Memory Lane: Revisiting the 11 Triple Crown Winners

It wouldn’t be a Triple Crown possibility day without paying our respects to the past winners of the elusive prize.

Something on my bucket list is to see a Triple Crown winner in my lifetime. The near-miss that breaks my heart the most is perhaps the 1999 Belmont Stakes, when Charismatic, another humble colt with little pomp and circumstance in his back story, suffered a career ending injury during the race and did not finish. I’ll never forget sobbing while I watched Chris Antley hold his leg up while looking around for help. That said, my biggest wish for today is a safe trip around the oval for all of the horses competing. Win or lose, that is the number one priority on any given day.

Without further ado, I present the previous winners of the Triple Crown, starting with…

1: Sir Barton, 1919

Sir Barton and Johnny Loftus

Sir Barton and Johnny Loftus

Sir Barton was the first Triple Crown winner, breaking his maiden in the 1919 Kentucky Derby (how far we have come: qualifications and two year old campaigns!). The Triple Crown was not an official event yet, but the horse won all three races and was declared the first winner of the trophy in 1948. Sir Barton went on to have a relatively unremarkable stud career after a marginally successful 1920 campaign, and remains immortalized in statue at Audley Farm, where he stood at stud.

2: Gallant Fox, 1930

Gallant Fox was the second winner of the Triple Crown, when the Kentucky Derby was actually the first race and came after the Preakness Stakes. Gallant Fox was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1957 and was also the first horse to sire another Triple Crown Winner – Omaha, who won in 1935.

3: Omaha, 1935

A memorial commemorating Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska.

A memorial commemorating Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska.

Omaha actually raced in the Withers Stakes in between the Preakness and the Belmont in 1935, suffering a loss to Rosemont that day. He came back just a few days later, though, and won the Belmont Stakes in decisive fashion by a length and a half over Firethorn after an impressive stretch drive. Omaha went on to race in Britain and was eventually retired to stud and then to a farm in Nebraska, where he is memorialized today.

4: War Admiral, 1937


War Admiral was perhaps best known for his duel with Seabiscuit after he won the 1937 Triple Crown. This handsome horse won 21 out of 26 career starts and was known to be tempermental and cocky under saddle.

5: Whirlaway, 1941

Described with adjectives such as “crazy” and “stupid”, Whirlaway made a name for himself in 1941 by becoming the fifth winner of the Triple Crown. After winning the Triple Crown, Whilaway was named the Horse of the Year for 1941.

6: Count Fleet, 1943

Count Fleet was injured while winning the Wood Memorial, his Kentucky Derby prep race. The colt recovered in time for the Run for the Roses, though, and went on to notch a Triple Crown win. Count Fleet won the Belmont stakes by 25 lengths, a record that stood until Secretariat’s famous run later on.

7: Assault, 1946


Assault’s sire, Bold Venture, was a two-classic winner, winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 1936. Assault dealt with soundness issues throughout his career and also hailed from Texas, which was not exactly prime Thoroughbred racing breeding ground. He overcame these obstacles, though, winning the 1946 Triple Crown and convincing America that he was the best around. Later, it was discovered that the colt was sterile, and he completed one more season of racing as a seven-year-old before retiring permanently to Texas.

8: Citation, 1948

Citation also raced in between the Preakness and the Belmont. In the final leg of the Triple Crown, Citation tied the track record at 2:28 1/2 set by Count Fleet. Citation went on to have a solid remainder of his career, followed by a successful stud career. He was named to the Racing Hall of Fame in 1959.

9: Secretariat, 1973

Perhaps everyone’s favorite Triple Crown winner, “Big Red” enjoyed perhaps the most fame of all of the winners to date. I mean, he’s had a Disney movie made about him – how much more famous can you get? As the story goes, Secretariat positively demolished his opponents in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, winning by an astounding 31 lengths. If you don’t get chills watching this race, you are possibly not human.

10: Seattle Slew, 1977

Perhaps Zenyatta knew Seattle Slew in a former life, as the big colt was also known for putting on some dance moves during his pre-race routine. Seattle Slew won the Belmont in 1977 by four lengths and took his record to nine and nine to remain undefeated through the Triple Crown. He went on to be one of the most popular stallions to choose for breeding, and can still be found in the pedigrees of Thoroughbreds all over the country.

11: Affirmed, 1978

Race fans were spoiled in 1977 and 1978, enjoying two Triple Crown winners in succession. Perhaps the racing gods knew that the drought was coming, and sent the winners off with a bang? Affirmed became the last Triple Crown winner that the racing world has seen, beating out arch rival Alydar in the Belmont Stakes by just a nose. Affirmed was euthanized in 2001 after a bout with laminitis, and he was also inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame.


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