A History of The Triple Crown™'s Leading Lights

Posted by Darragh Farrelly on Jul 14, 2016, 12:00:00 AM

The term “Triple Crown” is very much regarded as a household phrase. Though Sir Barton was the first horse to complete the feat of victories in the Kentucky Derby®, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes in 1919, the verbiage first went to print in 1923. The New York Times wrote in a year where the Preakness preceded the Derby, “Thomas J. Healey had Walter J. Salmon’s Preakness winner, Vigil, and his owner wired today that he would be here” — in Louisville, Ky. — “Friday to see his colt try to capture his second classic in the triple crown of the American turf.”

However, it was not until 1930 that the term gained some traction. As Gallant Fox romped to a Triple Crown victory, Charles Hatton of the Daily Racing Form popularized the phrase. To suggest Hatton coined the phrase would be factually incorrect, however. Hatton stated in 1989, “some of the 3-year-olds who ran at Louisville went on to run at Pimlico and in the Belmont, and I found it journalistically clumsy to keep referring to these races by names. And I had always felt we should have a Triple Crown as they did in England. So I took those three races and called them the Triple Crown. It got me off the composition hook, and before long it came to mean something to people in racing.”

And mean something it did. In hindsight, it was not until 1935 when Omaha won all three races that it began to gain some traction. Omaha was followed by Whirlaway in 1941, Count Fleet in 1943, Assault in 1946 and Citation in 1948.


Since 1948, four horses have completed the feat. No man has dominated the Triple Crown series since the turn of the 20thcentury more than jockey Eddie Arcaro. Winner of a total of seventeen Triple Crown winners; 5 Kentucky Derby’s, 6 Preakness wins and 6 victories in the Belmont Stakes. Arcaro, who was inducted into the United States Racing Hall of Fame in 1958, steered Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (1948) to Triple Crown victories, the only rider in history to do so twice.

In more recent times, Victor Espinoza has been the leading jockey on the Triple Crown front. Winner of the prize in 2015 with American Pharoah, California Chrome proved to be fruitful for Espinoza in 2014, a Kentucky Derby and Preakness, before falling short in the Belmont Stakes. War Emblem did the same in 2002.

D. Wayne Lukas has 14 wins in the three races, the Preakness being the most fruitful for the Louisville-based trainer. Though a Triple Crown win has thus far eclipsed Lukas, Charismatic came close in 1999 when falling short in the third and final leg in the Belmont Stakes, finishing third.

Of course, the king and focal point of all Triple Crown races center around Secretariat, the 1972 winner of the crown. Holder of all three course records in each of the classics, Secretariat is, without question, the greatest horse ever to grace this wonderful competition of thoroughbred racing.


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Topics: Belmont Stakes

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Kristen Doolan

Kristen Doolan was born and raised a Florida State Seminole. Making her way from Florida to North Carolina, Kristen achieved her B.S. in Business Adminstration, Marketing at The University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is an avid traveler, college football addict, beach bum and loves spending time with her family and friends. 

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Jazzy Morgan is originally from London, England and a die-hard Manchester United Fan. She grew up in Connecticut and made the move down south in 2011 where she attended Winthrop University and received her B.S. in Family & Consumer Sciences and a minor in Marketing. Jazzy enjoys traveling, working out, reading her monthly Vogue & Cosmo and keeping up with fashion trends.