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Ranking the Triple Crown winners as sires
American Pharoah will be ushered into life at stud with monumental expectations when he retires from the track, whether or not he wins the Triple Crown.
If the colt sweeps the U.S. classics, he will become the 12th member of the exclusive club, the first 11 members of which reside in the Hall of Fame. However, their records at stud are not as uniformly praised, ranging from breed-shapers to near sterile.
The 11 Triple Crown winners have sired a combined six North American Horses of the Year, 13 divisional champions, two Canadian Horses of the Year, three Canadian divisional champions, five international champions, three Kentucky Derby winners, two Preakness winners, and six Belmont Stakes winners.
Comparing the success of stallions whose collective careers span the better part of a century obviously makes it nearly impossible to produce direct match-ups due to inflation and shifts in industry trends. However, the time also offers the benefit of historical context and provides a clear picture of which horses and wins meant more than others.
To provide the simplest method of comparing the Triple Crown winners at stud, the only criterion used for the purpose of this list was the ontrack performance of first-generation progeny. While clearly important to a stallion’s reputation, prominence as a broodmare sire, sire of sires, or other factors off the racetrack were not taken into consideration.
The following list ranks the 11 Triple Crown winners by their on-track success at stud as selected by the DRF Breeding staff, including the year that each horse won the Triple Crown and a breakdown of his progeny.
1. Seattle Slew (1977 Triple Crown winner)
Dk. b. or br. h., 1974, Bold Reasoning—My Charmer, by Poker
24 crops, 1,102 foals, 782 starters, 536 winners
8 champions, 63 graded/group stakes winners, 113 stakes winners, 70 stakes placers
One of the most prominent stallions of the last quarter of the 20th century, Seattle Slew stood his first seven seasons at Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky and was North America’s leading sire in 1984. The horse was relocated to Three Chimneys Farm in fall 1985, where he remained for the rest of his stallion career and most of his life as a pensioner. He spent his final month at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms and was the last surviving Triple Crown winner when he died in 2002.
A.P. Indy, the 1992 Horse of the Year, was Seattle Slew’s most decorated runner, winning that season’s Belmont Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Santa Anita Derby, as well as the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity as a juvenile.
Seattle Slew started fast at stud, with his first two crops including Swale, the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner of 1984 and that year’s champion 3-year-old male, the champion juvenile Landaluce, and the two-time Eclipse Award winner Slew o’ Gold. Later standouts included Capote and Vindication, both winners of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and champion 2-year-old males of their respective years, the champion filly Surfside, and the British champion Digression.
Seattle Slew was valued at an estimated $140 million when he moved to Three Chimneys, roughly $312.1 million in today’s funds when adjusted for inflation.
2. War Admiral (1937)
Br. h., 1934, Man o’ War—Brushup, by Sweep
20 crops, 373 foals, 320 starters, 251 winners
2 champions, 40 stakes winners, 31 stakes placers
War Admiral retired in 1939 to owner Samuel Riddle’s Faraway Farm in Lexington, Ky., and remained there until 1958, when the executors of Riddle’s estate finished piecing off the farm. The stallion was relocated to Hamburg Place in Lexington, where he died a year later.
His best year at stud came in 1945, finishing as North America’s leading sire on the strength of Horse of the Year Busher’s campaign. The well-traveled filly was a 12-time stakes winner, claiming prizes in California, Illinois, Maryland, and New York. She set the track record for 1 1/4 miles at Chicago’s now-defunct Washington Park while winning the Washington Park Handicap and besting older males as a 3-year-old.
War Admiral also was the sire of Blue Peter, the champion 2-year-old male of 1948 who won 8 of 10 starts in his championship campaign. Other top runners included the 12-time stakes winner Searching, who twice won the Diana Handicap, Gallorette Stakes, and Correction Handicap; and Busanda, who won the Alabama Stakes, then took down males in the Suburban, Top Flight, and New Castle handicaps.
3. Count Fleet (1943)
Br. h., 1940, Reigh Count—Quickly, by Haste
22 crops, 435 foals, 351 starters, 267 winners
3 champions, 39 stakes winners, 27 stakes placers
Count Fleet stood his entire career at owner John Hertz’s Stoner Creek Stud in Kentucky, where he eventually earned North America’s leading-sire title in 1951. He sired Belmont Stakes-winning Horses of the Year in consecutive seasons, with Counterpoint taking the honors in 1951 and One Count in 1952. His title-winning 1951 season also included the Kentucky Derby winner Count Turf and the champion 3-year-old filly Kiss Me Kate.
At the height of his success, Count Fleet was insured for $550,000 by Lloyds of London, which equals about $5.16 million in today’s funds.
4. Affirmed (1978)
Ch. h., 1975, Exclusive Native—Won’t Tell You, by Crafty Admiral
21 crops, 869 foals, 686 starters, 500 winners
9 champions, 42 graded/group stakes winners, 86 stakes winners, 59 stakes placers
The most recent Triple Crown winner resided in Kentucky but did his best work internationally, siring the Canadian Horses of the Year Quiet Resolve and Peteski and the divisional champions Charley Barley and One From Heaven. Peteski also won Canada’s Triple Crown in 1993. He also sired champions in Ireland and Italy, as well as Irish 1000 Guineas winner Trusted Partner.
Affirmed was led domestically by Flawlessly, who won Eclipse Awards as champion turf female in 1992 and 1993, as well as the Grade 1 winners The Tin Man, Affirmed Success, Affluent, and Buy the Firm. Affirmed entered stud at Spendthrift Farm before moving across town to stand at Jonabell Farm until his death in 2001.
5. Secretariat (1973)
Ch. h., 1970, Bold Ruler—Somethingroyal, by Princequillo
16 crops, 663 foals, 498 starters, 341 winners
3 champions, 23 graded/group stakes winners, 57 stakes winners, 47 stakes placers
While Secretariat didn’t live up to the impossibly lofty expectations brought about by his ontrack career, he still had a perfectly fine run at stud, siring the 1986 Horse of the Year Lady’s Secret, dual classic-winning champion Risen Star, the Canadian champion Medaille d’Or, and Melbourne Cup winner Kingston Rule.
Secretariat stood his entire career at Claiborne Farm, which syndicated 32 shares in the stallion prior to his Triple Crown bid for a then-record $6.08 million – about $33.6 million in 2015 funds.
6. Gallant Fox (1930)
B. h., 1927, Sir Gallahad III—Marguerite, by Celt
21 crops, 322 foals, 270 starters, 172 winners
2 champions, 18 stakes winners, 16 stakes placers
Gallant Fox is the only Triple Crown winner to sire a U.S. Triple Crown winner. Omaha, who swept the classics in 1935, was a product of Gallant Fox’s first crop after retiring to Claiborne Farm. He followed up in his second crop with the 1936 Horse of the Year Granville and Flares, a full brother to Omaha, who was a seven-time stakes winner in England.
7. Citation (1948)
B. h., 1945, Bull Lea—Hydroplane II, by Hyperion
18 crops, 271 foals, 239 starters, 168 winners
1 champion, 12 stakes winners, 12 stakes placers
Citation retired to stand his entire career at Calumet Farm, his Kentucky birthplace, where his top offspring included the champion Silver Spoon and the 1956 Preakness winner Fabius. He sired the winners of the Sapling Stakes in consecutive years, with Watch Your Step taking the race in 1958 and Sky Clipper in 1959.
8. Whirlaway (1941)
Ch. h., 1938, Blenheim II—Dustwhirl, by Sweep
10 crops, 181 foals, 159 starters, 132 winners
18 stakes winners, 20 stakes placers
The enigmatic horse started out at Calumet Farm, where he stood for seven seasons until he was leased to Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard in France in 1950 and eventually bought outright by the farm. His best U.S. runners included Coaching Club American Oaks winner Scattered, Louisiana Derby winner Whirling Bat, and Michigan Mile winner Spur On.
9. Omaha (1935)
Ch. h., 1932, Gallant Fox—Flambino, by Wrack
17 crops, 206 foals, 144 starters, 85 winners
7 stakes winners, 8 stakes placers
Omaha joined his sire, Gallant Fox, at Claiborne Farm, where he sired San Franciscan Handicap winner Prevaricator, Louisiana Handicap winner South Dakota, and 1943 Belmont Stakes third-place finisher Deseronto. However, those efforts came after Omaha was deemed a failure at stud and leased to The Jockey Club’s Lookout Stallion Station in New York in 1943. He was moved to Nebraska in 1950 and spent his remaining years there, siring a pair of local stakes winners.
10. Sir Barton (1919)
Ch. h., 1916, Star Shoot—Lady Sterling, by Hanover
17 crops, 218 foals, 141 starters, 99 winners
1 champion, 7 stakes winners, 7 stakes placers
The first Triple Crown winner retired to the breeding shed in 1921, standing at Audley Farm in Virginia. His best runner was Easter Stockings, the champion 3-year-old filly of 1928 and winner of that year’s Kentucky Oaks. Sir Barton later served as a U.S. Army Remount stallion in Nebraska, breeding cavalry horses for a reported stud fee between
$5 and $10.
11. Assault (1946)
Ch. h., 1943, Bold Venture—Igual, by Equipoise
No Thoroughbred foals
A homecoming to enter stud at his birthplace, King Ranch in Texas, was cut short when he was found to be sub-fertile. He returned to the track for three more seasons before retiring to King Ranch at the end of his 7-year-old campaign, where he pasture-bred a handful of Quarter Horse mares whose foals never raced.
Slew was the most complete thoroughbred....EVER....on the track and as a sire.
I guess Assault showed'em where they could put their sub-fertile evaluation!