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by Randy Chambers

A Look Inside the History of the Triple Crown

On May 6, 2006 the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky will be held for the 132nd time. Filled with it’s rich tradition and history, the Kentucky Derby stands as the most prestigious race for American three-year-olds, and is the first step towards joining elite company in winning the Triple Crown. Two weeks after the Derby, the scene will switch to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland for the Preakness Stakes, followed in three-weeks by the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.

The Triple Crown is regarded as one of the most difficult feats on any sports level to accomplish. If you need further persuading, there have been a grand total of eleven Triple Crown winners in the history of racing. Most individuals might find it interesting to know the Belmont Stakes was the first Triple Crown race run in 1867, the Preakness history started six years later 1873 and the Kentucky Derby in 1875.

Sir Barton was the first Thoroughbred to accomplish the Triple Crown act in 1919. In 1930 and 1935 Gallant Fox and Omaha, respectively gave owner Belair Stud and trainer James 'Sunny Jim' Fitzsimmons back to back triple crown winners. Two years later it was Man O War’s son, War Admiral placing himself into the echelon of racing taking all three events in 1937. In 1941 it was the renowned Whirlaway, followed by Count Fleet in 1943, Assault in 1946 with Citation in 1948. The accomplishments of Citation and Whirlaway gave jockey Eddie Arcaro two Triple Crown victories in the span of seven years. Arguably the most famous race horse in the history of the sport, and undisputed fan favorite, Secretariat romped to victory in 1973. One of the most prolific sires of all-time, Seattle Slew was victorious in 1977, while Affirmed in 1978 with the general in the irons, jockey Steve Cauthen, held of Alydar in all three events to be the last horse in history to ex!ecute the accomplishment.

It wasn’t until 1950 that the Thoroughbred Racing Association acknowledged the trio of races as the Triple Crown. A three-sided horse trophy was instituted to commemorate the achievement.

Kentucky, the kings of the breeding industry, hold the top spot on the list of Triple Crown birthplace winners with 272. Surprisingly Virginia, although 251 winners away, holds second place with 21, Florida has 19, New Jersey with 13 and Maryland with Pennsylvania round out the top five with 11 each. Not known around the industry as a prolific breeding establishment, Montana has two winners, Spokane’s 1889 Kentucky Derby win and Scottish Chieftain’s Belmont Stakes win in 1897. Kansas has one win with Larwin, the 1938 Kentucky Derby winner as well as Missouri with Elwood who took the 1904 installment of the Kentucky Derby.

The leading owner of Triple Crown winners is the nostalgic Calumet Farm with 17. Two of those wins came by way of Triple Crown winners, Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948. Belair Stud held the blanket of roses at the famed Twin Spires oval 12 times, Harry P. Whitney has 10 followed closely by E.R. Bradley with 9. Tied for fifth with eight wins apiece are Dwyer Brothers and George L. Lorillard.

Not only does Calumet Farm surpass all others with owner wins, they lead in the breeding category as well with 18. A.J. Alexander failed, three shy of the top spot with 15, Harry P. Whitney, third in owner wins is also third in breeding wins with the exact total of 12 and John E. Madden has 11. Belair Stud and August Belmont II round out the top five with 10 wins each.

James 'Sunny Jim' Fitzsimmons and D.Wayne Lukas sit atop the trainer standings with 13, while James Rowe Sr. and R. Wyndham Walden are next with 11. Following that duo are Max Hirsch and two time Triple Crown winning trainer B.A. “Ben” Jones who have 9. The ever popular Bob Baffert may find himself looking down on some of the greatest horseman of all time when it’s all said and done as he has aided eight winners to Triple Crown wins, which ties him with Woody Stephens who won five consecutive Belmont Stakes from 1982-1986. H.A. “Jimmy” Jones and Sam Hildreth have 7 wins each, Thomas J. Healy and Lucien Lauren have accompanied 6 to the winners circle while John M. Gaver and the ever opinionated Lazaro Barrera have notched 5 wins each.

It will may take some time before anyone overhauls Eddie Acaro’s 17 wins for top jockey honors. Some may find it comical to see William Shoemaker in second with 11, with all the record breaking accomplishments he fulfilled throughout his long and illustrious career. Pat Day, William J. Hartack and Earl Sande (Triple Crown winner on Gallant Fox) each have 9. The recently retired Gary Stevens and James McLaughlin have 8, followed by five of the greatest men to sit on a horses’s back side, Jerry Bailey, Chris McCarron, Ron Turcotte, Charles Kurtsinger (Triple Crown winner on War Admiral) and Angel Cordero Jr. all with 6. Willie Simms, John Loftus, Eddie Delahoussaye and Lloyd Hughes have 5 a piece.

Thirty-eight fillies have started in the Kentucky Derby from 1875-1999. Three have made the journey into the famed Churchill Downs infield winners circle. Regret in 1915 was the first to start the trend. It would take another sixty-five years before Genuine Risk would fend off the boys in 1980 and the latest was the front running effort in 1988 by Winning Colors.

While we are on the subject of fillies, we are still in search of the first female Triple Crown winning trainer. Twelve have started horses in the Kentucky Derby, the most successful was the Shelley Riley trained Casual Lies who finished second to Lil E. Tee in 1992. And in 2004 Kristin Mulhall sent out Imperialism to a third place finish behind Smarty Jones.

Thinking back on all the history of the Triple Crown races, I would like to leave you with this trivial iota on the Run For the Roses. There has been only one horse to win the Kentucky Derby that was un-raced as a two-year-old. It was in 1882 when the gelding Apollo made his way to the winners circle, dispatching a field of thirteen others in the time of 2:40 and 1/5 second for a purse of $4,560. My how times have changed.


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