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||
The Kentucky Derby Trophy
|Preakness Stakes||Third Saturday in May||Pimlico Race Course||Baltimore, Maryland||1 3⁄16 miles (1,900 m)||1873||
The Woodlawn Vase
|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||
The August Belmont Trophy
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, Thunder Gulch in the Derby and Belmont, Timber Country in the Preakness.
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. Instead other Baffert trainee Paynter was entered and finished second to Union Rags.
Individual race winners
|Denotes winners of the Triple Crown|
|*||Denotes winners of the first 2 of the 3 Triple Crown races|
|#||Denotes winners of any other 2 of the 3 Triple Crown races|
- 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 Kentucky Derby due to a post-race 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.
- [Fy] Denotes a filly. 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.
Gaps between wins
After the first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton, in 1919, there was not another winner until Gallant Fox in 1930, a gap of 11 years. Between 1930 and 1948, seven horses won the Triple Crown, with five years being the longest gap between winners. However, following the 1948 win of Citation, a considerable gap occurred; 25 years before Secretariat ended the drought of Triple Crown champions in 1973.
The longest drought in Triple Crown history began in 1979 with Spectacular Bid's failed Triple Crown attempt at the Belmont Stakes, and as of 2014[update] remains that way. There had not been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed's Belmont victory on June 10, 1978. Since then, thirteen horses won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but not the Belmont. Of those, Real Quiet came 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 seven 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 of 16 May 2015[update], American Pharoah has won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, and will become the fourteenth horse to attempt to end the drought on June 6, 2015.
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 had not competed in either of the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Additionally, from 2005 to 2014, the Belmont winner has been a horse who had not competed 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.
Since all three races were inaugurated, 23 horses As of 2014[update] have won the Derby and Preakness but not the Belmont:
- 1932: Burgoo King did not enter the Belmont due to lameness.:78, 182
- 1936: Bold Venture did not enter the Belmont due to lameness.:78, 182
- 1944: Pensive was the first horse to contest but lose the Belmont after winning the first two legs. He placed 2nd to Bounding Home.:78
- 1958: Tim Tam
- 1961: Carry Back
- 1964: Northern Dancer
- 1966: Kauai King
- 1968: Forward Pass
- 1969: Majestic Prince
- 1971 Canonero II
- 1979: Spectacular Bid 3rd in Belmont 3 1⁄4 lengths behind Coastal, a neck behind the second-place horse, Golden Act.
- 1981: Pleasant Colony 3rd in Belmont 1 1⁄2 lengths behind Summing and the second-place horse, Highland Blade.
- 1987: Alysheba finishes fourth in Belmont behind Bet Twice, Cryptoclearance, and Gulch.
- 1989: Sunday Silence 2nd in Belmont, 8 lengths behind Easy Goer.
- 1997: Silver Charm 2nd in Belmont, 3⁄4 length behind Touch Gold.
- 1998: Real Quiet 2nd in Belmont after a photo finish, a nose behind Victory Gallop.
- 1999: Charismatic 3rd in Belmont, 1 1⁄2 lengths behind Lemon Drop Kid and second-place 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 in Belmont, finishes eighth out of 11. Winner Sarava scored upset at record odds of 70-1.
- 2003: Funny Cide 3rd in Belmont, 5 lengths behind Empire Maker, and 4 1⁄4 lengths behind second-place horse, Ten Most Wanted.
- 2004: Smarty Jones 2nd in Belmont, one length behind Birdstone.
- 2008:Big Brown, with a cracked hoof, is pulled up in the home stretch of the Belmont, eased to a last-place finish. Recorded as a DNF. Winner was Da' Tara.
- 2012:I'll Have Another was scratched from the Belmont the day before the race due to a potential foot injury.
- 2014: California Chrome finished in a dead heat for 4th in the Belmont after being stepped on by another horse leaving the gate and running the race with an injury to his heel and a scrape on his tendon.
Sponsorship and broadcasting
Originally, the three races largely organized their own nominations procedure, marketing and television broadcast rights. In 1985, Triple Crown Productions was created when the owner of Spend a Buck chose not to run in the other two Triple Crown races because of a financial incentive offered to any Kentucky Derby winner who could win a set of competing races in New Jersey. The organizers of the three races realized that they needed to work together.
Efforts to unify the sponsorship and marketing of all three Triple Crown races began in 1987 when ABC Sports negotiated a deal with Chrysler to pay $5 million to any horse that swept all three races, and $1 million each year there was no Triple Crown sweep to the horse with the highest combined Triple Crown finish. This sponsorship lasted until 1993. The end of the $1 million participation bonus was linked to the breakdown of Prairie Bayou at the Belmont Stakes that year and the uncomfortable situation that arose when the Kentucky Derby winner, Sea Hero, was given the bonus following a seventh-place finish.
In 1995, Visa USA took over the sponsorship with a 10-year contract, naming the series the Visa Triple Crown and offering only the $5 million bonus to a horse that could sweep the Triple Crown. Along with sponsorship by VISA, NBC Sports paid $51.5 million for broadcast rights to all three races, with the revenue split giving 50% of the total to Churchill Downs and 25% each to Pimlico and to the New York Racing Association (NYRA).
The Visa deal—and the cooperative effort—ended after 2005. The NYRA felt that they did not get a fair share of the revenue, particularly when the Belmont had the highest ratings of all three races in the years where a Triple Crown was on the line. From 2001 through 2013, average viewership for the Belmont was 7 million when the Triple Crown was not at stake, whereas viewership averaged 13 million when it was. With the contract term ending, the NYRA went to ESPN on ABC for the 2006 Belmont, while the broadcasts of the Derby and Preakness remained with NBC. Visa chose to remain as a sponsor of only Kentucky Derby for the next five years. As a result of the divided broadcast, Triple Crown Productions was unable to obtain a new sponsor,[a] and as of 2015[update] the Triple Crown series has not had a unified sponsorship since.
|1987–1993||Chrysler Corporation||$1 million (best overall record)
$5 million (three wins)
|1995–2005||Visa USA||$5 million (three wins)|
|2006–present||Triple Crown Productions||(none)|
In February 2011, ABC/ESPN dropped out of the negotiations to renew broadcast rights to the Belmont rights. NBC obtained the contract through 2015, once again uniting all three races on the same network. In 2014, NBC extended their contract for the Kentucky Derby through 2025. As of May 2015[update], The broadcast contracts for the Preakness and Belmont for 2016 forward have yet to be awarded.
- American thoroughbred racing top attended events
- British Classic Races
- French Classic Races
- Triple Crown
- Triple Crown Trophy
- These were 2002 for War Emblem, 2003 for Funny Cide in 2003 and 2004 for Smarty Jones.
- Liebman, Bennett (April 24, 2008). "The Rail: The Race for the Triple Crown - Origins of Triple Crown". The New York Times (New York, NY). Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- "History & Tradition of the Triple Crown". OD Action. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
- "Sham: In the Shadow of a Superhorse". California Thoroughbred. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
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- "The Courier - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved October 3, 2014.
- Charlie Rose (July 21, 2003). "A rebroadcast of a discussion about the film Seabiscuit". Charlie Rose. Archived from the original on September 13, 2012.
- "Brennan: Cherry-pick races and Triple Crown extinct". USA Today. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
- "Betting against California Chrome? Fresh horses typically win Belmont Stakes". Newsday. Retrieved October 3, 2014.
- "Canadian Triple Crown Winner Peteski Dies from Colic". BloodHorse.com. April 8, 2001. Retrieved August 11, 2010.
- Drape, Joe (2008). To the swift : classic Triple Crown horses and their race for glory (1st ed. ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312357955.
- Claire Novak (June 8, 2014). "'Chrome' Co-Owner Has No Regrets for Comments". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved October 3, 2014.
- Paulick, Ray (November 17, 2010). "Selling Triple Crown As A Package Deal". Paulick Report.
- "Chrysler to Sponsor Triple Crown Challenge". Ocala Star-Banner. Associated Press. September 24, 1987. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
- Staff (May 2, 2005). "VIsa to End Triple Crown Challenge Sponsorship". Blood-Horse. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
- Sandomir, Richard (May 19, 2014). "Looking for a Sure Thing in the Belmont Stakes? Bet on NBC". New York Times. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
- "NBC reaches deal to keep Kentucky Derby rights through 2015". Daily Hampshire Gazette - GazetteNet.com. Associated Press. October 8, 2010. Archived from the original on June 12, 2012. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
- Sharrow, Ryan (February 22, 2011). "NBC re-ups deal to carry Preakness through 2015".
- "NBC Signs Five Year Deal To Televise Belmont Stakes". Retrieved October 3, 2014.
- "New Pact Keeps Kentucky Derby in NBC Stable Through 2025" (PRESS RELEASE). February 26, 2014. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
- Official website
- BloodHorse.com Triple Crown Mania
- Triple Crown Winners – slideshow by Life magazine