07/28/2015 12:18PM

Monmouth will welcome its first Triple Crown winner

Nikki Sherman
American Pharoah will be the first Triple Crown winner to make a start at Monmouth Park.

Monmouth Park will finally get its Triple Crown winner when American Pharoah runs in the Haskell Invitational on Sunday.

American Pharoah is the eighth Triple Crown winner dating back to 1941. Of the seven preceding winners, five raced in New Jersey either before, during or after their series sweeps. Oddly, none of the five raced at Monmouth, which opened in June 1946.

Secretariat, the Triple Crown winner of 1973, Citation (1948), Assault (1946), and Whirlaway (1941) all raced at the original Garden State Park, which closed in 1977 after its grandstand burned down. Seattle Slew (1977) raced at the Meadowlands.

Affirmed (1978) and Count Fleet (1943) did not race in New Jersey.

There was little horse racing in the state during the careers of the first four Triple Crown winners – War Admiral (1937), Omaha (1935), Gallant Fox (1930), and Sir Barton (1919) – as gambling on the sport in New Jersey was declared illegal in 1894 and did not resume until 1942 when Garden State opened.

Bob Kulina, the president of Monmouth Park, was named the track’s racing secretary in 1977. He said Monmouth came very close to having Seattle Slew make his 4-year-old debut at the Oceanport, N.J., track.

“I had Slew entered in a money allowance race to start his 4-year-old season,” Kulina said. “We were getting ready to draw the race when jockey Craig Perret came into the office and told me we had a problem with the track at the quarter pole.”

After inspecting the track, Monmouth canceled that day’s races and Kulina called Seattle Slew’s trainer, Doug Peterson.

“I recommended he cancel his entry,” Kulina said. “He asked me if I couldn’t get the race to go, and I told him I had enough horses but that we had a problem with the track and had canceled that day and might have to cancel a few others to get it fixed.”

Peterson withdrew his entry, and Seattle Slew instead kicked off his year by winning an Aqueduct allowance race.

Seattle Slew is the most recent Triple Crown winner to race in New Jersey. On Sept. 5, 1978, he finished second by a neck to Dr. Patches in the Paterson Handicap at the Meadowlands. Seattle Slew carried 128 pounds while giving Dr. Patches 14 pounds.

Here is how the other four Triple Crown winners fared at Garden State Park.

◗ As a 2-year-old, eventual Triple Crown winner Secretariat won the 1972 Garden State Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths.

◗ In 1948, Citation won the Jersey Stakes by 11 lengths. The May 29 race came between his May 15 Preakness win and his June 12 Belmont victory.

◗ In September of his 3-year-old season, Assault finished second by a half-length in the 1946 Jersey Handicap while carrying 126 pounds and conceding 12 pounds to the winner.

◗ In 1942, Whirlaway won the Trenton Handicap by a length as a 4-year-old.