The Triple Crown Winners: From Sir Barton To Affirmed

The Triple Crown of American horse racing is one of the most difficult feats to accomplish in all of sports. Only 11 colts have successfully navigated the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes over the last century, and all of them are considered among the greatest in the history of the game.

With just a few days to go before I'll Have Another attempts to take his place in history by winning the Triple Crown, the ghosts of horse racing's past are beginning to stir in the shadows. Winning the Triple Crown isn't just about winning three races in five weeks. It's about taking a place beside horses whose feats echo throughout the history of the sport.

You've probably already heard or read the name "Affirmed" countless times in the last three weeks, along with the stories of Secretariat*, Seattle Slew and Citation. The names of the great thoroughbreds in history have taken on an almost mythic status with today's fans, as many have never had the pleasure of watching any of the previous Triple Crown winners in person. Instead, we are left to watch grainy video or read stories from turf writers of ages past about the glory days long since gone.

*At the bottom of this post is a video replay of arguably the greatest performance of a thoroughbred in the history of American racing -- Secretariat's Belmont Stakes.

After 34 years without a Triple Crown winner, it's difficult for us to connect with the colts that have achieved the singular greatest accomplishment in American racing.

What follows below is a profile of each of the 11 Triple Crown winners in American racing history, from Sir Barton to Affirmed. As you read through each profile, there are a few items to take note of regarding the winners. First, the total number of races each colt competed in over the course of his career tends to be very high, especially with the horses from the 30s and 40s. In several instances, the Triple Crown winner went on to race over 20 times after sweeping the Derby, Preakness and Belmont, something that would be inconceivable in today's horse racing industry.

If I'll Have Another is fortunate enough to win the Triple Crown in 2012, you can be almost 100 percent certain that he'll never race another 20 times over the rest of his career; he'd be too valuable of a breeding property to risk an injury.

The second thing to take note of is the career earnings of each colt adjusted to today's dollars; the adjustments help to put into perspective what it meant for a horse like Sir Barton to win over $100,000 in his career.

Finally, notice that there aren't any real flukes or "undeserving" horses within the list of previous Triple Crown winners, especially when you look at the last four champions -- Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed. Each of those four colts had outstanding racing careers apart from the Triple Crown glory.

Much has been made about the current Triple Crown drought with some pundits and fans suggesting that the series should be changed in some way in order to produce more Triple Crown winners. Whether it's by increasing the amount of time between races or by shortening some of the races, there is a general feeling that changes are required in order for us to every see another Triple Crown winner. But do we really need to fundamentally change what the Triple Crown is and always has been: an incredibly difficult talk for any horse to complete?

It takes a special horse to win the Triple Crown; it always has and it always will. If I'll Have Another is able to join the list of thoroughbred greats in 2012, he'll have earned it every step of the way.

The Triple Crown Winners

Sir Barton - 1919
Trainer: H. Guy Bedwell
Jockey: Johnny Loftus
Career record: 31-13-6-5
Career earnings: $116,857 ($1,344,352 in 2012)
Pedigree: By Star Shoot out of a Hanover mare (Lady Sterling)

Notable races: Kentucky Derby (1st); Preakness (1st); Belmont Stakes (1st); Potomac Handicap (1st); Withers (1st); Maryland Handicap (1st); Saratoga Handicap (1st); Dominion Handicap (1st); Merchant & Citizens Handicap (1st); Rennert Handicap (1st); Belmont Futurity (2nd); Dwyer (2nd); Kenilworth Park Gold Cup (2nd); Laurel Handicap (3rd); Marathon Handicap (3rd); Havre de Grace Handicap (3rd); Autumn Handicap (3rd)

Gallant Fox - 1930
Trainer: James Fitzsimmons
Jockey: Earl Sande
Career record: 17-11-3-2
Career earnings: $328,165 ($4,521,308 in 2012)
Pedigree: By Sir Galahad III out of a Celt mare (Marguerite)

Notable Races: Kentucky Derby (1st); Preakness (1st); Belmont Stakes (1st); Junior Champion (1st); Flash Stakes (1st); Jockey Club Gold Cup (1st); Dwyer (1st); Saratoga Cup (1st); Lawrence Realization (1st); Wood Memorial (1st); Travers Stakes (2nd)

Omaha - 1935
Trainer: James Fitzsimmons
Jockey: Smokey Saunders
Career Record: 22-9-7-2
Career Earnings: $154,855 ($2,561.640 in 2012)
Pedigree: By Gallant Fox out of a Wrack mare (Flambino)

Notable Races: Kentucky Derby (1st); Preakness (1st); Belmont Stakes (1st); Dwyer (1st); Classic Stakes (1st); Victor Wild (1st); Queen's Plate (1st); Ascot Gold Cup (2nd); Princess of Wales' (2nd); Champagne (2nd); Junior Champion (2nd); Sanford (2nd); Withers (2nd); Brooklyn Handicap (3rd); Wood Memorial (3rd)

Notes:

-Omaha is the only Triple Crown winner that was sired by a previous Triple Crown winner (Gallant Fox).

War Admiral - 1937
Trainer: George Conway
Jockey: Charley Kurtsinger
Career Record: 26-21-3-1
Career Earnings: $273,240 ($4,522,908 in 2012)
Pedigree: By Man o'War out of a Sweep mare (Brushup)

Notable Races: Kentucky Derby (1st); Preakness (1st); Belmont Stakes (1st); Eastern Shore Handicap (1st); Washington Handicap (1st); Chesapeake (1st); Pimlico Special (1st); Widener Handicap (1st); Jockey Club Gold Cup (1st); Saratoga Cup (1st); Saratoga Handicap (1st); Whitney (1st); Rhode Island Handicap (1st); Wilson (1st); Queens Country Handicap (1st); Pimlico Special (2nd; lost to Seabiscuit in match race); Great American (2nd); Richard Johnson Stakes (2nd)

Whirlaway - 1941
Trainer: Ben Jones
Jockey: Eddie Arcaro
Career Record: 60-32-15-9
Career Earnings: $561,161 ($7,463,279 in 2012)
Pedigree: By Blenheim out of a Sweep mare (Dustwhirl)

Notable Races: Kentucky Derby (1st); Preakness (1st); Belmont Stakes (1st); American Derby (1st); Travers Stakes (1st); Jockey Club Gold Cup (1st); Pimlico Special (1st); Saratoga Special (1st); Hopeful (1st); Dwyer (1st); Brooklyn Handicap (1st); Clark Handicap (1st); Washington Handicap (1st);

Notes:

-Whirlaway's broodmare sire, Sweep, is the only horse to produce two mares to each foal a Triple Crown winner.

-Whirlaway won the 1941 Kentucky Derby in a then record time of 2:01 2/5.

Count Fleet - 1943
Trainer: Don Cameron
Jockey: Johnny Longden
Career Record: 21-16-4-1
Career Earnings: $250,300 ($3,328,917)
Pedigree: By Reigh Count out of a Haste mare (Quickly)

Notable Races: Kentucky Derby (1st); Preakness (1st); Belmont Stakes (1st); Withers (1st); Wood Memorial (1st); Pimlico Futurity (1st); Champagne (1st); Walden Stakes (1st); Wakefield Stakes (1st); Washington Park Futurity (2nd)

Notes:

-Won the Belmont Stakes by 25 lengths in a then-record 2:28 1/5 while sustaining a career-ending injury.

Assault - 1946
Trainer: Max Hirsch
Jockey: Warren Mehrtens
Career Record: 42-18-6-7
Career Earnings: $675,470 ($6,448,776 in 2012)
Pedigree: By Bold Venture out of a Equipoise mare (Igual)

Notable Races: Kentucky Derby (1st); Preakness (1st); Belmont Stakes (1st); Dwyer (1st); Pimlico Special (1st); Westchester Handicap (1st); Wood Memorial (1st); Suburban Handicap (1st); Brooklyn Handicap (1st); Dixie Handicap (1st); Jersey Handicap (2nd);

Citation - 1948
Trainer: Horace Jones
Jockey: Eddie Arcaro
Career Record: 45-32-10-2
Career Earnings: $1,085,760 ($9,608,349 in 2012)
Pedigree: By Bull Lea out of a Hyperion mare (Hydroplane II)

Notable Races: Kentucky Derby (1st); Preakness (1st); Belmont Stakes (1st); Jockey Club Gold Cup (1st); American Derby (1st); Pimlico Special (1st); Stars and Stripes Handicap (1st); Belmont Futurity (1st); Pimlico Futurity (1st); Hollywood Gold Cup (1st); Santa Anita Handicap (2nd)

Notes:

-In his Triple Crown winning year, Citation raced 20 times, winning 19 races with one 2nd place finish.

Secretariat - 1973
Trainer: Lucien Laurin
Jockey: Ron Turcotte
Career Record: 21-16-3-1
Career Earnings: $1,316,808 ($6,823,823 in 2012)
Pedigree: By Bold Ruler out of a Princequillo mare (Somethingroyal)

Notable Races: Kentucky Derby (1stt); Preakness (1st); Belmont Stakes (1st); Marlboro Cup (1st); Canadian Invitational (1st); Arlington Invitational (1st); Man o'War (1st); Gotham (1st); Bay Shore (1st); Belmont Futurity (1st); Hopeful (1st); Sanford (1st); Woodward (2nd); Whitney (2nd); Wood Memorial (3rd)

Notes:

-Won the Belmont Stakes by 31-lengths in a world record time of 2:24. Won the Kentucky Derby in a stakes record time of 1:59 2/5.

Seattle Slew - 1977
Trainer:
William Turner
Jockey: Jean Cruguet
Career Record: 17-14-2-0
Career Earnings: $1,208,726 ($3,830,712 in 2012)
Pedigree: By Bold Reasoning out of a Poker mare (My Charmer)

Notable Races: Kentucky Derby (1st); Preakness (1st); Belmont Stakes (1st); Champagne (1st); Flamingo Stakes (1st); Wood Memorial (1st); Woodward (1st); Marlboro Cup (1st); Jockey Club Gold Cup (2nd)

Notes:

-Seattle Slew is the only undefeated Triple Crown winner in American racing history. His unbeaten record was finally tarnished in the Swaps when he finished 4th, the only time in Slew's career that he failed to finish in the top 3.

Affirmed - 1978
Trainer: Laz Berrera
Jockey: Steve Cauthen
Career Record: 29-22-5-1
Career Earnings: $2,393,818 ($7,586,523 in 2012)
Pedigree: By Exclusive Native out of a Crafty Admiral mare (Won't Tell You)

Notable Races: Kentucky Derby (1st); Preakness (1st); Belmont Stakes (1st); Hollywood Derby (1st); Santa Anita Derby (1st); San Felipe Handicap (1st); Jim Dandy (1st); Jockey Club Gold Cup (1st); Santa Anita Handicap (1st); Woodward (1st); Travers (2nd); San Fernando (2nd)

Notes:

-Defeated his rival Alydar three times in the Triple Crown. Overall, Affirmed and Alydar would race against each other 10 times in their career -- Affirmed won seven times (but was DQ'd once) and Alydar winning twice.

The 1973 Belmont Stakes Featuring Secretariat


X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.