The Triple Crown is the most coveted prize in all of Thoroughbred horse racing. Made up of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, the Triple Crown is the ultimate test of a three-year-old horse’s speed and stamina. To compete in all three races alone is an arduous task but to win all three? That is nearly impossible. Since 1875, the first year all three races were run, only twelve horses have successfully swept all three races:
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), and American Pharoah (2015).
There have been many great horses who have come close – won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes – only to falter in the final leg of the Triple Crown. As of 2016, 23 horses have won both the Derby and Preakness and either lost or not competed in the Belmont Stakes.
Triple Crown Race Odds
The Triple Crown is held over a five-week period beginning on the first Saturday in May with the Kentucky Derby. Check out these recommended online betting sites to be sure you are getting the best possible odds on your Triple Crown contender. There are numerous benefits that come from utilizing an online racebook – they are safe, secure and convenient and offer exclusive promotions and rebates not available anywhere else.
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Triple Crown Locations
The Triple Crown is a demanding task for any horse and involves running and winning at three separate racetracks over a five-week period. The travel, three challenging races at varying distances, combined with the fact that at any time they are facing fresh rivals makes the sweep a truly remarkable accomplishment. The Triple Crown events – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes – are set at some of the most iconic racetracks in Thoroughbred history.
Kentucky Derby – Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
The Kentucky Derby is the most famous race in all of Thoroughbred horse racing and is the first jewel of the Triple Crown. The race is contested at the classic distance of a mile and a quarter and is a Grade 1 event with a purse of $2 million. It is held at Churchill Downs beneath the iconic Twin Spires and was run for the first time in 1875.
The stakes record in the Kentucky Derby was set by Secretariat in 1973 and that time of 1:59.40 has stood the test of time. In fact, only one horse since then (Monarchos, 2001) has even managed to crack the two-minute mark at the Kentucky Derby.
The most recent Triple Crown winner was American Pharoah in 2015, who ended the 37-year drought since Affirmed won in 1978. Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Victor Espinoza, the bay son of Pioneer of the Nile won the Kentucky Derby in a time of 2:03.02.
Preakness Stakes, Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland
The next jewel of the Triple Crown is held at Pimlico Race Course in the heart of Baltimore, Maryland. The quick turnaround, with only two weeks between the Run for the Roses and the Preakness Stakes, can pose a major challenge for the modern thoroughbred as they are typically given four to six weeks rest between races.
The stakes record was set by Secretariat in 1973 with a time of 1:53 for the mile and three-sixteenths contest. However, there was some controversy regarding the timing of the race and the Triple Crown winner was not actually credited with the stakes record until 2012.
Trainer Bob Baffert has saddled six winner of the Preakness Stakes including American Pharoah who won the race on his way to becoming the twelfth Triple Crown winner in history. In 2015, the track was hit with a deluge of rain right before the running of the race and, undeterred, American Pharoah and Victor Espinoza splashed home to win.
Belmont Stakes, Belmont Park in Elmont, New York
The Belmont Stakes is known as the “Test of Champions” for good reason – run at the distance of a mile and a half and the third race in five weeks for any Triple Crown contender, the race showcases the stamina, endurance and heart of the thoroughbred.
The rigors of the Triple Crown have proven to be too much for many great horses. Champions like Sunday Silence (1989), Silver Charm (1997), Smarty Jones (2004) and California Chrome (2014), as well as others have all tasted the bitterness of defeat in the Belmont Stakes after winning both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
The stakes and world record for a mile and a half was set by Secretariat in 1973 when he stopped the clock in 2:24. He won by a record-setting 31 lengths like, as the announcer said, a “tremendous machine”. Those records are unlikely to ever fall.
In 2015, American Pharoah ended the Triple Crown drought when he put away his rivals and drew off to win the Belmont Stakes. The grandstand of Belmont Park literally shook as fans cheered the colt into the history books.