The Triple Crown

In the history of American horse racing, there have only been eleven Triple Crown winners. The Triple Crown is comprised of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Each year as soon as the Kentucky Derby winner crosses the finish line on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, talk begins of the Triple Crown.  The Triple Crown of horse racing is one of the toughest achievements in all of sports, and we are currently in a drought of 33 years since the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed in 1978.

The eleven horses that have accomplished the feat are: Sir Barton in 1919; Gallant Fox in 1930; Omaha in 1935; War Admiral in 1937; Whirlaway in 1941; Count Fleet in 1943; Assault in 1946; Citation in 1948; Secretariat in 1973; Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed.

It is interesting to note that six of the 11 winners came in a 14-year stretch during 1935-1948, and then after a 25-year hiatus, three more came during the 1970’s.  In fact, just when the racing world thought the Triple Crown would never be won again, racing fans were spoiled with Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed all within six years of each other.

Even though only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown, many have come close.  A total of 21 horses have won both the Derby and Preakness, only to fail to win the Belmont.  In fact, seven of these have come in just the last 15 years: Silver Charm (1997); Real Quiet (1998); Charismatic (1999); War Emblem (2002); Funny Cide (2003); Smarty Jones (2004) and Big Brown (2008).

Only two horses failed to win the Triple Crown for lack of trying:  The immortal Man O’ War did not start in the Kentucky Derby in 1920, before winning the next two legs, as did Pillory in 1922.

Will the 2011 Kentucky Derby bring more talk of the Triple Crown?  Yes, of course.  It is an annual rite of passage every spring.

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