(The following post Triple Crown Winners: American Pharoah Joins Elite Company by James Brady recently appeared on sbnation.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
There have been just 11 horses that have been able to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, otherwise known as the Triple Crown. The last one to do it was Affirmed in 1978, and since then there have been 13 other horses that have completed the first two races, only to fall short in the third for one reason or another.
American Pharoah will go for the Triple Crown on Saturday, having won the Derby and having dominated the Preakness. But history is not on the horse’s side, given that more horses have experienced near misses than have won it all in total, and that’s just taking into account the close calls since the last win. Overall, 23 horses have come up just short.
In other words, American Pharoah would be making history and joining the ranks of thoroughbred immortality. Alongside Affirmed, American Pharoah’s name would be included in a group that also contains the legendary Secretariat, winner in 1973 in perhaps the most famous race in history. But that’s not to take anything away from the other horses that have won.
Sir Barton was the first horse to win the Triple Crown, back in 1919. That was before the term was even coined, and the impressive runs in all three races were wildly unexpected at the time. The next winner came in 1930 when Gallant Fox won it all. That’s around the time that the Triple Crown was really established as being the accomplishment in horse racing. Five years later, Gallant Fox’s son, Omaha won the Triple Crown.
War Admiral won it two years later in 1937, then it was Whirlaway, a horse its trainer called “the runningest,” which is a confusing term that ultimately didn’t matter one bit because it won the Triple Crown. Apparently, being the runningest is a good quality. Count Fleet, Assault and Citation won in 1943, 1946 and 1948, respectively, and then the second-largest gap between Triple Crowns occurred.
It wasn’t broken until the aforementioned Secretariat won in 1972. Seattle Slew won in 1977, and then Affirmed the following year in 1978. At the time, the gap between Citation and Secretariat was the longest gap by a wide margin, but it’s taken second billing to the current gap. American Pharoah winning on Saturday would be the biggest news in horse racing in more than 30 years.
Triple Crown Hall Of Thoroughbred Immortality:
1919 Sir Barton
1930 Gallant Fox
1937 War Admiral
1943 Count Fleet
1977 Seattle Slew
2015 American Pharoah