Bet on The Triple Crown
The American Triple Crown of horse racing is a series of three races held every spring and includes the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. The races are open to colts, fillies and geldings, but restricted to three-year-old horses. Each race is run at a different distance, although all three are run on dirt. Any horse that sweeps all three races is recognized as the Triple Crown Champion, a feat that has only been accomplished 11 times in the 138 years the races have been run, the most recent being Affirmed in 1978. The first Triple Crown winner was Sir Barton in 1915, although the term ‘Triple Crown’ only came into use in the 1920s.
The first race in the Triple Crown is the Kentucky Derby, held every year on the first Saturday in May at
The second race in the series is the Preakness Stakes, held two weeks after the Derby at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, Maryland. Slightly shorter than the Derby, at 1 3/16 miles, the Preakness typically draws a smaller field than the Kentucky Derby, as the owners and trainers of horses that don’t win or run particularly well in the Derby look to different race options for those horses. For the connections of the Derby winner, the Preakness is of course the next step to a Triple Crown.
The final race of the series is the Belmont Stakes, held at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. A tougher test than the other two races, the Belmont is run at a distance of 1 1/2 miles, and often includes new horses to the series that are particularly good at long distances. Since 1935, 19 horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but failed to win the Belmont, with the latest being Big Brown in 2008. In 2012 I’ll Have Another won the Derby and Preakness, but was scratched the morning of the Belmont with an injury.
Since 1973, the great Secretariat has held the race record for all three Triple Crown races. In total, 52 horses have won two legs of the Triple Crown, but failed to win all three. Between 1935 and 1948, there were six Triple Crown winners, and then it would be another 25 years until Secretariat won the title. Only one father/son combination has ever won the Triple Crown, that being Gallant Fox (1930) and Omaha (1935). Only once have there been back-to-back Triple Crown winners, with Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978). In 1979, Spectacular Bid almost made it three in a row, but after taking a big lead in the Belmont, faded to finish third. Although several fillies have won individual Triple Crown races, no filly has ever won all three.
American Pharoah’s 2015 Triple Crown
Since Affirmed captured the Triple Crown in 1978, Thoroughbred racing fans have been left disappointed each and every year. Though there have been some very close calls over the year, with each year that went past without a Triple Crown, it seemed that winning racing’s greatest prize was becoming a near-impossible feat. While California Chrome was denied his bid for immortality in 2014, there was an unraced two-year-old with a misspelled name in Bob Baffert’s barn that would change everything. That colt’s name was American Pharoah.
Bred and owned by Zayat Stables, American Pharoah was from the second crop of stallion Pioneerof the Nile, another homebred for the Zayats who had finished a crushing second to upset winner Mine That Bird in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. His dam, Littleprincessemma, had never won a race during her brief career. After finishing fifth in his debut against maiden company, American Pharoah came back to break his maiden in style against stakes competition in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) in a head-turning performance. He would win two more times as a juvenile before going to the sidelines before the Breeders’ Cup.
His much-anticipated three-year-old campaign began in Arkansas with an easy win in the Rebel Stakes (G2). In his next race, the Arkansas Derby (G1), he would be tested over a sloppy track for the first time and passed that test with flying colors – and his affinity for a wet track would come in handy later. From there, it was the Run for the Roses and while he got the job done, it was the least visually impressive performance so far. Doubters began to wonder whether or not he was as brilliant as he had initially seemed. He silenced his critics when he splashed home to victory in a deluge at Pimlico to win the Preakness over an off track. At Belmont Park, the race was over the moment he broke from the gate and assumed the lead with his ears pricked, eager for Victor Espinoza to ask him for me. He galloped to a 5 ½ length triumph and earned a spot in the upper echelon of Thoroughbred racing’s greats.