and fiery chestnut Easy Goer. The bottom line of the story is that Sunday Silence won the Horse of the Year voting after only the Super Derby triumph and nailing down Easy Goer in the Breeders' Cup Classic - while Easy Goer won the Whitney Handicap, the Travers Stakes, the Woodward Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup in the meantime, which caused a lot of controversies. But their Triple Crown stats are clear: mud in the Kentucky Derby took out any chance for a good time, but Sunday Silence ran the seventh fastest Preakness time ever, while beating Easy Goer by a head. And Easy Goer ran the sensational second fastest time in the history of the Belmont Stakes, winning in 2:26 flat, and defeating the future champion by eight lengths. What a year on the track.
- After the clash of the Titans, who would say their successors were almost as fast as them. Summer Squall got beaten by Unbridled in the 1990 Kentucky Derby by three and a half lengths in not too fast time, but the tables turned in the Preakness, as Summer Squall defeated Unbridled by two and a half lengths, running the fastest final 3/16 of a mile in the Preakness history, which resulted in the fifth best time ever. However, Summer Squall required Lasix for racing, which was banned in New York, and thus he missed the race - leaving the doors opened for Go and Go, a Dermot Weld's Irish trainee who was well used to travel across the ocean since his juvenile season, when he won the Laurel Futurity. Go And Go not only defeated Thirty Six Red, the future Breeders' Cup Classic third-place runner, but also ran the shared eleventh fastest time in the Belmont history, only about a second slower than Easy Goer did a year earlier.
- 1991 was the season of a single colt, and it was Hansel. The G1-placed juvenile, who won both the Jim Beam Stakes and the Lexington Stakes prior to the Derby, which he entered as a betting favourite. The problem maybe was that the Lexington Stakes were only two weeks prior the Derby, and Hansel tired badly, finishing tenth behind Strike the Gold. Despite the original decision not to run him in the Preakness, Hansel worked so well that he received a go for the second leg - and responded with seven lengths victory in the ninth fastest time ever, while top two finishers from the Derby finished off the board. Hansel, due to forbidden use of Lasix, wasn't favored in the Belmont, but despite taking the lead after 3/4 of a mile, he managed to hold off Strike the Gold by a head under the wire, this time in the 20th fastest time. After he ran second only by a neck in the Travers Stakes, Hansel was later voted the champion three-year-old colt. It's worth noting that this year's Breeders' Cup Classic was won by five-year-old Black Tie Affair over five-year-old Twilight Agenda and four-year-old Unbridled.
- The very same situation in the Breeders' Cup Classic repeated in 1995, when the winner was five-year-old again, this time mighty Cigar. But the highly anticipated clash of the star of handicap division with a crowned three-year-old leader actually happened - in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and double classic winner Thunder Gulch left the race fifth with a broken left front cannon bone. Long before this career-ending injury, Thunder Gulch was the winner of both the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby in the 13th fastest time ever, and he lost the Preakness Stakes in the breathtaking battle by less than a length to his stablemate Timber Country, who also ran the very fast race - the 14th fastest time ever. Thunder Gulch went on to win the Belmont Stakes - in the second slowest post-war running, topped only by High Echelon in 1970, but considering the fact his sire was the champion sprinter, it could probably have been even worse.
- Grindstone, the winner of the 1996 Kentucky Derby, didn't rule very long, as he was retired only five days after his victory with knee chips. He still managed to run the seventh fastest time ever. With the crop left without its leader, Louis Quatorze, who had a catastrophic race in the Derby, was sent by Pat Day to set a "moderate" pace in the Preakness - but the colt was actually moving faster than the previous track record fractions, and so he finished, in the second fastest time ever only behind the time of Tank's Prospect. However, both were later moved down in position as Secretariat's time was reviewed and recognized as a stakes record. In the very unclear crop it was Skip Away, second in both the Preakness and the Belmont, who was voted the champion three-year-old colt, but Louis Quatorze ran second to Will's Way in the Travers Stakes, third to Skip Away and Cigar in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and sensationally second in the Breeders' Cup Classic between five-year-old Alphabet Soup and six-years-old Cigar, with margins only a nose and a head.
- The 2001 Triple Crown had a clear favorite in Point Given, a very impressive Californian colt who was the G1-winning juvenile and unlucky second by a nose in the Breeders' Cup, and who won the Santa Anita Derby decisively by more than five lengths on his route to Louisville. But, as often in the Derby history, this horse probably wasn't meant to win the roses. He had to overcome the starting gate no. 17 and going four wide the entire way - during the fastest Derby fractions in the history, which were set by Songandaprayer. And despite he threatened briefly on the far turn, actually getting to the second position, he was no match for the aptly-named Florida Derby winner Monarchos, who shot from the field to win by almost five lengths, in the second fastest time in the Kentucky Derby history. Point Given's time was yet to come, as he won both the Preakness Stakes in pretty fast time 1:55.51, and the Belmont Stakes in the fifth fastest time ever. Followed by the Travers Stakes, and despite being retired by the end of August due to injury, also by the Horse of the Year Honors, just for the record.
|Secretariat||1973||Sham, Our Native||1:59.40|
|Monarchos||2001||Invisible Ink, Congaree||1:59.97|
|Northern Dancer||1964||Hill Rise, The Scoundrel||2:00.00|
|Spend a Buck||1985||Stephan's Odyssey, Chief's Crown||2:00.20|
|Decidedly||1962||Roman Line, Ridan||2:00.40|
|Proud Clarion||1967||Barbs Delight, Damascus||2:00.60|
|Grindstone||1996||Cavonnier, Prince of Thieves||2:01.06|
|Fusaichi Pegasus||2000||Aptitude, Impeachment||2:01.12|
|War Emblem||2002||Proud Citizen, Perfect Drift||2:01.13|
|Funny Cide||2003||Empire Maker, Peace Rules||2:01.19|
|Lucky Debonair||1965||Dapper Dan, Tom Rolfe||2:01.20|
|Affirmed||1978||Alydar, Believe It||2:01.20|
|Thunder Gulch||1995||Tejano Run, Timber Country||2:01.27|
|Nyquist||2016||Exaggerator, Gun Runner||2:01.31|
|Barbaro||2006||Bluegrass Cat, Steppenwolfer||2:01.36|
|Whirlaway||1941||Staretor, Market Wise||2:01.40|
|Hill Gail||1952||Sub Fleet, Blue Man||2:01.60|
|Middleground||1950||Hill Prince, Mr. Trouble||2:01.60|
|Bold Forbes||1976||Honest Pleasure, Elocutionist||2:01.60|
|Swaps||1955||Nashua, Summer Tan||2:01.80|
|Twenty Grand||1931||Sweep All, Mate||2:01.80|
|Chateaugay||1963||Never Bend, Candy Spots||2:01.80|
|Riva Ridge||1972||No Le Hace, Hold Your Peace||2:01.80|
|Majestic Prince||1969||Arts And Letters, Dike||2:01.80|
|Secretariat||1973||Sham, Our Native||1:53.00|
|Tank's Prospect||1985||Chief's Crown, Eternal Prince||1:53.40|
|Louis Quatorze||1996||Skip Away, Editor's Note||1:53.43|
|Curlin||2007||Street Sense, Hard Spun||1:53.46|
|Summer Squall||1990||Unbridled, Mister Frisky||1:53.60|
|Gate Dancer||1984||Play On, Fight Over||1:53.60|
|Sunday Silence||1989||Easy Goer, Rock Point||1:53.80|
|Canonero||1971||Eastern Fleet, Jim French||1:54.00|
|Hansel||1991||Corporate Report, Mane Minister||1:54.05|
|Spectacular Bid||1979||Golden Act, Screen King||1:54.20|
|Codex||1980||Genuine Risk, Colonel Moran||1:54.20|
|Affirmed||1978||Alydar. Believe It||1:54.40|
|Seattle Slew||1977||Iron Constitution, Run Dusty Run||1:54.40|
|Timber Country||1995||Oliver's Twist, Thunder Gulch||1:54.45|
|Nashua||1955||Saratoga, Traffic Judge||1:54.60|
|Pleasant Colony||1981||Bold Ego, Paristo||1:54.60|
|Little Current||1974||Neapolitan Way, Cannonade||1:54.60|
|Bernardini||2006||Sweetnorthernsaint, Hemingway's Key||1:54.65|
|Real Quiet||1998||Victory Gallop, Classic Cat||1:54.75|
|Big Brown||2008||Macho Again, Icabad Crane||1:54.80|
|Snow Chief||1986||Ferdinand, Broad Brush||1:54.80|
|Silver Charm||1997||Free House, Captain Bodgit||1:54.84|
|California Chrome||2014||Ride on Curlin, Social Incusion||1:54.84|
|Secretariat||1973||Twice a Prince, My Gallant||2:24.00|
|Easy Goer||1989||Sunday Silence, Le Voyageur||2:26.00|
|A.P. Indy||1992||My Memoirs, Pine Bluff||2:26.15|
|Risen Star||1988||Kingpost, Brian's Time||2:26.40|
|Point Given||2001||A.P. Valentine, Monarchos||2:26.50|
|Gallant Man||1957||Inside Tract, Bold Ruler||2:26.60|
|American Pharoah||2015||Frosted, Keen Ice||2:26.65|
|Affirmed||1978||Alydar, Darby Creek Road||2:26.80|
|Tabasco Cat||1994||Go For Gin, Strodes Creek||2:26.80|
|Creme Fraiche||1985||Stephan's Odyssey, Chief's Crown||2:27.00|
|Stage Door Johnny||1968||Forward Pass, Call Me Prince||2:27.20|
|Go And Go||1990||Thirty Six Red, Baron de Vaux||2:27.20|
|Swale||1984||Pine Circle, Morning Bob||2:27.20|
|Birdstone||2004||Smarty Jones, Royal Assault||2:27.50|
|Summer Bird||2009||Dunkirk, Mine That Bird||2:27.65|
|Caveat||1983||Slew o'Gold, Barberstown||2:27.80|
|Jazil||2006||Bluegrass Cat, Sunriver||2:27.86|
|Lemon Drop Kid||1999||Vision And Verse, Charismatic||2:27.88|
|Riva Ridgde||1972||Ruritania, Cloudy Dawn||2:28.00|
|Hansel||1991||Strike the Gold, Mane Minister||2:28.10|
|Bet Twice||1987||Cryptoclearance, Gulch||2:28.20|
|Count Fleet||1943||Fairy Manhurst, Deseronto||2:28.20|
|Avatar||1975||Foolish Pleasure, Master Derby||2:28.20|
|Conquistador Cielo||1982||Gato del Sol, Illuminate||2:28.20|
Triple Crown times
After the charts of top times from the Triple Crown races, we miss one more point, and probably the last thing about the Triple Crown which is worth mentioning: the winning times of the Triple Crown winners. As there's no rational conclusion to the following table, which is going through the century and various track conditions, let's only say that the one hard to include is the first Triple Crown winner Sir Barton. He was the only one who won these races at their historic distances - nine furlongs in the Preakness Stakes, and eleven in the Belmont. Comparison of his winning times to others from this point of view is, nonetheless, still interesting.
Winning times of the Triple Crown winners
|Sir Barton||1:53.00||fast; 9f|
The Triple Tiara
A fillies' equivalent of the Triple Crown never had the same firm place neither in the racing calendar, nor in the hearts of fans. First of all, unlike the "real' Triple Crown, which is run in Kentucky, Maryland and New York, the Triple Tiara always consisted only of Belmont Park or Saratoga races. Secondly, after almost 50 years of the accepted New York version, the series is changing dramatically in the past two decades. Here's a list of various Triple Tiara versions:
|Acorn Stakes||1931||1m||Belmont Park|
|Mother Goose Stakes||1957||1 1/16m||Belmont Park|
|Coaching Club American Oaks||1917||Var. 1 1/8 - 1 1/2m||Saratoga|
This Triple Tiara was won by 8 fillies:
|1968||Dark Mirage||dkb.f.||Persian Road - Home By Dark, Hill Prince|
|1969||Shuvee||ch.f.||Nashua - Levee, Hill Prince|
|1974||Chris Evert||ch.f.||Swoon's Son - Miss Carmie, T.V. Lark|
|1975||Ruffian||dkb.f.||Reviewer - Shenanigans, Native Dancer|
|1979||Davona Dale||b.f.||Turn-To - Royal Entrance, Tim Tam|
|1985||Mom's Command||ch.f.||Top Command - Star Mommy, Pia Star|
|1989||Open Mind||ch.f.||Deputy Minister - Stage Luck, Stage Door Johnny|
|1993||Sky Beauty||b.f.||Blushing Groom - Maplejinsky, Nijinsky|
Breeder - Owner - Trainer:
- Dark Mirage - Duval A. Headley, Lloyd A. Miller, Everett W. King
- Shuvee - Whitney A. Stone, Anne Minor Stone, Willard C. Freeman
- Chris Evert - Echo Valley Farm, Carl Rosen, Joseph A. Trovato
- Ruffian - Stuart & Barbara Janney, Stuart & Barbara Janney, Frank Y. Whiteley Jr.
- Davona Dale - Calumet Farm, Calumet Farm, John M. Veitch
- Mom's Command - Ryemeadow Farms, Peter Fuller, Edward T. Allard
- Open Mind - Due Process Stables, Eugene V. Klein, D. Wayne Lukas
- Sky Beauty - Susan & Howard Kaskel, Georgia E. Hofmann, H. Allen Jerkens
In 2003, the Acorn Stakes was changed for the Alabama Stakes, a 1 1/4 miles race at Saratoga. The whole series was:
|Mother Goose Stakes||1957||1 1/16m||Belmont Park|
|Coaching Club American Oaks||1917||1 1/4m||Saratoga|
|Alabama Stakes||1872||1 1/4m||Saratoga|
This version lasted up to 2006, and although no filly won during these years, four of the previous winners won the Alabama Stakes too, and thus would qualify also as this version's winners:
Historical winners of modified Triple Tiara version from the years 2003 - 2006:
For 2007 - 2009, the Triple Tiara reverted to its original version, but in 2010, it was changed again. This time the Mother Goose Stakes was left out of the series, and both the Acorn Stakes and the Alabama Stakes were incorporated as its legs. This version is still in effect in 2017. Anyway, since 2007, no filly won any version of the Triple Tiara.
|Acorn Stakes||1931||1m||Belmont Park|
|Coaching Club American Oaks||1917||1 1/8m||Saratoga|
|Alabama Stakes||1872||1 1/4m||Saratoga|
This is not a point where controversy ends, as although all of these races are very prestigious, the whole series is limited to New York. Many suggestions were made to make the s"national Triple Crown", and the most popular proposal includes several traditional races, which accompany the real Triple Crown series:
|Kentucky Oaks||1875||1 1/8m||Churchill Downs|
|Black-Eyed Susan Stakes||1919||1 1/8m||Pimlico|
|Acorn Stakes||1931||1m||Belmont Park|
Another proposal suggests the Mother Goose Stakes instead of the Acorn Stakes. Although this is no official Triple Tiara, at least one filly won this concept, and again it is one of Triple Tiara's traditional winners:
The National Triple Tiara winner