05/23/2012 11:11AM

Triple Crown Winners: War Admiral



On May 6, 1937, the German airship Hindenberg exploded and burned over Lakehurst, N.J. On May 8, while Hindenberg headlines still blazed, War Admiral won the Kentucky Derby.


War Admiral was Man o’ War’s best son. But even though War Admiral had much of Man o’ War’s ability and fiery speed, he looked nothing at all like his famous father.

War Admiral was small, standing 15-2 hands and weighing less than 1,000 pounds.

He was dark, sealskin brown. And instead of Man o’ War’s mighty stride, War Admiral had a short, efficient motion that carried him to victories at distances ranging from five to 16 furlongs.

In the Derby, War Admiral went right to the lead and never looked back, rudely ignoring the 19 horses scattered behind him. He won by 1 3/4 lengths. One week later in the Preakness, War Admiral and jockey Charlie Kurtsinger toyed with Pompoon through the stretch and prevailed by a deceptively simple head.

Between the Preakness and the June 5 Belmont Stakes, trainer George Conway poured it to the little Admiral. Working at three-day intervals, War Admiral breezed 11 furlongs in 2:22, 12 furlongs in 2:35.40, 12 furlongs in 2:34.60, and 12 furlongs again in 2:34.60, the last move coming just three days before the Belmont.

If War Admiral had a weakness, it was his nervous energy at the starting gate.

The Belmont brought out his worst behavior. At the bell, he overreached and almost stumbled. A hind foot sliced off a piece of his right front heel, but War Admiral shot forward to take the lead and did not stop until he had won by three lengths.


OWNER: Glen Riddle Farm Stable
TRAINER: George Conway
JOCKEY: Charles Kurtsinger
BREEDER: Samuel D. Riddle

Had a win, two seconds, and a third in stakes races at 2, but really blossomed at 3, running off a perfect 8-for-8 Horse of the Year season, adding the Chesapeake, Washington, and inaugural Pimlico Special to his Triple Crown. The streak continued for the first three races of his 4-year-old season before he ran fourth in the Massachusetts Cap. Next, in the space of a month, he won four stakes races at Saratoga. After a win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he was upset by Seabiscuit in the Pimlico Special, then finished his career with two wins for a 21-for-26 lifetime record.

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) ?