05/23/2012 12:11PM

Triple Crown Winners: Whirlaway



When Whirlaway dismantled his Triple Crown opposition in 1941, it prompted a backlash against the weak efforts put up by his challengers.


"Never before have our 3-year-olds, of supposed stake calibre, made so sorry a showing in these great events," wrote John Hervey in "American Race Horses." Hervey was careful, however, to exempt Whirlaway from his criticism. In fact, the muscle-bound chestnut with the tail like Rapunzel's tresses was considered brilliant.

Whirlaway, the top money-winning 2-year-old of 1940, was known as a difficult horse. He would lug out, pull himself up, and otherwise act the part of a confused young brat. Eddie Arcaro never looked forward to riding him, only to the results.

Trainer Ben Jones fished around for the right mix of hard workouts and proper equipment. In a last-minute improvisation that may be more legend than fact, Jones supposedly whipped out a pocketknife before the Derby and sliced off the left cup from Whirlaway's blinkers. Whatever Jones did, it worked.

As the first of eight Derby winners for Calumet Farm, Whirlaway set a daunting standard. He won the Derby by eight lengths and set a track record. He won the Preakness by 5 1/2 lengths, and then, one week later, he went slumming in an allowance race at Belmont Park, beating older horses at 1 1/16 miles.

Two days before the June 6 Belmont Stakes, Whirlaway worked 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.40. That was enough to send any serious competition scurrying for cover. Only three horses could be mustered against him. Arcaro let Whirlaway take the lead after leaving the first turn, and together they strolled home to win by 2 1/2 merciful lengths. The Triple Crown was not supposed to be that easy.


OWNER: Calumet Farm
JOCKEY: Eddie Arcaro
BREEDER: Calumet Farm

The most heavily raced Triple Crown winner, "Mr. Longtail" went to post 60 times. Among his victories at 2 were the Hopeful at Saratoga and Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity. At 3, he raced 20 times en route to Horse of the Year. He prepped for the Kentucky Derby with seconds in the Blue Grass and Derby Trial, but won the Triple Crown by a combined 16 lengths. He added six more victories that year, including the Travers, before losing by a nose in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. At 4, he made 22 starts, and was favored every time in another Horse of the Year campaign. He won 12, including the Clark, Dixie, Brooklyn, Mass Cap, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and, by walkover, the Pimlico Special. He raced twice, without distinction, in an age 5 cameo.

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) ?