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The Triple Crown series moves back to its regular time slots, beginning with the “Run for the Roses”, the Kentucky Derby, on the first Saturday in May. Each year, a group of owners, trainers and jockeys have their eyes on winning The Derby, with the hope of winning three races in five weeks, a grueling test for any horse.

The Thirteen Horses That Have Won All Three Races In the History of the Triple Crown

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)
American Pharoah(2015)
Justify(2018)

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Let’s next talk about history.

Memories of the Elite Champions

Sir Barton was the first such horse to achieve the marker but just a few East Coast journalists came up with or used the term – Triple Crown. Eleven years later when Gallant Fox accomplished the same feat, Daily Racing Form writer Charles Hatton was credited for coining the term.

Back in the 1930s and ’40s winning the Triple Crown was a common occurrence. happening three times in the ’30s over seven years and four times in the ‘40s in seven years. After Citation, it would be another 25 years before we would see another.

However, for horse bettors, the wait was worth it. Along came Secretariat. Because it had been so long, Secretariat had immediately captured the imagination of the country, in need of good news because of the Vietnam War. Every race this horse ran was like watching a locative. In winning the Triple Crown in 1973, Secretariat set the track record in all three races.

Ron Turcotte, jockey of 1973 triple crown winner Secretariat poses for photos. Rob Carr/Getty Images/AFP

Seattle Slew and Affirmed also took all three races in the 1970s and once again, winning this trio of races became impossible. It wasn’t like there were not opportunities, as 13 different horses after Affirmed won the Derby and Preakness but could not finish the deal, though four different ones came in second, the last Smarty Jones in 2004.

Though American Pharoah was Male Horse of the Year as a two-year old, because it had been so long since we had a Triple Crown winner, skeptics were rampant. Breaking swiftly out of the gate at Belmont, American Pharoah went wire to wire and entered horse racing folklore. Like Seattle Slew, Justify is forgotten coming so close to a well-known champion.

This year, you will be able to try your luck at Triple Crown betting again and find out if we will have another notable champion.

American Pharoah #4, ridden by Victor Espinoza leads the field. Dylan Buell/Getty Images/AFP

Notable Triple Crown Races

From a competition perspective, few can compete like Affirmed and Alydar in 1977-78. They were considered two of the best two-year old’s and they met six times, with Affirmed winning four times. As three-year old’s they competed three times in the Triple Crown races. Affirmed won The Derby by 1 ½ lengths over Alydar. Two weeks later at the Preakness, they again went at it and though Alydar narrowed the margin to just a neck, again he came in second to Affirmed. The third race was a true classic. Affirmed broke quickly and set a fast pace, in the middle of the backstretch, Alydar charged and those two separated themselves from the field and challenger lead from time to time. It was a battle royal down the home stretch, but Affirmed nabbed the lead and won by a head to win the Triple Crown with Alydar second each time.

Secretariat was another Horse of the Year at two in 1972, but after he lost the Wood Memorial just two weeks before The Derby, doubt crept in. However, record-shattering wins and times in Kentucky and Baltimore set the stage for the final piece of the puzzle. Secretariat broke fast to take the lead and those in the press box and at the track were stunned jockey Ron Turcotte was just letting the horse run at full tilt and despite the big early lead, many thought “Big Red” might fade coming home. It never happened, Secretariat gave a performance for the ages, breaking the track record by nearly three seconds and won by an incomparable 31 lengths to win the Triple Crown for the first time in 25 years.

Belmont later installed a special pole that is 31 lengths from the finish line to honor Secretariat achievement. There are those still alive who never cashed their sports betting tickets that day, knowing history meant more than money. Later, after being euthanized in 1989 after failing health, an autopsy showed that his heart was two and a half times larger than that of the average horse, which likely explains part of Secretariat’s extraordinary talent.

marty Jones and jockey Stewart Elliott on his way to win. AFP PHOTO/TIMOTHY A. CLARY

The aforementioned Smarty Jones was given no break at Belmont after winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown as horses Eddington and Rock Hard Ten pressed the pace, forcing Smarty to keep up. Though Smarty Jones ran a great race, Birdstone won, ending SJ’s chance at history.

In the 1996 Kentucky Derby, favorite, Unbridled’s Song was in complete control at the top of the stretch. On the rail, Cavonnier made a move and grabbed everyone’s attention in the stands and on television. But literally out of nowhere, Gemstone, went from galloping to a sprinter and stunned everyone to win The Derby by a nose.

For years at Churchill Downs, the last thing any owner or trainer wanted was his horse to be favored for the Derby. In 2005, Bellamy Road was the favorite and Afleet Alex the second choice. Afleet Alex was the leader coming home but did not have another gear and 50-1 shot Giacomo found its stride and became a memorable longshot. 

Interestingly, Afleet Alex won the Preakness and Belmont. He won in Baltimore after clicking heels with another horse and almost tossed his jockey Jeremy Rose and won the Belmont with a massive stretch run.

Get ready for three terrific races this year and who knows what will happen.

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