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What is the Triple Crown in horse racing? List of 13 winners

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Despite the fall in the popularity of Horse Racing in the 21st century, that does not take away the fact that the Triple Crown is still one of the most coveted and rare achievements in sport, with just a select few names on the list of victors.

The term ‘Triple Crown’ comes from the 1930s, when Charles Hatton, a columnist for the Daily Racing Form began used the term triple crown in reference to the three races - Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.

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What is the Triple Crown?

The Encyclopedia Brittanica define the Triple Crown as “a championship [in American Horse Racing] attributed to a three-year-old Thoroughbred that in a single season wins the aforementioned hat-trick of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.”

The “elusive” achievement was “considered one of the most coveted and celebrated achievements in all of sports”. As you can see from the table below, there have been huge gaps between the winners, showing just how difficult the task is to become a Triple Crown winner.

13 horses have won the Triple Crown:

  1. Sir Barton (1919)
  2. Gallant Fox (1930)
  3. Omaha (1935)
  4. War Admiral (1937)
  5. Whirlaway (1941)
  6. Count Fleet (1943)
  7. Assault (1946)
  8. Citation (1948)
  9. Secretariat (1973)
  10. Seattle Slew (1977)
  11. Affirmed (1978)
  12. American Pharoah (2015)
  13. Justify (2018)

*As of 2024, American Pharoah and Justify are the only living Triple Crown winners.

Caption: The nature of winning the Triple Crown has added to its mystery and prestige.
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Caption: The nature of winning the Triple Crown has added to its mystery and prestige.BENJAMIN CREMELAFP

The historic record of the Triple Crown is as exciting as the achievement itself: between Gallant Fox’s Triple Crown victory in 1930 and Citation’s win in 1948, there was a quite astonishing (and somewhat anomalous) average of one Triple Crown winner every two and a half years. However, a 25-year gap soon restored the mystery of the feat until Secretariat captured the title in 1973. Consecutive wins from Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978 sent now desperate fans into a state of ecstasy, but the Triple Crown was not won again until the victory from American Pharoah in 2015. The next winner, Justify, came just three years later.

The 156th Belmont Stakes runs Saturday, June 8, 2024, and post time is 6:41 p.m. ET. It will be broadcast on Fox, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2.

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