12 Incredible Triple Crown Horses to Discover

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The Triple Crown thoroughbred title is one of the most prestigious awards in horse racing. It is given to any three-year-old horse that has won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes in the same year. Only twelve horses have ever won the title, and we're going to tell you about each and every one of these legendary athletes. 

1. Sir Barton (1919)

Sir Barton

Breed

The first of the incredible Triple Crown horses to win was Sir Barton, a chestnut thoroughbred colt. The thoroughbred was developed in 17th – 18th century England, by crossbreeding mares with oriental stallions. About 118,000 thoroughbreds are registered yearly, and many of them take part in the horse racing world.

Notable Achievements

Although Sir Barton won the title back in 1919, his achievement was not recognized until the 1930's, when the term became established. In 1948, eleven years after his death, he was officially considered the first winner.

In 1920 he set a world record for 1 3/16 miles on dirt when he won the annual Merchants and Citizens Handicap race in Saratoga Springs. In the same year he was beaten at a race in Canada by seven lengths, and this is unfortunately what he is remembered most by. He had hoof problems throughout his career and retired in 1920, and was sold two years later where he remained until his death in 1933.

2. Gallant Fox (1930)

Gallant Fox

Breed

Gallant Fox was a bay horse with a white blaze. Not only is it a beautiful type of horse, it's also one of the most common coat colors. The bay horse has a reddish brown coat with black point coloration located on the mane, tail, ear edges and/or lower legs.

Notable Achievements

Gallant Fox ran seventeen times and won eleven of those races. He was the second horse to win the Triple Crown. After a whole string of major races in 1930, he was declared the “outstanding thoroughbred” of the year by the Ludington Daily News. He also held the all-time earnings record, although it would be broken again only a year later by his son Omaha.

3. Omaha (1935)

Omaha

Breed

Omaha was a chestnut colt with a white blaze and son of one of the Triple Crown horses, Gallant Fox. It's one of the most common breeds, characterized by its reddish or light brown coloring. It has an absence of black hairs.

Notable Achievements

Known for his speed in the final stretch, it secured him a victory in the Belmont Stakes. He finished a length and a half in front of Firethorn, and an impressive eight lengths ahead of Rosemont. Out of twenty two races he won nine, inheriting the Triple Crown from his father. In his biggest wins he was ridden by the legendary Canadian jockey, Smokey Saunders.

4. War Admiral (1937)

War Admiral

Breed

The American thoroughbred colt and son of Man O' War was widely regarded as the greatest American racehorse at the time. The American thoroughbred is a tall, slim, athletic horse that is commonly nicknamed the “bloodhorse”. The breed is considered to be hot blooded, linked to its speed and spirit.

Notable Achievements

War Admiral was famous for his rivalry with Seabiscuit, which has now been turned into a motion picture. Although the two only met a handful of times on the track, their competing spirits have become legendary. He won the American Triple Crown and Horse of the Year in 1937. The upcoming year he won Match Race of the Century.

5. Whirlaway (1941)

Whirlaway

Breed

One of the Triple Crown horses to win the title was Whirlaway. He was a Chestnut thoroughbred colt. He was dubbed “Mr. Longtail” during his racing career, thanks to his long and thick tail, dramatically flowing behind him during races. He was bred in Kentucky and trained by Ben Jones, and ridden by Eddie Arcaro.

Notable Achievements

Whirlaway won the Kentucky Derby by a record 8 lengths, a feat which has not been surpassed to this day. He won consecutive Horse of the Year polls in 1941 and 1942. He's the only horse to win both the Triple Crown and the Travers. He was thought of as quirky, and a creature of habit. An interesting anecdote is that he was prone to losses at the beginning, because he would drift towards the middle of the racetrack. But this was resolved by fitting him with a full-cup blinker over his right eye with a tiny hole.

6. Count Fleet (1943)

Count Fleet

Breed

Count Fleet was an American thoroughbred colt. Thoroughbreds exert themselves to the max, and this results in high accident rates and bleeding from their lungs. They are also prone to low fertility, small hearts, and a small hoof to body ratio. Nevertheless they are excellent racers, known for their agility and great spirit.

Notable Achievements

In the 1943 Horse of the Year poll conducted by Turf and Sport Digest magazine, Count Fleet received 135 of the possible 143 votes, an unprecedented majority in the history of the poll. As a three-year-old he dominated North American horse racing, winning every single race he entered that year (5) and securing a record-breaking 25-length victory in the Belmont Stakes. That Triple Crown horse race record lasted until 1973 and is still the second biggest.

7. Assault (1946)

Assault

Breed

One of the greatest triple crown horses Assault, was a Chestnut American thoroughbred colt. He was the result of Sire Bold Venture, and Dam Igual. He was bred at King Ranch in Texas which was not very common, as most breeders came from Kentucky. The ranch predominantly bred cattle but also raised quarter horses for racing.

Notable Achievements

Assault won the title in 1946, and is the only Texas bred winner. Although he became one of the most successful racers, he was haunted by injuries. At a young age he stepped on a surveyors stake leaving his hoof permanently damaged. As such, he always walked with a limp that disappeared when running. He retired at four, and sent to mate with mares. Unfortunately Assault was sterile. He went back to racing at the age of seven and won the Brooklyn Handicap after which he retired to King Ranch where he died at the age of 28.

8. Citation (1948)

Citation

Breed

Citation was a European and American thoroughbred colt. He was bred in Kentucky, but his pedigree was largely European. Out of 16 horses in the fourth generation, fourteen were bred in the UK and one in France.

Notable Achievements

Citation ran a total of 29 races across his entire career, recording an impressive 27 wins, and 2 second place finishes. He was the first horse in history to win $1 million in prize money, after which he was retired. In 1999, Citation was ranked the 3rd best American racehorse of the 20th century. He finished behind Secretariat and Man O' War, despite recording more wins and entering eight more races.

9. Secretariat (1973)

Secretariat

Breed

Secretariat was a large American thoroughbred chestnut colt. His sire was Bold Ruler, who was considered one of the best, and most important studs at the time. His dam was Somethingroyal, the 1973 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year, an excellent pedigree. Secretariat was trained by Lucien Laurin and ridden by Canadian Ron Turcotte.

Notable Achievements

When Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby in under two minutes, it set a record that would stand close to 30 years. He is however most remembered by the 1973 Belmont Stakes race, where he ran 2:24 on 1 ½ miles. The record has not yet been beaten and is widely regarded as the greatest race in US history. He also holds the record for the Preakness Stakes, meaning he is the record holder for every Triple Crown event.

10. Seattle Slew (1977)

Seattle Slew

Breed

Seattle Slew was an American thoroughbred, dark brown colt with a small white patch of hair by his left rear hoof. His Sire was Bold Reasoning, winner of the Jersey Derby and Wither Stakes in 1971. His Dam My Charmer also birthed Lomond and Seattle Dancer, also successful horse racers.

Notable Achievements

Seattle Slew is the only horse to have won the title while having been undefeated in any previous race. Because of this, he is considered to be one of the greatest Triple Crown horses in history by many horse race fans. Prior to the title he was named Champion 2 year old in 1976. He's a part of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame as of 1981.

11. Affirmed (1978)

Affirmed

Breed

Affirmed is another one of the triple crown horses to have won. He was a chestnut American thoroughbred colt. His Sire was Exclusive Native, a race horse, and his Dam was Won't Tell You. Affirmed's breeder was Harbor View Farm, and his trainer was Laz Barrera.

Notable Achievements

Affirmed holds two Triple Crown records, the first is the shortest time between winners, as he claimed his Crown just 52 weeks after Seattle Slew. The second record is for the the longest period between winners, 37 years. He is also known for his famous rivalry with Alydar. The two met ten times, Affirmed won seven times, and Alydar won three. Moreover, as a three year old he was also named the American Champion Three Year Old Male Horse.

12. American Pharoah (2015)

American Pharoah

Breed

The latest holder of the title is American Pharoah, a bay colt with a faint star on his forehead. His Sire Pioneer of the Nile did classic race distances, and his Dam Star of Goshen gave him speed. His Sire won the Santa Anita Derby and ran in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. His trainer is Bob Baffert, who was as impressed by the American Pharoah's talents as everyone else. Considering that he's from a long line of racers, it is no surprise that he's as good as he is.

Notable Achievements

American Pharaoh became the first horse in history to win what has been dubbed the “Grand Slam” of American horse racing. This is the Triple Crown along with the Breeder's Cup Classic. He won the Classic at Keeneland with a track record of 2:00:07 and broke the existing record by a whole five seconds.

If you liked this article on triple crown horses, you might be interested in the greatest horse racecourses in the USA

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