The U.S. Triple Crown

Author: Jana Nemeckova, published: 11th January 2018, updated 18th June 2018. A quick switch for the small-screens 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.

The U.S. Triple Crown series
Kentucky Derby18751 1/4mChurchill DownsLouisville, Kentucky
Preakness Stakes18731 3/16mPimlicoBaltimore, Maryland
Belmont Stakes18671 1/2mBelmont ParkElmont, New York

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.

Winners of the U.S. Triple Crown
1919Sir Bartonch.c.Star Shoot - Lady Sterling, HanoverJohn E. MaddenJ. K. L. RossH. Guy BedwellJohnny Loftus
1930Gallant Foxb.c.Sir Gallahad - Marguerite, CeltBelair StudBelair StudJim FitzsimmonsEarl Sande
1935Omahach.c.Gallant Fox - Flambino, WrackBelair StudBelair StudJim FitzsimmonsWillie Saunders
1937War Admiralbr.c.Man o'War - Brushup, SweepSamuel D. RiddleSamuel D. RiddleGeorge H. ConwayCharley Kurtsinger
1941Whirlawaych.c.Blenheim - Dustwhirl, SweepCalumet FarmCalumet FarmBen A. JonesEddie Arcaro
1943Count Fleetb.c.Reigh Count - Quickly, HasteFannie HertzFannie HertzDon CameronJohnny Longden
1946Assaultch.c.Bold Venture - Igual, EquipoiseKing RanchKing RanchMax HirschWarren Mehrtens
1948Citationb.c.Bull Lea - Hydroplane, HyperionCalumet FarmCalumet FarmHorace A. JonesEddie Arcaro
1973Secretariatch.c.Bold Ruler - Somethingroyal, PrincequilloMeadow StudMeadow StableLucien LaurinRon Turcotte
1977Seattle Slewbr.c.Bold Reasoning - My Charmer, PokerBen S. CastlemanMickey and Karen L. Taylor,
Tayhill Stable/Jim Hill, et al.
William H. Turner, Jr.Jean Cruguet
1978Affirmedch.c.Exclusive Native - Won't Tell You, Crafty AdmiralHarbor View FarmHarbor View FarmLaz BarreraSteve Cauthen
2015American Pharoahb.c.Pioneerof the Nile - Littleprincessemma,
Yankee Gentleman
Zayat StablesAhmed ZayatBob BaffertVictor Espinoza
2018Justifych.c.Scat Daddy - Stage Magic, GhostzapperJohn D. GuntherWinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club and SF Racing LLCBob BaffertMike Smith

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 three 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 feat with one horse; in 2012, Bob Baffert 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 races 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 the Jerome Handicap winner Prince Royal in 1888, when he won by twelve lengths; Patron over Shellbark in 1892, the two-year-old champion colt 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".

Fallen Hopes

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.

Horses who lost the Triple Crown
YearNamePedigreeBreederOwnerTrainerBelmont Stakes
1932Burgoo Kingch.c.Bubbling Over - Minawand, LonawandEdward R. BradleyH.N. Davis & Idle Hour Stock FarmHerbert J. Thompsondid not run
1936Bold Venturech.c.St. Germans - Possible, UltimusMorton L. SchwartzMorton L. SchwartzMax Hirschdid not run
1944Pensivech.c.Hyperion - Penicuik, BuchanCalumet FarmCalumet FarmBen A. Jones2nd to Bounding Home
1958Tim Tamdkb.c.Tom Fool - Two Lea, Bull LeaCalumet FarmCalumet FarmHorace A. Jones2nd by six lengths to Cavan
1961Carry Backbr.c.Saggy - Joppy, Star BlenMrs. Katherine PriceMrs. Katherine PriceJack A. Price7th of 9 to winner Sherluck
1964Northern Dancerb.c.Nearctic - Natalma, Native DancerEdward P. TaylorWindfields FarmHoratio Luro3rd to Quadrangle
1966Kauai Kingdkb.c.Native Dancer - Sweep In, BlenheimPine Brook FarmFord StableHenry Forrest4th to Amberoid
1968Forward Passb.c.On-And-On - Princess Turia, HeliopolisCalumet FarmCalumet FarmHenry Forrest2nd by 1 1/4 lengths to Stage Door Johnny
1969Majestic Princech.c.Raise a Native - Gay Hostess, Royal ChargerLeslie Combs IIFrank M. McMahonJohnny Longden2nd by 5 1/2 lengths to Arts And Letters
1971Canonero IIb.c.Pretendre - Dixieland, NantallahEdward B. BenjaminPedro BatistaJuan Arias4th to Pass Catcher
1979Spectacular Bidgr.c.Bold Bidder - Spectacular, Promised LandMadelyn Jason, Mrs. William GilmoreHawksworth FarmBud Delp3rd to Coastal
1981Pleasant Colonydkb.c.His Majesty - Sun Colony, Sunrise FlightThomas Mellon EvansBuckland FarmJohn P. Campo3rd to Summing
1987Alyshebab.c.Alydar - Bel Sheba, Lt. StevensPreston W. MaddenDorothy & Pamela ScharbauerJack Van Berg4th to Bet Twice
1989Sunday Silencebr./bl.c.Halo - Wishing Well, UnderstandingOak Cliff Thoroughbred Ltd.H-G-W PartnersCharlie Whittingham2nd by 8 lengths to Easy Goer
1997Silver Charmgr.c.Silver Buck - Bonnie's Poker, PokerMary Lou WoottonBob & Beverly LewisBob Baffert2nd by 3/4 length to Touch Gold
1998Real Quietb.c.Quiet American - Really Blue, Believe ItEduardo GaviriaMichael E. PegramBob Baffert2nd by a nose to Victory Gallop
1999Charismaticch.c.Summer Squall - Bali Babe, DroneParrish Hill Farm & William S. FarishBob & Beverly LewisD. Wayne Lukas3rd to Lemon Drop Kid, pulled up
2002War Emblembr./bl.c.Our Emblem - Sweetest Lady, Lord At WarCharles Nuckols Jr. & SonsRussel L. Reineman, The Thoroughbred Corp.Bob Baffert8th of 11 to Sarava
2003Funny Cidech.c.Distorted Humor - Belle's Good Cide, SlewacideWinStar FarmSackatoga StablesBarclay Tagg3rd to Empire Maker
2004Smarty Jonesch.c.Elusive Quality - I'll Get Along, SmileSomeday FarmRoy & Patricia ChapmanJohn Servis2nd by 1 length to Birdstone
2008Big Brownb.c.Boundary - Mien, NureyevMonticule FarmsIEAH Stables & Michael IavaroneRichard E. Dutrow Jr.eased to last
2012I'll Have Anotherch.c.Flower Alley - Arch's Gal Edith, ArchHarvey ClarkeJ. Paul ReddamDouglas F. O'Neillscratched the day before the race
2014California Chromech.c.Lucky Pulpit - Love the Chase, Not For LovePenny Martin & Steve CoburnPenny Martin & Steve CoburnArt ShermanDH 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:

The U.S. Double Classic Winners
YearKentucky DerbyPreakness StakesBelmont StakesPedigreeThe Third Race
1877CloverbrookCloverbrookVauxhall - Maudina, Austrlaiandid not run
1878Duke of MagentaDuke of MagentaLexington - Magenta, Yorkshiredid not run
1880GrenadaGrenadaKing Alfonso - Mattie Gross, Lexingtondid not run
1881SauntererSauntererLeamington - Lemonade, Lexingtondid not run
1895BelmarBelmarBelvidere - Adele, Australiandid not run
1920Man o'WarMan o'WarFair Play - Mahubah, Rock Sanddid not run
1922PilloryPilloryOlambala - Hester Prynne, Disguisedid not run; the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes were run on the same day, May 13
1923ZevZevThe Finn - Miss Kearney, Planudes12th; the Preakness was run before the Kentucky Derby
1931Twenty GrandTwenty GrandSt. Germans - Bonus, All Gold2nd to Mate
1940BimelechBimelechBlack Toney - La Troienne, Teddy2nd to Gallahadion
1942Shut OutShut OutEquipoise - Goose Egg, Chicle5th to Alsab
1949CapotCapotMenow - Piquet, St. Germans2nd to Ponder
1950MiddlegroundMiddlegroundBold Venture - Verguenza, Chicaro2nd to Hill Prince
1953Native DancerNative DancerPolynesian - Geisha, Discovery2nd to Dark Star
1955NashuaNashuaNasrullah - Segula, Johnstown2nd to Swaps
1956NeedlesNeedlesPonder - Noodle Soup, Jack High2nd to Fabius
1963ChateaugayChateaugaySwaps - Banquet Bell, Polynesian2nd to Candy Spots
1967DamascusDamascusSword Dancer - Kerala, My Babu3rd to Proud Clarion
1972Riva RidgeRiva RidgeFirst Landing - Iberia, Heliopolis4th in the slop
1974Little CurrentLittle CurrentSea-Bird - Luiana, My Babu5th to Cannonade
1976Bold ForbesBold ForbesIrish Castle - Comely Nell, Commodore3rd to Elocutionist
1984SwaleSwaleSeattle Slew - Tuerta, Forli7th to Gate Dancer
1988Risen StarRisen StarSecretariat - Ribbon, His Majesty3rd to Winning Colors
1991HanselHanselWoodman - Count On Bonnie, Dancing Count10th to Strike the Gold
1994Tabasco CatTabasco CatStorm Cat - Barbicue Sauce, Sauce Boat6th to Go For Gin
1995Thunder GulchThunder GulchGulch - Line of Thunder, Storm Bird3rd to Timber Country
2001Point GivenPoint GivenThunder Gulch - Turko's Turn, Turkoman5th to Monarchos
2005Afleet AlexAfleet AlexAfleet - Maggy Hawk, Hawkster3rd to Giacomo

Ladies' glory

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:

Female top finishers in the Triple Crown races
YearKentucky DerbyPreakness StakesBelmont StakesPedigreeNotes
18671. RuthlessEclipse - Barbarity, Simoom1. Travers Stakes
18683. Fanny LudlowEclipse - Mollie Jackson, Vandal3. Ladies Stakes, Champion Stakes
18693. InvercauldSt. Albans - Eleanor, Voltigeur2. Ladies Stakes, 3. Travers Stakes, Monmouth Cup
18703. MiddayEclipse - Ninette, Revenue1. Long Branch Stakes, 2. Ladies Stakes, 3. Champion Stakes
18803. Emily FKingfisher - Bonnie Doon, Balrownie-
18953. Sue KittieDarebin - Kathleen, Hurrah-
18963. IntermissionGalopin - Vacation, Tom Ochiltree1. Ladies Handicap, Gazelle Handicap; 2. Brooklyn Derby
19012. Sadie SCharaxus - Eolee, Eolus3. Canadian Derby
19031. FlocarlineSt. Florian - Carline, King Ban3. Speculation Stakes
19051. TanyaMeddler - Handspun, Hanover1. Hopeful Stakes, Spinaway Stakes, 2. Lawrence Realization
2. KaimeshaEsher - Reflection, Zorilla2. Alabama Stakes, 3. Gazelle Handicap, Delaware Handicap
3. Coy MaidKingston - Bonnie Gal, Galopin2. Gazelle Handicap, 3. Ladies Handicap
19062. Lady NavarrePirate of Penzance - Catharine of Navarre,
Knight of Ellerslie
1. Tennessee Derby, Tennessee Oaks, 2. Latonia Derby, Kentucky Oaks
1. WhimsicalOrlando - Kismet, Hindoo1. Standard Stakes, 2. Champagne Stakes
2. ContentBridgewater - Phalia, Hindoo1. Latonia Oaks, Huron Handicap
19093. Hill TopClifford - Whiplash, Ben Stromestakes winner
19123. Flamma Hastings - Flittermouse, Rayon d'Or1. Ladies Handicap
19133. Gowell Ort Wells - Responsive, Mirthful1. Latonia Derby, Ashland Oaks, 3. Blue Grass Stakes, Kentucky Oaks
3. Flying FairyAeronaut - Millie A, Phillip D1. Alabama Stakes, Ladies Handicap, Brookdale Handicap, 2. Champlain Handicap, , 3. Ladies Handicap, Carter Handicap, Saratoga Handicap, Metropolitan Handicap
19143. Bronzewing Stalwart - Miss Dolly, St. George1. Kentucky Oaks, Blue Grass Stakes, Ashland Oaks
19151. RegretBroomstick - Jersey Lightning, Hamburg1. Hopeful Stakes, Saratoga Special, Saranac Stakes, Gazelle Handicap
1. Rhine MaidenWatercress - Gold, Golden Garter1. Ladies Handicap
19183. Viva AmericaMcGee - Pink Rose, Fonso1. Kentucky Oaks, 2. Ashland Oaks
19213. PruderyPeter Pan - Polly Flinders, BurgomasterChampion 2-year-old filly; 2. Hopeful Stakes, Kentucky Oaks, Alabama Sakes, 3. Merchants and Citizens Handicap, Saratoga Handicap
2. Polly AnnSuperman - Princess Nettie, Hig Highness2. Pimlico Oaks, Champlain Handicap, 3. Brooklyn Handicap, Ladies Handicap
19241. Nellie MorseLuke McLuke - La Venganza, AbercornChampion 3-year-old filly; 1. Pimlico Oaks, 2. Kentucky Oaks, Matron Stakes, Spinaway Stakes, Ladies Handicap
19273. FlambinoWrack - Flambette, Durbar1. Gazelle Handicap, 3. Coaching Club American Oaks
19303. SnowflakeMad Hatter - Snowdrop, CiceroChampion 3-year-old filly; 1. Coaching Club American Oaks, Illinois Oaks, Ladies Handicap, 3. Spinaway Stakes, Pimlico Oaks
19801. Genuine Risk2. Genuine Risk2. Genuine RiskExclusive Native - Virtuous, Gallant ManChampion 3-year-old filly; 1. Ruffian Handicap, 3. Wood Memorial Stakes
19881. Winning Colors3. Winning ColorsCaro - All Rainbows, Bold HourChampion 3-year-old filly; 1. Santa Anita Oaks, Santa Anita Derby, 2. Maskette Stakes, Breeders' Cup Distaff
19963. My FlagEasy Goer - Personal Ensign, Private Account1. Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Coaching Club American Oaks, Ashland Stakes, Gazelle Handicap, 3. Alabama Stakes
20071. Rags to RichesA.P. Indy - Better Than Honour, Deputy MinisterChampion 3-year-old filly; 1. Kentucky Oaks, Gazelle Stakes, Santa Anita Oaks, Las Virgenes Stakes
20082. Eight BellesUnbridled's Song - Away, Dixieland Band1. Fantasy Stakes; euthanized after pulling up after the Derby
20091. Rachel AlexandraMedaglia d'Oro - Lotta Kim, RoarChampion 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:

The fastest times of the Triple Crown races
Kentucky DerbyPreakness StakesBelmont Stakes
NameYear2nd, 3rdTimeNameYear2nd, 3rdTimeNameYear2nd, 3rdTime
Our Native
Our Native
1:53.001.Secretariat1973Twice a Prince
My Gallant
2.Monarchos2001Invisible Ink
1:59.972.Tank's Prospect1985Chief's Crown
Eternal Prince
1:53.402.Easy Goer1989Sunday Silence
Le Voyageur
3.Northern Dancer1964Hill Rise
The Scoundrel
2:00.003.Louis Quatorze1996Skip Away
Editor's Note
1:53.433.A.P. Indy1992My Memoirs
Pine Bluff
4.Spend a Buck1985Stephan's Odyssey
Chief's Crown
2:00.204.Curlin2007Street Sense
Hard Spun
1:53.464.Risen Star1988Kingpost
Brian's Time
5.Decidedly1962Roman Line
2:00.405.Summer Squall1990Unbridled
Mister Frisky
1:53.605.Point Given2001A.P. Valentine
6.Proud Clarion1967Barbs Delight
2:00.60 Gate Dancer1984Play On
Fight Over
1:53.606.Gallant Man1957Inside Tract
Bold Ruler
Prince of Thieves
2:01.067.Sunday Silence1989Easy Goer
Rock Point
1:53.807.American Pharoah2015Frosted
Keen Ice
8.Fusaichi Pegasus2000Aptitude
2:01.128.Canonero1971Eastern Fleet
Jim French
Darby Creek Road
9.War Emblem2002Proud Citizen
Perfect Drift
2:01.139.Hansel1991Corporate Report
Mane Minister
1:54.05 Tabasco Cat1994Go For Gin
Strodes Creek
10.Funny Cide2003Empire Maker
Peace Rules
2:01.1910.Spectacular Bid1979Golden Act
Screen King
1:54.2010.Creme Fraiche1985Stephan's Odyssey
Chief's Crown
11.Lucky Debonair1965Dapper Dan
Tom Rolfe
2:01.20 Codex1980Genuine Risk
Colonel Moran
1:54.2011.Stage Door Johnny1968Forward Pass
Call Me Prince
Believe It
Believe It
1:54.40 Go And Go1990Thirty Six Red
Baron de Vaux
13.Thunder Gulch1995Tejano Run
Timber Country
2:01.27Seattle Slew1977Iron Constitution
Run Dusty Run
1:54.40Swale1984Pine Circle
Morning Bob
Gun Runner
2:01.3114.Timber Country1995Oliver's Twist
Thunder Gulch
1:54.4514.Birdstone2004Smarty Jones
Royal Assault
15.Barbaro2006Bluegrass Cat
Traffic Judge
1:54.6015.Summer Bird2009Dunkirk
Mine That Bird
Market Wise
2:01.40Pleasant Colony1981Bold Ego
1:54.6016.Caveat1983Slew o'Gold
17.Hill Gail1952Sub Fleet
Blue Man
2:01.60Little Current1974Neapolitan Way
1:54.6017.Jazil2006Bluegrass Cat
Middleground1950Hill Prince
Mr. Trouble
Hemingway's Key
1:54.6518.Lemon Drop Kid1999Vision And Verse
Bold Forbes1976Honest Pleasure
2:01.6019.Real Quiet1998Victory Gallop
Classic Cat
1:54.7519.Riva Ridgde1972Ruritania
Cloudy Dawn
Summer Tan
2:01.8020.Big Brown2008Macho Again
Icabad Crane
1:54.8020.Hansel1991Strike the Gold
Mane Minister
Twenty Grand1931Sweep All
2:01.80Snow Chief1986Ferdinand
Broad Brush
Chateaugay1963Never Bend
Candy Spots
2:01.8022.Silver Charm1997Free House
Captain Bodgit
1:54.8422.Bet Twice1987Cryptoclearance
Riva Ridge1972No Le Hace
Hold Your Peace
2:01.80 California Chrome2014Ride on Curlin
Social Incusion
1:54.84 Count Fleet1943Fairy Manhurst
Majestic Prince1969Arts And Letters
2:01.80 Avatar1975Foolish Pleasure
Master Derby

Conquistador Cielo1982Gato del Sol

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
Kentucky DerbyPreakness StakesBelmont Stakes
2.Affirmed2:01.201978fast2.Affirmed1:54.401978fast2.American Pharoah2:26.652016fast
3.Whirlaway2:01.401941fast Seattle Slew1:54.401977fast3.Affirmed2:26.801978fast
4.Seattle Slew2:02.201977fast4.Justify1:55.932018sloppy4.Justify2:28.182018fast
5.American Pharoah2:03.202016fast5.Count Fleet1:57.401943good5.Count Fleet2:28.201943fast
War Admiral2:03.201937fast6.Omaha1:58.401935-6.Citation2:28.401948fast
7.Count Fleet2:04.001943fast War Admiral1:58.401937-7.War Admiral2:28.601937fast
8.Justify2:04.202018sloppy8.American Pharoah1:58.462015sloppy8.Seattle Slew2:29.601977muddy
10.Citation2:05.401948sloppy10.Gallant Fox2:00.601930-10.Assault2:30.801946fast
12.Gallant Fox2:07.601930good12.Citation2:02.401948heavy12.Gallant Fox2:31.601930good
13.Sir Barton2:09.801919heavy13.Sir Barton1:53.001919fast; 9f13.Sir Barton2:17.40191911f

The following table is a reduced version of the original one. For displaying the original version with more details, you need the screen of 1280px width or more.

Kentucky DerbyPreakness StakesBelmont Stakes
Affirmed2:01.20fast1978Affirmed1:54.40fastAmerican Pharoah2:26.65fast
Whirlaway2:01.40fast1941Seattle Slew1:54.40fastAffirmed2:26.80fast
Seattle Slew2:02.20fast1977Justify1:55.93sloppyJustify2:28.18fast
American Pharoah2:03.20fast2016Count Fleet1:57.40goodCount Fleet2:28.20fast
War Admiral2:03.20fast1937Omaha1:58.40-Citation2:28.40fast
Count Fleet2:04.00fast1943War Admiral1:58.40-War Admiral2:28.60fast
Justify2:04.20sloppy2018American Pharoah1:58.46sloppySeattle Slew2:29.60muddy
Citation2:05.40sloppy1948Gallant Fox2:00.60-Assault2:30.80fast
Gallant Fox2:07.60good1930Citation2:02.40heavyGallant Fox2:31.60good
Sir Barton2:09.80heavy1919Sir Barton1:53.00fast; 9fSir Barton2:17.4011f

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:

The original New York Triple Tiara: 1957 - 2002
Acorn Stakes19311mBelmont ParkElmont, New York
Mother Goose Stakes19571 1/16mBelmont ParkElmont, New York
Coaching Club American Oaks1917Var. 1 1/8 - 1 1/2mSaratogaSaratoga Springs, New York

This Triple Tiara was won by 8 fillies:

The Triple Tiara winners:
1968Dark Miragedkb.f.Persian Road - Home By Dark, Hill PrinceDuval A. HeadleyLloyd A. MillerEverett W. King
1969Shuveech.f.Nashua - Levee, Hill PrinceWhitney A. StoneAnne Minor StoneWillard C. Freeman
1974Chris Evertch.f.Swoon's Son - Miss Carmie, T.V. LarkEcho Valley FarmCarl RosenJoseph A. Trovato
1975Ruffiandkb.f.Reviewer - Shenanigans, Native DancerStuart & Barbara JanneyStuart & Barbara JanneyFrank Y. Whiteley Jr.
1979Davona Daleb.f.Turn-To - Royal Entrance, Tim TamCalumet FarmCalumet FarmJohn M. Veitch
1985Mom's Commandch.f.Top Command - Star Mommy, Pia StarRyemeadow FarmsPeter FullerEdward T. Allard
1989Open Mindch.f.Deputy Minister - Stage Luck, Stage Door JohnnyDue Process StablesEugene V. KleinD. Wayne Lukas
1993Sky Beautyb.f.Blushing Groom - Maplejinsky, NijinskySusan & Howard KaskelGeorgia E. HofmannH. 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:

The New York Triple Tiara: 2003 - 2006
Mother Goose Stakes19571 1/16mBelmont ParkElmont, New York
Coaching Club American Oaks19171 1/4mSaratogaSaratoga Springs, New York
Alabama Stakes18721 1/4mSaratogaSaratoga Springs, New York

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:
1969Shuveech.f.Nashua - Levee, Hill PrinceWhitney A. StoneAnne Minor StoneWillard C. Freeman
1985Mom's Commandch.f.Top Command - Star Mommy, Pia StarRyemeadow FarmsPeter FullerEdward T. Allard
1989Open Mindch.f.Deputy Minister - Stage Luck, Stage Door JohnnyDue Process StablesEugene V. KleinD. Wayne Lukas
1993Sky Beautyb.f.Blushing Groom - Maplejinsky, NijinskySusan & Howard KaskelGeorgia E. HofmannH. Allen Jerkens

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.

The New York Triple Tiara: 2010 - present
Acorn Stakes19311mBelmont ParkElmont, New York
Coaching Club American Oaks19171 1/8mSaratogaSaratoga Springs, New York
Alabama Stakes18721 1/4mSaratogaSaratoga Springs, New York

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:

The "National Triple Tiara" proposal
Kentucky Oaks18751 1/8mChurchill DownsLouisville, Kentucky
Black-Eyed Susan Stakes19191 1/8mPimlicoBaltimore, Maryland
Acorn Stakes19311mBelmont ParkElmont, New York

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
1979Davona Daleb.f.Turn-To - Royal Entrance, Tim TamCalumet FarmCalumet FarmJohn M. Veitch