There have been a 13 Triple Crown winners in horse racing history. The Triple Crown consists of the three classic races each spring for three-year-olds—the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs, the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico and the Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.
The first winner of all three Triple Crown races was Sir Barton in 1919. Some journalists began using the term Triple Crown to refer to the three races as early as 1923, but it was not until Gallant Fox won the three classics in 1930 and then Charles Hatton of the Daily Racing Form was credited with putting the term into common use.
Here is a look at the Triple Crown winners:
Sir Barton 1919
Sir Barton was 0 for 6 when he won the Kentucky Derby. The colt was entered in the race as a rabbit for his more highly regarded entrymate Billy Kelly and grabbed the lead and did not look back. His previous start was a runner up finish in the Futurity at Belmont Park in September. After his Run for the Roses score he came back to win the Preakness four days later by four lengths. He then won the Withers as a prep for the Belmont Stakes, eased up late for a handy win. He was trained by H. Guy Bedwell and ridden to victory by Johnny Loftus.
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Gallant Fox 1930
This colt became the second Triple Crown winner and the first jewel in 1930 was the Preakness. The colt then returned eight days later to win the Kentucky Derby, then shipped to New York to win the Belmont three weeks later. He was trained by the Hall of Famer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, who trained three Kentucky Derby winners, four Preakness Stakes winners, and six Belmont Stakes winners. His jockey Earl Sande came out of retirement to ride the colt.
Omaha was sired by Gallant Fox, the Triple Crown winner in 1930. The colt gave owner-breeder Belair Farm and trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons their second Triple Crown winner in just a five-year span. Sent off as the second choice in the Kentucky Derby, he won by 1 ½ lengths and then won the Preakness by six lengths. He actually lost his next start, running second in the Withers to Rosemont, then came back to win the Belmont Stakes over four foes to complete his Triple Crown.
War Admiral 1937
War Admiral won the Run for the Roses over Pompoon, the two-year-old champion. The margin of victory was 1 1/2 lengths and in the Preakness Stakes a week later the two were separated by just a head. In the Belmont Stakes the colt acted up at the gate, delaying the start of the race eight minutes. The pre-race antics did not stop him from becoming the fourth Triple Crown winner despite the fact he stumbled coming out of the gate, injuring his front right heel. Charles Kurtsinger rode the champion for trainer George Conway.
Called Mr. Longtail, Whirlaway won the Triple Crown just four years after the feat was accomplished by War Admiral. The colt came into the Kentucky Derby off runner up finishes in the Blue Grass and Derby Trial but rolled to an eight-length victory under jockey Eddie Arcaro. He returned to win the Preakness by 5 ½ lengths and then prepped for the Belmont by winning an allowance race 10 days later. The colt only had to beat three foes in the Belmont to become the fifth Triple Crown winner.
Count Fleet 1943
Count Fleet had an amazing three-year-old campaign, winning all his six starts culminating in a then record 25 length victory in the Belmont Stakes, the last start of his career. He took the field gate to wire to win the Kentucky Derby by three lengths and romped in the Preakness by eight lengths. In between his Preakness and Belmont wins he took the Withers by five lengths. He won 16 of his 21 career starts with Hall of Fame rider Johnny Longden riding him in every outing for trainer Don Cameron.
Assault rebounded off a fourth-place finish in the Derby Trial to win the Run for the Roses at 8-1 five days later. The colt was known as the Club Footed Comet due to a variety of soundness issues, but he could run. He returned to win the Preakness, opening a clear lead heading for home and held on to win by just a neck over Lord Boswell. He then drew off to win by the Belmont Stakes by three lengths to complete the Triple Crown. Owned by King Ranch, the colt was trained by Hall of Famer Max Hirsch and ridden by Warren Mehrtens.
Citation became the fourth Triple Crown winner of the 1940’s. Under jockey Eddie Arcaro the colt took the field gate to wire in the slop to win the Kentucky Derby by 3 1/2 lengths over five foes. He returned to win the Preakness by 5 ½ lengths, He turned up for his Triple Crown bid by winning the Jersey Derby by 11 lengths and romped in the Belmont Stakes by eight lengths over seven overmatched foes. His trainer Ben A. Jones was winning his second Triple Crown, also saddling Whirlaway.
One of the best-known horses of all time, Secretariat came into the 1973 Derby off a loss in the Wood Memorial where he checked in third. He rolled to victory in the Derby over Sham by three lengths and then beat five foes including Sham again in the Preakness. He is most remembered for his 31-length tour de force in the Belmont Stakes. Big Red was trained by Lucien Lauren and ridden to victory by Ron Turcotte. The colt was ranked 35th on ESPN’s 100 Greatest Athletes of the Twentieth Century.
Seattle Slew 1977
Seattle Slew came into the 1977 Kentucky Derby undefeated in six starts and did not disappoint, beating 14 foes as the short-priced favorite. The colt came back to win the Preakness by 1 ½ lengths and became the first undefeated Triple Crown winner with his score in the Belmont Stakes by four lengths. The colt suffered his first defeat three weeks later in the Swaps at Hollywood Park. Jean Cruget rode the colt for trainer William Turner.
Affirmed became the third Triple Crown of the ‘70’s and was one half of one of the greatest rivalries the sport has ever seen. The colt got the best of his rival Alydar four times during their juvenile campaign and in the Kentucky Derby the pair were separated by 1 ½ lengths at the wire. In the Preakness the duo hit the wire together with Affirmed prevailing by a neck. In the Belmont the duo battled throughout the stretch with Affirmed keeping his head in front at the wire to win the Triple Crown. It was the first time in history there were Triple Crown winners in back to back years.
American Pharoah 2015
American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in nearly four decades in 2015 and the Bob Baffert trainee did it in style. After romping in the Rebel and Arkansas Derby, the colt was sent off as the favorite in the Run for the Roses where he won by a length. A downpour started in Baltimore and the sloppy track dd not slow him down, the colt wiring the field and winning by seven lengths. Seven foes took him on in the Belmont and the colt jumped out to an early lead and he never looked back, drawing off to win by 5 `/2 lengths under jockey Victor Espinoza.
Justify gave Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his second Triple Crown winner in just three short years. The son of Scat Daddy became just the second undefeated Triple Crown winner, following in the footsteps of Seattle Slew. The colt broke the “Curse of Apollo” by becoming the first Kentucky Derby winner since 1882 to have not raced as a two-year-old. He won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes in the slop and took the field gate to wire to win the Belmont Stakes over a fast track under the masterful ride of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.