05/30/2002 11:00PM

History Challenge: Heads that wore the Triple Crown

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Sir Barton, first winner of the series known today as the Triple Crown, had only four days' rest between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes - and one full day was spent traveling in a railroad boxcar.

Pillory, 1922 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner, might have been the second Triple Crown champion, but the Kentucky Derby and Preakness were contested on the same day that year.

When Gallant Fox won the Triple Crown in 1930, the Preakness was run one week before the Derby.

Whirlaway, 1941 Triple Crown winner, captured the 66th Preakness, but the chart showed that it was the 51st running. Pimlico had not yet discovered 15 "lost" runnings of the Preakness.

Had Derby-Preakness winner Kauai King won the Triple Crown in 1966, he would have received the Belmont Stakes trophy at Aqueduct, where the race was run that year.

A malfunctioning teletimer at Pimlico in 1973 denied Secretariat the distinction of setting a track record in all three legs of the Triple Crown.

Test your knowledge of some other facts about one of the most elusive titles in sports.

1. A month before War Emblem won this year's Kentucky Derby, he was a virtual unknown - not appearing on any top 20 list of 3-year-old classic contenders.

Yet if this colt becomes the 12th Triple Crown winner at Belmont Saturday, he will not be the most inexplicable winner of the series. That honor belongs to Sir Barton, owned by Commander John K.L. Ross.

Sir Barton lost all six of his starts as a 2-year-old in 1918, most by 15 lengths or more. He made his first start as a 3-year-old in the Kentucky Derby. Sir Barton was entered to ensure a fast pace for his celebrated stablemate, the 1918 juvenile co-champion.

But the maiden Sir Barton took the lead and never looked back in the Derby.

Ross's son, John K.M., wrote in his 1956 memoir, "Boots and Saddles," that his father's juvenile champ was still the family favorite and one of the most beloved horses of his time.

Name the Ross family favorite.

2. Statistics tell the story. Today's Thoroughbreds make fewer starts and retire sooner than those of just 20 or 30 years ago. And every spring, inevitably one owner, trainer, or sportswriter comes up with a plan to either shorten the Triple Crown races or increase the time between them.

Citation won the 1948 Derby four days after he won the Derby Trial. Seven days later, he won the Preakness. Two weeks after that, he won the Jersey Stakes, and two weeks later, the Belmont Stakes.

Name the other Triple Crown winners who did not win the three races in succession.

3. Fickle owners and trainers frequently change jockeys on horses, and until the past 25 years, jockey suspensions were rarely appealed. Despite these two facts, the 11 Triple Crown winners all kept their same riders through the three races.

However, one Triple Crown winner did not have the same trainer listed on the program for all three races.

Name the horse and his trainers.

4. Today, horses who win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness inevitably wind up favored when they enter the starting gate for the Belmont Stakes.

But, two Triple Crown champions were not the posttime favorites in New York.

Name them.

5. The most famous horse to win two legs of the Triple Crown was undoubtedly Man o' War in 1920.

His owner, Samuel D. Riddle, always claimed running a 3-year-old 1 1/4 miles in May was too soon, so he skipped the Derby. But running

1 3/8 miles in the Belmont Stakes in early June was okay with Riddle.

If the truth were told, in 1920 Riddle and many other members of racing's Eastern establishment still did not consider the Kentucky Derby that important a prize.

How many horses won both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, but were no-shows in Kentucky?

See the story "History Challenge answers" for answers.