History of The Triple Crown

Triple Crown immortality is horse racing’s greatest honor. Countless horses have tried and only 11 have succeeded, none since 1978.

In order to win a Triple Crown, a horse must win three long races in five weeks, at three different tracks, in three different states.The Triple Crown starts with the “Run for the Roses”, the Kentucky Derby, on the first Saturday of May. The Preakness follows two weeks later. The Belmont Stakes is five weeks after the Kentucky Derby in early June.

In 1930, Gallant Fox won all three important races, and sportswriter Charles Hatton brought the phrase “Triple Crown”.

Year Winner Jockey Trainer Owner
1978 Affirmed Steve Cauthen Laz Barrera Harbor View Farm
1977 Seattle Slew Jean Cruguet William H. Turner, Jr. Karen L. Taylor
1973 Secretariat Ron Turcotte Lucien Laurin Meadow Stable
1948 Citation Eddie Arcaro Horace A. Jones Calumet Farm
1946 Assault Warren Mehrtens Max Hirsch King Ranch
1943 Count Fleet Johnny Longden G. Donald Cameron Fannie Hertz
1941 Whirlaway Eddie Arcaro Ben A. Jones Calumet Farm
1937 War Admiral Charley Kurtsinger George Conway Samuel D. Riddle
1935 Omaha Willie Saunders Jim Fitzsimmons Belair Stud
1930 Gallant Fox Earl Sande Jim Fitzsimmons Belair Stud
1919 Sir Barton Johnny Loftus H. Guy Bedwell J. K. L. Ross

As of 2008, the current drought of 30 years since Affirmed won in 1978, is the longest drought between Triple Crown winning horses. Since 1978, ten horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and the 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 in the final furlong in 1999 but broke his leg in the final stretch and fell back to third. The three most recent to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness but lose the Belmont were War Emblem in 2002, Funny Cide in 2003, and Smarty Jones in 2004. War Emblem tripped at the start of the Belmont, Funny lost the Belmont in the slop to fresh horses, and Smarty lost by only a length. In addition, several horses have won two of the three races since the last Triple Crown win, most recently Afleet Alex in 2005, who lost the Kentucky Derby but won the Preakness and Belmont.

Only one horse, Alydar, has placed (second place) 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 3rd in each race in 1991, and Hawkster finished 5th in each race in 1989.

One trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, has won the Triple Crown with two different horses, Thunder Gulch and Timber Country, winning the three races in 1995. While this is not declared a Triple Crown officially, it is unique as a trainer that he is the only trainer to win the three races in a calendar year with different horses.

2006 was the first time since 2000 that three different horses won the races: Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby (but then suffered an eventually fatal injury during the Preakness), Bernardini won the Preakness, and Jazil won the Belmont Stakes. It happened again in 2007, with Street Sense winning the Kentucky Derby, Curlin winning the Preakness and the filly Rags to Riches winning the Belmont. Rags to Riches is 2006 Belmont winner Jazil’s half sister.