The Triple Crown
The Triple Crown is one of the most famous series of horse races in the world. It consists of the world-famous Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, all held in the USA. A horse must claim victory in all three races to win the elusive Triple Crown title, an extremely rare occurrence in the history of the series. The Triple Crown is the premier honour in US thoroughbred horse racing, and is for horses aged three years and above.
The term ‘Triple Crown’ was first used by sportswriter, Charles Hatton, in 1930 to describe the series of races. Before this, however, winning all three was still considered the highest achievement in racing in North America.
The title is notoriously hard to win and it is often claimed that it’s the hardest trophy to win across all thoroughbred racing.
Only 11 horses have won all three races, and claimed the Triple Crown trophy, in over 125 years. The last time a horse won the series was in 1978.
The three races span a period of five weeks, with the Kentucky Derby kicking off the event on the first Saturday of May. This is followed by the Preakness Stakes in Maryland and finally by the Belmont Stakes, held in New York. All three races are flat races.
Some commentators have argued that the series should take place over a longer schedule to minimize the risk of injury or burnout to the horses, as this is common during the Triple Crown period. However, organizers have so far resisted these efforts.
The Triple Crown trophy itself was created in 1950 by the Cartier Jewelry Company, at the request of the Thoroughbred Racing Association. It is a three sided vase, designed to represent equally the three races of the series. The trophy can be seen at the Kentucky Derby museum in Louisville, Kentucky.
The first winner of the Triple Crown was Sir Barton in 1919. He was followed by a double for trainer Jim Fitzsimmons, with Gallant Fox taking the title in 1930 and Omaha following suit in 1935. This is the only time in the history of the trophy that a trainer has had more than one horse win the Triple Crown. Five horses went on to take the series in 1937, 1941, 1943, 1946 and 1948 respectively. A full list of winners is displayed below.
Then followed a 25 year gap, during which no horse was able to match the efforts of the numerous winners of the 1930s and 40s. However, in 1973, Secretariat, the most famous horse to win the series, broke the losing trend.
Secretariat set track records at two out of the three races in the series, the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. Both records stand to this day.
Seattle Slew won the series in 1977, and a year later, Affirmed finished all three races in first place. Affirmed was the last horse to win the trophy to date, and the current 39 year dry spell is the longest between winners in the history of the Triple Crown series.
42 runners have fallen short of winning the title by one race. In 2002, 2003 and 2004, competitors won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but failed at Belmont, the same hurdle which 17 other horses failed to jump after winning the first two races of the series.
Winners of the Triple Crown
- 1919: Sir Barton
- 1930: Gallant Fox
- 1935: Omaha
- 1937: War Admiral
- 1941: Whirlaway
- 1943: Count Fleet
- 1946: Assault
- 1948: Citation
- 1973: Secretariat
- 1977: Seattle Slew
- 1978: Affirmed
Event and ticket information can be found at Triple Crown USA