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The Triple Crown

ELMONT, NY – JUNE 07: Tonalist #11 (L), ridden by Joel Rosario, races to the finish line enroute to winning the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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Once again no Triple Crown winner will enter the history books this year as California Chrome comes up just a little short. No shame in that. There have only been 11 horses in the past 100 years or so that have managed that feat.

The Triple Crown Races

The “Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing” is comprised of three races held in three states in five weeks.

  • Kentucky Derby: 1-¼ mile, dirt track, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s commonly called “The Run For The Roses.”
  • Preakness Stakes: 1-3/16 mile, dirt track, Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • Belmont Stakes: 1 ½ mile, dirt track at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. This is the longest of the three races.

The First Triple Crown Winner

While the term “Triple Crown” wasn’t popularly used until the 1930s, Sir Barton was the first official Triple Crown Winner in 1919. Sir Barton was not favored in the Kentucky Derby but won anyway. He also won the Preakness four days later. Currently there is normally a two-week rest period between these two races.

Sir Barton won the Belmont, defeating two other horses and setting an American record.

Eleven Triple Crown Winners

Ten other horses followed Sir Barton to the Triple Crown Winners Circle. Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), and Affirmed (1978).

California Chrome joins 20 other horses that won the first two legs of the Triple Crown but failed to win the Belmont, the longest of the three races. The last horse to miss before California Chrome was “I’ll Have Another” in 2012. He did not run in the Belmont Stakes due to injury.

Fastest Triple Crown Winner

Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby in record time that still stands today (1:59.40). What makes this record even more amazing is that he ran each quarter mile leg of the race faster than the previous quarter mile.

He is believed to have also set the record at the Preakness, also coming from dead last in the field but there was two disputing times. Most racing aficionados give him the record.

In the Belmont he blew that field away. Winning by an astounding 31 lengths in the still standing record time of 2 minutes 24 seconds.

Secretariat was also the only “non-human” included in the Sports Illustrated “Top 100 Athletes of the Twentieth Century.” He is considered by many to be the greatest racehorse of all time.

Some Final Thoughts

I’m not a big horseracing fan. But every now and then there is a chance for us to witness history. The 1960 and 1980 Olympic Hockey wins comes to mind. Like many others I was hoping to see California Chrome win and become only the 12th horse in history to accomplish the feat. It’s one of those things we can say we saw that happen. But it looks like we’ll have to wait just a little longer to see that 12th horse. Maybe next year.

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