Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing in the United States- The Basics

Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing-

The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, sometimes shortened to Triple Crown, consists of three races for three-year-old Thoroughbred horses. Winning all three of these Thoroughbred horse races is considered the greatest accomplishment of a Thoroughbred racehorse. The term originated in mid-19th century England and different nations where thoroughbred racing is popular each have their own Triple Crown series.

The Triple Crown is considered to be one of the most difficult triumphs to attain in all of sports.  The three Grade 1 races run in May and early June of each year consisting of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.  The complexity can be attributed to the grueling schedule of having to partake in three races within five weeks, each of which are at longer distances than the three-year-olds have previously run throughout their careers. The Belmont Stakes is extremely punishing as most thoroughbreds never run such a long distance (1 1/2 miles). TRIPLE CROWN WINNERS

  • Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown: The 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).

All three Triple Crown legs are open to three-year-old Thoroughbreds.   In all three races, colts and geldings carry 126 pounds and fillies carry 121 lbs.

Kentucky Derby-  (1 1⁄4-mile) held annually at Churchill Downs, in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May.  The race is one and a quarter miles.  A new points system was started in 2012 for Kentucky Derby qualification.

The Preakness Stakes (1 3⁄16-mile) held on the third Saturday in May each year at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. It is a Grade I race run over a distance of one and 3/16 miles.

The Belmont Stakes- (1 1⁄2-mile)  held every June at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. It is  1.5 miles in length, the longest race the horses will probably ever run.  The race is the third and final leg of the US Triple Crown, following exactly five weeks after the Kentucky Derby, and three weeks after the Preakness Stakes. Consequently, it is run on Saturday, but never before June 5, nor after June 11.

The Kentucky Derby is one and a quarter miles, followed 2 weeks later by The Preakness, a little shorter at one and 3/16 miles.  Three weeks after the Preakness, the Belmont is the longest at one and a half miles.

Owners may decide to run their horse in all three races (if they are good enough) or in just one or possibly two legs of the Triple Crown.  Thus, a horse trying to win the Triple Crown will face horses in the Belmont that didn’t run in the Preakness two weeks previously.  This makes the Triple Crown even more elusive.

Secretariat still holds the record for the fastest Kentucky Derby ever and would hold the Preakness record as well, but the official clock malfunctioned and an official time for the record books was not possible.

1973 Secretariat defeated Sham, who was runner-up in the Kentucky and Preakness and ran one of the 4 fastest Kentucky Derby times recorded.

In the 1973 Belmont Stakes, Secretariat again broke the record, which still stands, but in doing so he won the race by an amazing 31 lengths!

In 1978, Alydar finished a close second to Triple Crown winner Affirmed in all three races, a feat not achieved before or repeated since. He has been described as the best horse in the history of Thoroughbred racing never to have won a championship.  In all three legs of the Triple Crown, Alydar lost to Affirmed by a combined total of less than two lengths.

In 1998, Real Quiet won the Derby and Preakness and was winning the Belmont, but could not hold on as Victory Gallop edged him out by a nose.

In 1977, Seattle Slew became the first horse to win the Triple Crown undefeated.

Triple Crown near misses: A total of 21 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but did not win the Belmont. Eight of these near misses have been since 1997. Big Brown just missed the Triple Crown when he was pulled up at Belmont in 2008. In 2012, I’ll Have Another won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but was scratched the day before the Belmont Stakes, due to tendonitis.

Since the last Triple Crown in 1978, 12 horses have won the first two legs  but were unable to capture the third (Belmont)

  • There have been 46 horses who won two out of the three Triple Crown races but only 21 who won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness only to fail in the Belmont Stakes.

Since 1978, 12 horses have won the first two races, but have fallen short of the Triple Crown:  1979- Spectacular Bid, 1981- Pleasant Colony, 1987- Alysheba, 1989- Sunday Silence, 1997- Silver Charm, 1998- Real Quiet, 1999- Charismatic, 2002- War Emblem, 2003 Funny Cide, 2004- Smarty Jones, 2008- Big Brown, 2012- I’ll Have Another

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