05/22/2012 10:44AM

Triple Crown Winners: Sir Barton



Believe it or not, there was a time when winning a Triple Crown was really no big deal. By 1919, at the end of the war to end all wars, there already were 13 of them in the history books. The British history books.


Horses started winning the English Triple Crown with regularity in 1853. But America had no races then that even roughly corresponded to the British trio of the 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby, and the St. Leger. For instance, in 1890 the Preakness Stakes was moved from a bankrupt Pimlico to the New York tracks at Morris Park and Gravesend, then back to Maryland in 1909. In 1895, the Belmont Stakes was run in November. And in 1910, the Kentucky Derby was run three days after the Preakness.

In the spring of 1919, a second-stringer named Sir Barton from the stable of H.G. "Hard Guy" Bedwell entered the Kentucky Derby as a maiden. It was his first start of the year for his owner, Commander J.K.L. Ross. Sir Barton was a pig-earred chestnut with a long, wide blaze. When he won the Kentucky Derby by five lengths, leading all the way, he earned a purse of $20,825. That was fine, but Ross made $50,000 on the side, betting that his other runner, Billy Kelly, would defeat the well-regarded Eternal. The man who lost the bet was Arnold Rothstein. Later that year, he fixed the World Series.

The 1919 Derby took place on May 10. On May 14, Sir Barton won the Preakness. Presumably, they unsaddled him in between. On June 11, he had an easy time against two opponents in the Belmont Stakes. But as far as the chroniclers of the day were concerned, Sir Barton's Derby, Preakness and Belmont were nothing more than three of the eight stakes he won that year.


OWNER: J.K.L. Ross
TRAINER: H.G. Bedwell
JOCKEY: Johnny Loftus
BREEDER: Vivian A. Gooch - John E. Madden

Started very slowly at 2, finishing behind a total of 41 horses in his first five races. But in his 26 subsequent career starts, he was never worse than fourth. Began his 3-year-old season with his Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories, then warmed up for the Belmont with a Withers win. After a second in the Dwyer, he ran 13 straight times in Maryland, winning six races including the Potomac, Maryland, and Rennert handicaps. Won twice at Saratoga before finishing his 4-year-old campaign, and his career, with four losses, including a match race with Man o'War.

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) ?