There have been 12 horses who have won the Triple Crown as Justify tries to push that number to 13. What are the Triple Crown races? The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont make up the three jewels of the Triple Crown. The origins of the term Triple Crown came from a combination of The New York Times and columnist Charles Hatton. When Sir Batton “won” the Triple Crown in 1919, the term was not even used yet. According to The New York Times, the publication first used the term in 1923, but it was not a common term until 1930. Heres an excerpt from a 1930 column from The New York Times’ Bryan Field.
In America, the idea of the Triple Crown being duplicated came when the Preakness, the Kentucky Derby, and the Belmont Stakes reached such prominence as to overshadow all other Spring 3-year-old events in this country. And as in England, to win the Triple Crown in America carries with it the utmost that can be won on our racecourses.
The New York Times noted the term Triple Crown was not universally adopted until War Admiral won in 1937. This means that Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930) and Omaha (1935) were all retroactively added to the list.
American Pharoah was the last horse to make history in 2015, ending a 37 year gap since Affirmed won in 1978. If you look at the history of the Triple Crown, there are decades where several horses win with large gaps in between. The 1970’s had three horses with Affirmed (1978), Seattle Slew (1977) and Secretariat (1973). The 1940’s had the most winners with four horses: Citation (1948), Assault (1946), Count Fleet (1943) and Whirlaway (1941). Finally, there were three winning horses in the 1930’s: War Admiral (1937), Omaha (1935) and Gallant Fox (1930).
American Pharoah is the only horse to have won in the 2000’s. The USA Today broke down why it is so difficult for a horse to pull off the Triple Crown. The article was written in 2013 prior to American Pharoah’s win, but it still rings true today.
The difficulty in horse racing’s Triple Crown is that the races are at different lengths, at different tracks, requiring different combinations of talents (just like baseball’s Triple Crown), with different sets of competitors. Fresh challengers who haven’t run in the previous races pop up. The races come in a span of five weeks, making it a test of resilience.
But all the above were true in the 1970s.
One theory about why the Triple Crown hasn’t been clinched since is that priorities in breeding horses have changed to emphasize speed and attractiveness at sale, overlooking the stamina and durability required to win the Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
Very few horses compete in all three races. Even fewer are able to win the first two races, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. The Belmont presents the most difficult challenge for horses still in contention for the Triple Crown as it is the longest race at a mile and a half. It is also the third race in a difficult stretch of contests, and most horses run out of gas by this point.
Here’s a look at the list of horses who have won the Triple Crown.
Triple Crown Winners
Source: Heavy Sports