06/06/2015 6:35PM

American Triple Crown winners from Sir Barton to American Pharoah


Twelve horses have won the American Triple Crown – composed of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes – which was patterned after the English Triple Crown that dates to 1809. When Sir Barton won the three races in 1919, it was not considered a Triple Crown feat. The three races were not acknowledged as being tied together as the Triple Crown until the 1930s. The Thoroughbred Racing Associations commissioned Cartier to craft a Triple Crown trophy – with three sides representing the three jewels – in 1950, and the trophy was retroactively awarded to the eight previous winners of the three races. Secretariat in 1973 was the first horse to be awarded the trophy after he accomplished the sweep.

Sir Barton (past performances) – 1919
Ch. c., 1916, by Star Shoot—Lady Sterling, by Hanover
Owner: J.K.L. Ross
Breeder: Madden and Gooch (Ky.)
Trainer: H. G. Bedwell
At 2: 2nd, Belmont Futurity.
At 3: Won Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Withers, Potomac H., Maryland H., etc.
At 4: Won Saratoga H., Dominion H., Merchants and Citizens H., etc.

In 1919, Sir Barton, son of the blind Star Shoot, raced to lengthy victories in all three classics, defeating the best 3-year olds of that year. That Sir Barton could win the 3-year-old championship in a year when such fast horses as Purchase and Eternal were racing was convincing evidence of his quality. He was unfit when defeated by Man o’ War in the Kenilworth Gold Cup at age 4. However, Man o’ War was undoubtedly superior in any event. Sir Barton was owned by Commander J.K.L. Ross, a Canadian sportsman, and was trained by the veteran H. Guy Bedwell. He won 13 of 31 starts and earned $116,857.

Gallant Fox (past performances) – 1930
B. c., 1927, by Sir Gallahad III—Marguerite, by Celt
Owner-Breeder: Belair Stud (Ky.)
Trainer: James Fitzsimmons
At 2: Won Junior Champion, Flash.
At 3: Won Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Dwyer, Lawrence Realization, Wood Memorial, etc.

In 1930, Gallant Fox, carrying the silks of Belair Stud, nom de course of William Woodward, New York banker and chairman of The Jockey Club, made racing history when he overcame such rivals as Questionnaire, Whichone, and Crack Brigade and stamped himself one of the great Thoroughbreds of his time. He was a member of the first crop sired in this country by Sir Gallahad III. The “Fox of Belair,” as he was dubbed, was trained through his career by the sagacious James “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons. Gallant Fox retired after his 3-year-old season with a record of 11 wins in 17 starts and earnings of $328,165.

Omaha (past performances) – 1935
Ch. c., 1932, by Gallant Fox—Flambino, by Wrack
Owner-Breeder: Belair Stud (Ky.)
Trainer: James Fitzsimmons
At 2: 2nd, Champagne, Junior Champion, Sanford.
At 3: Won Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Dwyer, Arlington Classic.
At 4: Victor Wild S. (GB), Queen’s Plate (GB).

Omaha was in the first crop of foals sired by Gallant Fox, winner of the title five years previously. After his 3-year-old year in America, William Woodward, who bred him and under whose colors he raced, sent him to England in quest of the Ascot Gold Cup. He was defeated by inches in the British classic by the filly Quashed. While abroad he started four times, winning his first two starts - the Victor Wild Stakes and Queen’s Plate - and finishing second in the Ascot Gold Cup and Princess of Wales Stakes, each time carrying top weight of the field. Shortly after his return to the United States, the colt suffered a recurrence of an old affliction and Woodward retired him to stud. In three seasons of racing, he won 9 of 22 starts and earned $154,755.

War Admiral (past performances) – 1937
Br. c., 1934, by Man o’ War—Brushup, by Sweep
Owner: Glen Riddle Farm
Breeder: Samuel D. Riddle (Ky.)
Trainer: George Conway
At 2: Won Eastern Shore Handicap.
At 3: Won Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Washington H., Chesapeake, Pimlico Special.
At 4: Won Widener H., Jockey Club Gold Cup, Saratoga Cup, Saratoga H., Whitney, etc.

A son of the mighty Man o’ War, War Admiral brought many of his illustrious sire’s characteristics to the racecourse. Usually a bundle of nerves as he entered the track from the paddock, he was possessed of blazing early speed and ability to carry it over all distances. Undefeated in his 3-year-old season, much of which was spent on the sidelines due to an injury sustained in the Belmont, he had a brilliant season at 4 which was overshadowed by his well-publicized loss to Seabiscuit in the Pimlico Special. Only once  did he finish unplaced, that in the mud in the Massachusetts Handicap of 1938. War Admiral raced over four seasons and won 21 of 26 starts and earned $273,240.

Whirlaway (past performances) – 1941
Ch. c., 1938, by Blenheim II—Dustwhirl, by Sweep
Owner-Breeder: Calumet Farm (Ky.)
Trainer: Ben A. Jones
At 2: Won Hopeful, Saratoga Special, Breeders’ Futurity, Walden.
At 3: Won Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, American Derby, Travers, Lawrence Realization, Dwyer, Saranac H.
At 4: Won Jockey Club Gold Cup, Pimlico Special, Massachusetts H., Brooklyn H., Dixie H., Narragansett Special, Washington H., etc.

Tough and willful Whirlaway spent the earliest portion of his lengthy career losing races he should have won but nevertheless ranked among the best juveniles of his year and went favored in the Kentucky Derby, which he would win by eight lengths in a track record 2:01 2/5 to start off his Triple Crown sweep. Indeed, he won nine of his next 10 starts after the Derby. At 4, his victories were interspersed more often with losses, but during the season, he displaced Seabiscuit as the sport’s leading earner with élan, while winning the Massachusetts Handicap in track-record time. Remarkably, he finished third or better in 48 straight races at 2, 3, 4, and 5 years of age. Whirlaway won 32 of 60 starts and earned $561,161.

Count Fleet (past performances) – 1943
Br. c., 1940, by Reigh Count—Quickly, by Haste
Owner-Breeder: Mrs. John D. Hertz (Ky.)
Trainer: Don Cameron
At 2: Won Pimlico Futurity, Champagne, Walden, Wakefield.
At 3: Won Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Withers, Wood Memorial.

The aptly named Count Fleet was one of the fastest horses of his day. Four days before the Futurity, he was credited with a six-furlong workout on the Belmont straightaway in 1:08 1/5, significantly faster than the track record, and though he lost the Futurity, he won the one-mile Champagne in track-record time and equaled the track record in the Pimlico Futurity at an additional half-furlong. At three, nothing got close to him. In the Preakness, he missed the stakes record by two-fifths of a second and won the Withers in just a fifth off the stakes record. The Belmont was won by 25 lengths in a stakes-record 2:28 1/5, despite his suffering a career-ending injury in the running. He retired with 16 wins in 19 starts and earnings of $250,300.

Assault (past performances) – 1946
Ch. c., 1943, by Bold Venture—Igual, by Equipoise
Owner-Breeder: King Ranch (Tex.)
Trainer: Max Hirsch
At 2: Won Flash.
At 3: Won Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Dwyer, Pimlico Special, Westchester Handicap, Wood Memorial, Experimental H. #1.
At 4: Won Suburban H., Brooklyn H., Butler H., Dixie H., Grey Lag H.
At 6: Won Brooklyn H.

Troubled by a foot injured as a youngster, Assault didn’t walk like a champion but starting with his 3-year-old season, he ran like one when at his best. A promising 2-year-old, Assault blossomed in the spring at 3 to become a somewhat surprising Triple Crown winner, going to post as favorite only in the Preakness. Though a six-race losing streak separated his springtime glory and late-season recovery, he nevertheless set a single-season earnings record. At 4, he was even better, reigning as the sport’s leading earner for a time, but was not right by season’s end. When he proved sterile, he eventually was put back in training and though his best was behind him, he did win the 1949 Brooklyn Handicap. He raced over 6 seasons and won 18 of 42 starts and earned $675,470.

Citation (past performances) – 1948
B. c., 1945, by Bull Lea—Hydroplane II, by Hyperion
Owner-Breeder: Calumet Farm (Ky.)
Trainers: Ben A. Jones and Jimmy Jones
At 2: Won Belmont Futurity, Pimlico Futurity, Elementary.
At 3: Won Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Gold Cup, American Derby, Pimlico Special, Jersey, Flamingo, Stars and Stripes H., Sysonby Mile, Tanforan H., Derby Trial, Chesapeake, Everglades H., Seminole H.
At 5: Won Golden Gate Mile H.
At 6: Won Hollywood Gold Cup, American H., Century H.

Citation concluded his 3-year-old season as one of the most dominating horses the sport had ever seen, having lost just twice in 29 career starts to that point - once to an entrymate and once sprinting in the mud. He had won at distances from six furlongs to two miles in seven states. A diagnosis of osselets followed and his 4-year-old season was lost entirely. When he returned at 5, he had probably lost a step but faced a stern foe in Noor, who simply proved better. In that rival’s absence, he ran a world-record mile of 1:33 3/5. By 1951, Noor was retired but Citation pressed on, chasing the million-dollar earnings milestone, which was realized in his final start while winning the Hollywood Gold Cup, the first horse to ever reach that mark. Citation won 32 of 45 starts and earned $1,085,760.

Secretariat (past performances) – 1973
Ch. c., 1970, by Bold Ruler—Somethingroyal, by Princequillo
Owner: Meadow Stable
Breeder: Meadow Stud (Va.)
Trainer: Lucien Laurin
At 2: Won Garden State, Laurel Futurity, Belmont Futurity, Hopeful, Sanford.
At 3: Won Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Marlboro Cup Invitational H., Canadian International Championship, Arlington Invitational, Man o’ War, Gotham, Bay Shore.

An equine hero in his day, Secretariat has achieved even more legendary status with the passage of time. His occasional failures are overshadowed by the magnitude of his accomplishments, topped off by track records in the Kentucky Derby, Belmont, and Marlboro Cup that still stand decades later. The prodigious 31-length margin of his Belmont victory makes it one of the most remembered Thoroughbred performances in history. Displaying versatility, he concluded his career with lengthy victories on the turf against some of the best U.S.-based grass horses. The details of his then-record syndication, determined at the outset of his 3-year-old season, called for his retirement at the conclusion of 1973. He won 16 of 21 starts and earned $1,316,808.

Seattle Slew (past performances) – 1977
Dk. b. or br. c., 1974, by Bold Reasoning—My Charmer, by Poker
Owners: Mickey and Karen Taylor, Dr. Jim and Sally Hill
Breeder: Ben S. Castleman (Ky.)
Trainers: William H. Turner (1976-77), Doug Peterson (1978)
At 2: Won Champagne.
At 3: Won Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Flamingo, Wood Memorial.
At 4: Won Woodward, Marlboro Cup H., Stuyvesant H.

Questioned for the company he had kept as a 3-year-old and plagued by assorted misfortunes that limited him to just 17 career starts, Seattle Slew never put together a lengthy campaign in any of his three seasons and struggled somewhat for his share of acclaim. Minor injury delayed his 2-year-old debut but once he was on the track, he swept all the way through the Belmont without defeat to become the only horse to win the Triple Crown undefeated. A debacle in the Swaps at Hollywood Park followed and his 3-year-old season ended on that sour note. Early in 1978, he became ill and nearly died, and later missed several months due to a stall accident. To many of his harshest critics, his finest moment was in gallant defeat in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup. Seattle Slew won 14 of 17 starts and earned $1,208,726.

Affirmed (past performances) – 1978
Ch. c., 1975, by Exclusive Native—Won’t Tell You, by Crafty Admiral
Owner-Breeder: Harbor View Farm (Fla.)
Trainer: Lazaro Barrera
At 2: Won Laurel Futurity, Belmont Futurity, Hollywood Juvenile Championship, Hopeful, Sanford, Youthful.
At 3: Won Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Hollywood Derby, Santa Anita Derby, San Felipe Handicap, Jim Dandy.
At 4: Won Hollywood Gold Cup, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Santa Anita H., Californian, Charles H. Strub, Woodward.

Defined nearly as much by its two-season, 10-race rivalry with Alydar as the Triple Crown in the middle of it, the career of Affirmed was one of sustained quality. Through the end of his 3-year-old season, only one foal from his crop had ever finished in front of him - Alydar, on two occasions. Counting a disqualification in the Travers, he suffered a five-race losing streak through late 1978 and early 1979 but closed his career winning his last seven starts, including one meeting with the year-younger Spectacular Bid. Only once in 29 starts did Affirmed ever finish worse than third, that in the infamous 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup won by Exceller over Seattle Slew, a race in which Affirmed lost all chance due to equipment trouble. He retired with 22 wins in 29 starts and earnings of $2,393,818.

Photo: Debra A. Roma

American Pharoah – 2015
B. c., 2012, by Pioneerof the Nile—Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentleman
Owner-Breeder: Zayat Stables LLC
Trainer: Bob Baffert
At 2: Won Del Mar Futurity, FrontRunner Stakes
At 3: Won Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby

After a poor showing in his debut, American Pharoah regrouped by winning seven races in a row on his way to becoming the first horse in 37 years to capture racing’s elusive Triple Crown. The champion juvenile male at age 2, American Pharoah began his 3-year-old campaign in style, winning the Rebel Stakes in a romp despite a displaced right front shoe on Oaklawn Park’s sloppy track. The Kentucky-bred son of Pioneerof the Nile won the Kentucky Derby by a length before cruising to a seven-length win on a sloppy track in the Preakness. American Pharoah’s wire-to-wire win in the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes cemented his legacy as just the 12th Triple Crown winner.