Will Justify become lucky 13?
Only 12 horses in 99 years have won the Triple Crown. A victory by Justify in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes would make Bob Baffert only the second trainer to have two Triple Crown winners. Baffert, who trained American Pharoah, the 2015 winner. would tie Hall of Famer “Sunny Jim’’ Fitzsimmons, who trained Gallant Fox (1930) and Omaha (1935).
Here’s a look at the Triple Crown winners:
Sir Barton (1919): Paternal grandsire of Isinglass, who won the 1883 English Triple Crown, was a ``problem child,’’ who had disdain for other horses, animals and people. He was 0-for-six before the Triple Crown series. He entered the Kentucky Derby as the pace-setting rabbit horse and wound up winning in wire-to-wire fashion. Four days later he won the Preakness, leading from start to finish.
Before the Belmont, he won the Withers Stakes in New York. He won the Belmont in record time for the then-mile and three-eighths distance. He won all his races in 32 days. After his racing career, Sir Barton became part of the Army’s cavalry of horses. He has a street named after him in Lexington, Kentucky.
Gallant Fox (1930): The Preakness was the first leg of the Triple Crown that year and Gallant Fox, a bay stallion who was known as the “red-headed horse,’’ beat Crack Brigade by three-quarters of a length. He won the Derby two weeks later in a downpour, beating Gallant Knight by two lengths. He won the Belmont by beating favored Which One. Gallant Fox is also remembered as losing to 100-1 shot Jim Dandy on a muddy track at Saratoga in the Travers Stakes.
Omaha (1935): The son of Gallant Fox. Omaha was not the favorite in the Derby, but won by a length over Roman Soldier. A then-record crowd at Pimlico watched Omaha Win by six lengths over Firethorn. The agitated Omaha Fox would not stand still for the garland of roses in the winner’s circle. He raced in the 1936 Ascot Gold Cup in England, losing by less than a head to Quashed in a grueling 2 1/2 mile race witnessed by 150,000. He was scheduled in the Ascot in 1937 but came up lame and would never race again. In the 1950s, he was shipped to the racetrack in Omaha, Nebraska, where he had photographs taken with children riding on him.
War Admiral (1937): He was the son of the iconic Man o’ War, the best horse never to be entered in the Derby. Man o’ War’s owner, Samuel Riddle, did not like to travel away from New York or Maryland. He didn’t make the same mistake with War Admiral, who won the Derby wire-to-wire. A week later he won the Preakness by a head. He stumbled at the start of the Belmont, sustaining a gaping wound to his right front forefoot, but recovered to win by three lengths. His time of 2:28 ⅗ broke Man o’ War’s Belmont record by a fifth of a second. His Triple Crown feat might have been less compelling than at Pimlico. Seabiscuit won by four lengths. War Admiral ’s bloodline extended to 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed.
Whirlaway (1941); The horse with a quirky personality who drifted toward the middle of the track won the Derby by eight lengths after trainer Ben Jones removed the left cup from the horse’s blinkers. He won the Preakness by five lengths and, against only three competitors, the Belmont by 2 1/2 lengths. He was ridden by Eddie Arcaro.
Count Fleet (1943): During World War II, with gas being rationed, taxis were not seen in the usual volumes around Churchill Downs. Count Fleet was owned by John D. Hurt, the rental car and Yellow Cab czar. Count Fleet won the Derby by two lengths, then the Preakness by eight. Despite an injury at the start to his left front ankle, Count Fleet won the Belmont by a then-record 25 lengths in the three-horse field. Because of the injury, he never raced again. He sired Derby winner Count Turf and Belmont winners Counterpoint and One Count.
Assault (1946): Injured his right front foot at some point, causing it to be misshapen. Was called “The Club-footed Comet’’ and won the Derby by eight lengths. Beat Lord Boswell by a neck in the Preakness and won by three lengths in the Belmont. His slow times in all three victories did not earn him respect in racing circles but he gained that later on by beating highly acclaimed Stymie in the Gallant Fox Handicap. He was retired to stud in 1951. Thought to be sterile, he produced two sons and two daughters. He briefly returned to racing before being retired.
Citation (1948): The fourth Triple Crown winner of the decade was ridden by Arcaro after jockey Al Snider was presumed dead in a boating accident off the Florida Coast. Citation won the Derby by 3 1/2 lengths, the Preakness by 5 1/2 and the Belmont by eight. He was racing’s first million-dollar winner in earnings and sired Preakness winner Fabius.
Secretariat (1973): The defining Triple Crown champion with the stately name revived the sport and captivated the nation during his run and wound up on the cover of magazines across the country. Was syndicated for a then-record $6.08 million before his 3-year-old season. He won the Derby by 2 ½ lengths, He was a last to first winner by 2 ½ lengths in the Preakness. The Belmont was his defining moment as he beat the field of four opponents by 31 lengths in a still-standing record time of 2:24. He died at 19 in 1989 and was buried whole — the ultimate honor for a racehorse — at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. In 1999, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp with his image.
Seattle Slew (1977): Started life looking like a mule, according to some observers, and was known as Baby Huey as a foal because of his awkwardness. Originally owned by former lumberman Mickey Taylor and former flight attendant wife, Karen, the undefeated dark bay won the Derby and Preakness by 1 ½ lengths. In the Belmont, French jockey Jean Cruguet started to celebrate before the finish as his horse won by four lengths. Sired Swale, who won the Derby in 1984. (Swale unexpectedly died just eight days after winning the Belmont). Slew’s great-great-grandson, California Chrome, won the Derby and Preakness in 2014. Slew died in his sleep on May 7, 2002 at 28--exactly 25 years to the day he won the Derby.
Affirmed (1978): The great-great-grandson of War Admiral, remembered for his duels with ill-fated Alydar, who finished second in all three races. Beat Alydar seven of the 10 times they faced each other. Alydar’s death remains racing’s biggest mystery. In 1990, he reportedly shattered his leg in his stall and had to be euthanized days later. Some reports linked insurance money to his demise. In 2001, Affirmed was euthanized when he developed laminitis, a disease of the hoof, which also claimed 2006 Derby winner Barbaro.
American Pharoah (2015): Became the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown. Won the Derby by a length, the Preakness by seven and the Belmont by 5 ½ to a thunderous ovation. Added a victory in the Breeders’ Cup to earn thoroughbred racing’s first Grand Slam. He was retired to stud after the 2015 season for an estimated $30 million breeding fee. Justify’s rights are estimated at $60 million.
Sources: Daily Racing Forum, triplecrownraces.com, Wikipedia