05/23/2012 1:17PM

Triple Crown Winners: Count Fleet



He was the wartime Triple Crown winner. His career lasted barely one year to the day. He was brave beyond words, and, as far as Johnny Longden is concerned, Count Fleet was the best horse there ever was.


Longden should know. He was in the saddle the morning Count Fleet worked six furlongs in 1:08 and change down the Belmont Park straightaway – as a 2-year-old.

He was aboard later that season when Count Fleet set an American record for one mile in the Champagne Stakes. And he was by Count Fleet’s side to help nurse the colt through a bout of colic during the train ride from New York to Louisville the following spring.

The 1943 Derby was considered a luxury trip at a time when gas and tires were being rationed. More than one writer noted with irony that the normally countless taxis were all but missing from Churchill Downs that day. John D. Hertz, the owner of Count Fleet, was the man behind the huge Yellow Cab Company, based in Chicago.

With a quick colt like Count Fleet, Longden kept it simple. They shot to the lead, backed up the pace, and were never threatened while winning by three. The same thing happened in the Preakness. Only this time they won by eight.

Back in New York, trainer Don Cameron kept Count Fleet on edge by running him in the Withers. He won with authority.

Count Fleet’s performance in the Belmont Stakes gave fans a memory forever.

Like War Admiral six years earlier, there was only token opposition of two horses.

And also like War Admiral, Count Fleet injured himself at the start when he rapped his left front ankle.

Longden sensed something amiss and let Count Fleet run on his own until the colt was moving comfortably. After that, there was no holding him back. Count Fleet ignored any discomfort and leveled off to win by 25 lengths, coming within a second of the track record.

Sadly, the ankle was badly damaged. Count Fleet never raced again.


OWNER: Mrs. John Hertz
TRAINER: G.D. Cameron
JOCKEY: John Longden
BREEDER: Mrs. John D. Hertz

Had six wins and four seconds in his first 10 starts, then ran third in the Belmont Futurity. He never lost again. Finished a busy 2-year-old s eason with wins in the Champagne and Pimlico Futurity and a 30-length tally in the Walden at Pimlico. At 3, he prepped in the Wood, took two legs of the Triple Crown, and an easy Withers win before calling it a career with a victory in the Belmont… by 25 lengths in a three-horse field. He was injured that day and did not return to the races.

Profiles of Triple Crown winners

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) ?