Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing (United States)
In the United States, the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, commonly known as the “Triple Crown”, is a series of three Thoroughbred horse races for three-year-old horses run in May and early June of each year consisting of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.
While Daily Racing Form writer Charles Hatton is commonly credited with originating the term to reference these races in 1930, they were referred to by that name at least as early as 1923. The Triple Crown Trophy, commissioned in 1950, is awarded to a Triple Crown winner.
Only eleven horses have ever won the Triple Crown, none since 1978. Of the trainers of those eleven horses, "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons won the Triple Crown twice (the only trainer to do so), and another trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, scored a Triple Crown as a trainer in sweeping the 1995 races with different horses, the only individual to do so.
The eleven Triple Crown winners are Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), and Affirmed (1978).
Since 1931, the order of Triple Crown races has been the Kentucky Derby first, followed by the Preakness Stakes, and then the Belmont Stakes. Prior to 1931, the Preakness Stakes was run before the Kentucky Derby eleven times. On May 12, 1917, and again on May 13, 1922, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes were run on the same day.
|Kentucky Derby||First Saturday in May||Churchill Downs||Louisville, Kentucky||1 1⁄4 miles (2,000 m)||1875|
|Preakness Stakes||Third Saturday in May||Pimlico Race Course||Baltimore, Maryland||1 3⁄16 (1,911 m)||1873|
|Belmont Stakes||Third Saturday following the Preakness (first or second Saturday in June)||Belmont Park||Elmont, New York||1 1⁄2 miles (2,400 m)||1867|
While there is a similar series of races specifically for fillies, the "Triple Tiara", each Triple Crown race is open to both colts and fillies. Unlike the British and all but one of the French Classics, the races are also open to geldings. All the races are held on dirt tracks, rather than the turf commonly used for important races in Europe.
Winners of the Triple Crown
At completion of the 2014 season, the three Triple Crown races have attracted 4,144 entrants. Of these, 289 horses have won a single leg of the Triple Crown, 52 horses have won two of the races (23 the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, 18 the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, and 11 the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes), and 11 horses have won all three races. Pillory won both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in 1922, a year when it was impossible to win the Triple Crown because the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes were run on the same day.
|1919||Sir Barton||Johnny Loftus||H. Guy Bedwell||J. K. L. Ross||John E. Madden|
|1930||Gallant Fox||Earl Sande||Jim Fitzsimmons||Belair Stud||Belair Stud|
|1935||Omaha||Willie "Smokey" Saunders||Jim Fitzsimmons||Belair Stud||Belair Stud|
|1937||War Admiral||Charley Kurtsinger||George H. Conway||Samuel D. Riddle||Samuel D. Riddle|
|1941||Whirlaway||Eddie Arcaro||Ben A. Jones||Calumet Farm||Calumet Farm|
|1943||Count Fleet||Johnny Longden||Don Cameron||Fannie Hertz||Fannie Hertz|
|1946||Assault||Warren Mehrtens||Max Hirsch||King Ranch||King Ranch|
|1948||Citation||Eddie Arcaro||Horace A. Jones||Calumet Farm||Calumet Farm|
|1973||Secretariat||Ron Turcotte||Lucien Laurin||Meadow Stable||Meadow Stud|
|1977||Seattle Slew||Jean Cruguet||William H. Turner, Jr.||Karen L. Taylor||Ben S. Castleman|
|1978||Affirmed||Steve Cauthen||Laz Barrera||Harbor View Farm||Harbor View Farm|
Jim Fitzsimmons is the only trainer to have two horses win the Triple Crown, training the sire/son combination of 1930 winner Gallant Fox and 1935 winner Omaha. This also marked the first time that an owner and the first time that a breeder, Belair Stud holding both duties, would have a repeat win of the Triple Crown.
Individual Triple Crown achievements
In 1995, D. Wayne Lukas became the first and only major figure (owner, jockey, or trainer) to sweep the Triple Crown races with different horses.
|Year||Person||Type||Kentucky Derby||Preakness Stakes||Belmont Stakes|
|1995||D. Wayne Lukas||Trainer||Thunder Gulch||Timber Country||Thunder Gulch|
Two trainers, John Vietch and Bob Baffert, have had horses place second in all three legs of the Triple Crown. Veitch in 1978 with Alydar, who in a famous rivalry with Affirmed (Affirmed won the Triple Crown that year) is the only horse to have placed second in all three races. In 2012 Bob Baffert followed suit with two different horses. Bodemeister finished second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness stakes, then opted out of the Belmont Stakes to rest for the summer. Instead other Baffert trainee Paynter was entered and finished second to Union Rags.
Individual race winners
|Denotes horses which won 2 of the 3 Triple Crown races|
|Denotes winners of the Triple Crown|
- The 1890 Preakness Stakes was held at Morris Park Racecourse in The Bronx, New York.
- From 1894 to 1908, the Preakness Stakes were held at Gravesend Race Track on Coney Island, New York.
- In 1917 and 1922, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes were held on the same day.
- The 1918 Preakness Stakes was held in two divisions due to a large field. War Cloud won one and Jack Hare, Jr. the other.
- Due to reconstruction at Belmont Park, the Belmont Stakes were held at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, New York from 1963 to 1967.
- Dancer's Image was disqualified as the winner of the 1968 due to a failed drug test.
- I'll Have Another was scratched the afternoon prior to the Belmont due to tendonitis and was unable to attempt to win the race.
- ♥ Fillies won the Kentucky Derby in 1915, 1980, and 1988, Preakness Stakes in 1903, 1906, 1915, 1924, and 2009, and Belmont Stakes in 1867, 1905, and 2007.
- RNR Race not run. The Belmont was not run in 1911 and 1912 due to anti-betting legislation passed in New York State. The Preakness did not run 1891–1893.
The longest drought in Triple Crown history began with Spectacular Bid’s failed Triple Crown attempt at the Belmont Stakes on June 9, 1979, and still remains that way. There had not been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed won it on June 10, 1978. Since then, thirteen horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Of those, Real Quiet has come the closest to winning the Triple Crown, losing the Belmont Stakes by a nose in 1998. Charismatic led the Belmont Stakes in the final furlong in 1999, but fractured his left front leg in the final stretch and fell back to third. The six most recent horses to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but either lost or withdrew from the Belmont Stakes were War Emblem in 2002, Funny Cide in 2003, Smarty Jones in 2004, Big Brown in 2008, I'll Have Another in 2012, and California Chrome in 2014.
As far back as 1986, reporters noted that horses who were fresh for the Belmont had an advantage. In 2003, Gary Stevens stated in an interview with Charlie Rose that he did not believe there would be another Triple Crown winner because of the tendency for owners to put fresh horses in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn was particularly critical of the Triple Crown system during post-race remarks made on NBC in 2014; he considered the system to be unfair, arguing that there would never be another Triple Crown winner in his lifetime unless only horses that competed in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness competed at the Belmont. Including Tonalist, six of the previous eight Belmont winners did not compete the either of first two legs of the Triple Crown. Additionally, from 2005 to 2014, the Belmont winner has been a horse who did not compete in the Preakness.
Several horses have won two of the three races since the last Triple Crown win, including 13 that won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness but lost the Belmont. In 2012, I'll Have Another, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, was scratched from the Belmont Stakes, due to concerns about a possible foot injury. Unusual situations occurred in 1995, when Thunder Gulch won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, but stablemate Timber Country won the Preakness Stakes. Both horses were trained by D. Wayne Lukas, making him the only Triple Crown-winning trainer without a Triple Crown-winning horse. In 2009, jockey Calvin Borel had the opportunity to win a Triple Crown on two different horses. Borel won the Kentucky Derby on Mine that Bird, and the Preakness aboard filly Rachel Alexandra. Borel finished third aboard Mine that Bird in the Belmont.
Only one horse, Alydar, has placed (finished second) in all three races. He was defeated by Affirmed in all three races in 1978 by a combined margin of two lengths. In addition, Mane Minister finished third in each race in 1991, and Hawkster finished fifth in each race in 1989.
Belmont outcomes for potential Triple Crown winners since 1979
- 1979: Spectacular Bid shows, 3¼ lengths behind the winner, Coastal, a neck behind the second-place horse, Golden Act.
- 1981: Pleasant Colony shows, 1½ lengths behind the winner, Summing, and the second-place horse, Highland Blade.
- 1987: Alysheba finishes fourth to Bet Twice
- 1989: Sunday Silence places, 8 lengths behind the winner, Easy Goer.
- 1997: Silver Charm places, a half length behind the winner, Touch Gold.
- 1998: Real Quiet places, after a photo finish, a nose behind the winner, Victory Gallop.
- 1999: Charismatic shows, 1½ lengths behind the winner, Lemon Drop Kid, and the second-place horse, Vision and Verse. Charismatic was pulled up soon after the finish and vanned off with a career ending injury.
- 2002: War Emblem stumbles at gate, finishes eighth out of 11. Winner Sarava scored the upset at record odds of 70/1
- 2003: Funny Cide shows, 5 lengths behind winner, Empire Maker, & 4¼ lengths behind second-place horse, Ten Most Wanted.
- 2004: Smarty Jones places, one length behind the winner, Birdstone.
- 2008: Big Brown, with a cracked hoof, is pulled up in the home stretch, loping to a last-place finish to Da' Tara. Scored as a DNF.
- 2012: I'll Have Another wins the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but is scratched from the Belmont Stakes the day before the race due to a potential foot injury.
- 2014: California Chrome is stepped on by another horse leaving the gate, runs the race with an injury to his heel and a scrape on his tendon, and finishes in a dead heat for fourth out of 11.
|1987–1993||Chrysler Corporation||$1 million (best overall record)
$5 million (three wins)
|1998–2005||Visa USA||$5 million (three wins)|
|2006 – present||Triple Crown Productions||(no bonus)|
On May 21, 2005, the Visa credit card company withdrew its sponsorship of the Triple Crown, effective 2006. It relieved Visa of paying the $5 million bonus to the owner of a horse that would win the Triple Crown. Triple Crown Productions has sponsored the races since 2006. The $5 million bonus no longer remains intact.
Many believe Visa withdrew its sponsorship as a result of the New York Racing Association's decision to break with the other two tracks on a television contract. On October 4, 2004, NYRA announced that ABC and ESPN would hold television rights to the Belmont Stakes, breaking from Triple Crown Productions' deal with NBC Sports. Eventually the Belmont would become a part of the ESPN on ABC rebranding of the ABC Sports division under ESPN's purview.
In February 2011 ESPN dropped out of the next cycle for Belmont rights, allowing NBC to take rights for the Belmont and re-up for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness until 2015, uniting all three races on the same network.
Triple Crown Productions was formed in 1986 with ABC. Prior to that, the individual racing associations made their own deals with the television networks (ABC and CBS).
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- Official website
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- Triple Crown Winners – slideshow by Life magazine