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There arguably isn't a more impressive accomplishment in all of sports than winning the Triple Crown. Three-year old horses who often haven't run more than a handful of times in their careers have to win races on the first Saturday of May, the third Saturday of May and the second Saturday of June when they aren't truly raised to race more than once every five to six weeks, and they have to do so against different fields, at different distances and at different tracks. There's a reason that only 12 in the history of the Sport of Kings have ever won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes to claim the Triple Crown.
2017 Triple Crown Schedule At a Glance
Kentucky Derby – Saturday, May 6
Preakness Stakes – Saturday, May 20
Belmont Stakes – Saturday, June 10
Triple Crown Format
What isn't often considered when it comes to winning the Triple Crown is the fact that horses have to qualify just to run in the Kentucky Derby nowadays. There's no such thing as a cheap way into the field anymore, as ponies have to either win one of the major prep races leading into the Run for the Roses or finish in the money multiple times over the course of their two- and three-year old years. Horses don't just go from maidens to Triple Crown winners, and often times, they don't retire without accomplishing other great things as well.
Of course, nowadays, horses who win the Triple Crown are going to be more valuable as studs than anything else. That's why American Pharoah, the most recent Triple Crown winner from 2015, retired as a three-year old, though he did run through the end of the year and wrapped up his career by winning the Breeders' Cup Classic.
2017 Triple Crown Contender – Always Dreaming
Just because a horse is clearly the best in the field at the Kentucky Derby doesn't mean that he's a lock to win the Triple Crown. We've seen it time and time again that colts are dominant at Churchill Downs and flounder on the short rest for the Preakness Stakes or ultimately don't have the distance to cover the Belmont Stakes. But Always Dreaming feels like he's a little bit different at this point.
Always Dreaming wasn't just the best horse in the Kentucky Derby. He was the best horse by a wide, wide margin. The winning margin of 2 3/4 lengths was awfully impressive, though it should be noted that his final winning time of 2:03.59 was far from stellar. He was effectively ridden out by John Velazquez though, and he's now 4-for-4 on top of this colt heading to Pimlico for the Preakness.
Always Dreaming will be a hot commodity for sure going forward, as he's an odds-on favorite to win the second leg of the Triple Crown and a +350 choice to win the whole enchilada and become the second colt in the last three years to claim the biggest prize in the Sport of Kings, joining American Pharoah in 2015. Still, there's a whole new crop of three-year old challengers for Always Dreaming waiting in Baltimore, and he's guaranteed absolutely nothing at this point even though he was the impressive Derby champ.
What isn't often considered when it comes to winning the Triple Crown is the fact that horses have to qualify just to run in the Kentucky Derby. There's no such thing as a cheap way into the field, as ponies have to either win one of the major prep races leading into the Run for the Roses or finish in the money multiple times over the course of their two- and three-year old years. Horses don't just go from maidens to Triple Crown winners, and often times, they don't retire without accomplishing other great things as well.
Of course, nowadays, horses who win the Triple Crown are going to be more valuable as studs than anything else. That's why American Pharoah retired as a three-year old, though he did run through the end of the year and wrapped up his career by winning the Breeders' Cup Classic.
List of Triple Crown Winners
|Year ||Winner ||Jockey ||Trainer|
|2015||American Pharoah||Victor Espinoza||Bob Baffert|
|1978||Affirmed||Steve Cauthen||Laz Barrera|
|1977||Seattle Slew||Jean Cruguet||William H. Turner Jr.|
|1973||Secretariat||Ron Turcotte||Lucien Laurin|
|1948||Citation||Eddie Arcaro||Horace A. Jones|
|1946||Assault||Warren Mehrtens||Max Hirsch|
|1943||Count Fleet||Johnny Longden||Don Cameron|
|1941||Whirlaway||Eddie Arcaro||Ben Jones|
|1937||War Admiral||Charley Kurtsinger||George Conway|
|1935||Omaha||Willie Saunders||Jim Fitzsimmons|
|1930||Gallant Fox||Earl Sande||Jim Fitzsimmons|
|1919||Sir Barton||Johnny Loftus||H. Guy Bedwell|
The longest stretch in the history of horse racing without a Triple Crown was from 1978 through 2015 before American Pharoah finally broke through and got the job done in one of the best moments in horse racing over the course of the last four decades. Prior to that, Seattle Slew and Affirmed won the Triple Crown in consecutive years, the only time that has happened to date.
The Triple Crown was claimed a whopping three times in the 1930s and four times in the 1940s, and it's unlikely we'll ever see anything like that degree of dominance again.
Only one jockey and one trainer have ever won the Triple Crown twice. Eddie Arcaro was the rider for both Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948. Jim Fitzsimmons trainer Gallant Fox and Omaha in 1930 and 1935.
But of course, we would be remiss if we didn't mention the great Secretariat. Not only did the horse nicknamed "Big Red" win all three legs of the Triple Crown, but he did so in record time in each race. All three records continue to stand to this day, and his 1973 Belmont Stakes winning time of 2:24 flat with a margin of victory of 31 lengths is still one of the most impressive displays all-time in the history of sports.
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