In all of horse racing, 3 races matter: Kentucky Derby, Preakness & Belmont, and they make up racing's Triple Crown. 13 thoroughbreds have won the Triple Crown. They 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, Affirmed 1978 and American Pharoah 2015 & Justify 2018. There were 3 Triple Crown winners in the 1930s, 4 in the 1940s, 3 in the 1970s & 2 in the 21st century. A horse is a horse! Even though I have their pictures on my site, I could put any name on any horse and would not know the difference. Thoroughbreds can run 40 miles an hour. All thoroughbreds descended from 3 Arab stallions brought to England.
1919 SIR BARTON - Sir Barton was the first Triple Crown winner. This was before the races were called the Triple Crown. Man o' War beat Sir Barton by 7 lengths in a match race. In 1920, Man o' War won both the Preakness and the Belmont. He did not run in the Kentucky Derby because his owner, Samuel Riddle, thought Churchill Downs was too far west. Man o' War won 20 of 21 races. He was beaten by a horse called Upset. He beat Upset 6 times. Man o' War was popular and once went off at 1-100. He is the greatest thoroughbred even though he did not win the Triple Crown. He did well at stud. War Admiral was his progeny.
1930 GALLANT FOX - Gallant Fox was the second Triple Crown winner and sired the third, Omaha. Gallant Fox and Omaha are the only father and son to win the Triple Crown. Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons trained Gallant Fox.
1935 OMAHA - Trainer Sunny Jim Fitsimmons won his second Triple Crown with Omaha.
1937 WAR ADMIRAL - War Admiral won 21 of 26 races. Like Sir Barton, he lost a match race to a more popular horse. Seabiscuit beat him. Samuel Riddle ran War Admiral in the Kentucky Derby to avoid repeating the mistake he made with Man o' War.
1941 WHIRLAWAY - Whirlaway was owned by Calumet Farm and was the first of Calumet's 2 Triple Crown winners. He was ridden by Eddie Arcaro. Whirlaway became the third Triple Crown winner to lose a match race, losing to Alsab.
1943 COUNT FLEET - Count Fleet won 16 of 21. An ankle injury ended his career after the Belmont.
1946 ASSAULT - Assault's right front hoof was malformed after he stepped on a stake as a foal. He was sterile and raced until he was 7.
1948 CITATION - Citation was Calumet Farm's second Triple Crown winner. He won 32 of 45 races and became horse racing's first millionaire. He is one of the 3 greatest horses and the last Triple Crown winner for 25 years. Eddie Arcaro rode Citation and is the only jockey to win 2 Triple Crowns. He is considered to be the greatest jockey. Both Arcaro and Bill Hartack won 5 Derbys.
1973 SECRETARIAT - Secretariat was a superhorse, one of the 3 greatest with Man o' War and Citation. I was at Churchill Downs when Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby. I bet $75 on him to show. You can't trust the horses! Secretariat was owned by Penny Tweedy. Ron Turcott was his jockey. Secretariat set a record for the Derby, running the 1 1/4 miles in 1:59-2/5, the first horse to run it in under 2 minutes. It was in the Belmont that he attained immortality. He won by 31 lengths, destroying Sham. Secretariat set a record for the Belmont, running 1 1/2 miles in 2:24. He was explosive! He might have beaten Man o' War. Both ran 21 races. Man o' War won 20 to Secretariat's 16. That Onion beat Secretariat proved no horse is infallible. Turcott later fell from a horse and was paralyzed.
1977 SEATTLE SLEW - I was living in Tennessee, where there was no horse racing. Still, I knew Seattle Slew was strong. He went off 1-to-2 in the Derby. He was Horse of the Year. He raced as a 4-year-old and beat Affirmed twice.
1978 AFFIRMED - Affirmed cannot be mentioned without Alydar. Theirs was the greatest rivalry in racing history. They met 10 times. Affirmed won 7. It was always close. Affirmed beat Alydar by 1 1/2 lengths in the Kentucky Derby and by a neck in the Preakness. In the Belmont, the rivals ran side by side through the stretch. At the wire it was Affirmed by a head. I was at Churchill Downs when Affirmed won the Derby, having driven up from Nashville. I knew nothing about the 2 horses. Someone told me to bet Alydar because he came from Calumet Farm. I lost $280 that day, hard earned money. It would be 15 years before I returned to the track and when I did, it was with my father and son. I let Michael bet $2 a race for 4 races to show him that no one beats the horses. Affirmed was the first 2 million dollar winner. Alydar did better at stud and had the last laugh.
2015 AMERICAN PHAROAH - He became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, and it was beginning to look like it would never happen again. Michael had some money on him, and I watched the 3 races at Sportsman's Grill across the street from the Village at Vanderbilt. Bob Baffert trained American Pharoah, and the horse's name was actually misspelled. It all seemed in keeping with America's preoccupation with the Middle East.
2018 JUSTIFY - Trainer Bob Baffert won his second Triple Crown with Justify, joining Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons. Justify remained undefeated after the Belmont, having won all 6 of his races. He went off at 4-5 favorite and paid $3.60, $3.50 & $2.80. At 52, Mike Smith became the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown.
Kentucky Derbys of interest:
1915 - Regret was the first filly to win the Derby, and only two fillies have won it since: Genuine Risk in 1980 and Winning Colors in 1988.
1933 - Brokers Tip beat Head Play in a spectacular finish during which the jockeys fought it out in the stretch. There was poking and hitting with a crop. Their fight continued in the jockey's room, and both men were eventually suspended. My dad was 10-years-old and told the story of how an older gentleman, hard of hearing, asked who the winner was. When told, he replied, "She broke her hip?"
1969 - Majestic Prince won the first 2 legs of the Triple Crown only to falter in the Belmont. A friend and I were at Churchill Downs the day he won. I went to place a bet and when I returned, my friend was not to be found. He had gotten into a fight and ended up listening to the race in jail. In jail, he met a man arrested for nearly hitting President Nixon's limo.
1975 - I was at the Derby and won with Foolish Pleasure. so I was for him in his match race with the filly Ruffian. I was living in Nashville by that time. I thought Foolish Pleasure had taken off like a rocket ship only to learn that Ruffian had broken down. There is no way to know which horse would have won.
2005 - My son Michael and I went to the Derby. Long shot Giacomo won. We bet George Steinbrenner's horse, Bellamy Road. We were in the infield. Michael did not care for the mob and said he will sit in the stands next time.
2006 - Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby only to break down in the Preakness. He was euthanized.
1 KENTUCKY DERBY - 1 1/4 miles
The Kentucky Derby is run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the first Saturday in May. Churchill Downs opened in 1875 and was named after the brothers who owned the land. The Twin Spires is its symbol. The Derby is called the Run for the Roses. I have been 9 times and hearing Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home" is an emotional experience.
2 PREAKNESS - 1 3/16 miles
The Preakness is run at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Black-Eyed Susans are the flowers.
3 BELMONT - 1 1/2 miles
The Belmont is run at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, located on Long Island. White carnations are the flowers.