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The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing

Dec 22, 2007
The three most important thoroughbred horse races - the Kentucky Derby (Louisville, KY), the Preakness Stakes (Baltimore, ML), and the Belmont Stakes (Elmont, NY)- begin in May and end five weeks later in early June. Only eleven racehorses have won all three. The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing - to win it is as signal, and as rare, an achievement as to sweep the top five Oscar categories. Only eleven racehorses have won all three.

Of the three races, the Preakness Stakes is - by a hair - the oldest. First run in 1873, it predates the Kentucky Derby by two years. It's also the shortest, at 1.91 kilometers, and it's run the third Saturday in May, generally attracting the Kentucky Derby winner. With a course record of 1:53 and 2/5th seconds, set by Tank's Prospect in 1985, the Preakness also has the most unique victory celebration: when a winner is officially declared, the colors of the winning horse's owner's silks are painted onto a jockey-and-horse on the weather vane of atop a cupola-shaped structure on the infield.

The Kentucky Derby began two years later, in 1875, but has run continuously since that year (unlike the Preakness), making it the second-oldest continuously-run sporting event in the country. Its two kilometers take champion horses around two minutes to run, yielding its nickname, "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports." Secretariat holds the course record here - 1:59 and 2/5ths second, set in 1973. The Derby is a local institution, with its own semiofficial drink (the mint julep), song ("My Old Kentucky Home," by Stephen Foster), and candy (the Derby Pie). Spectators tend to dress in outlandish costumes and, especially, hats; this is especially true if you have a seat on the infield, where the race is hard to see anyway, and the mint julep consumption tends to reach epidemic levels.

At the Belmont Stakes, you might see even the strongest horses from those earlier races falter. At 1.5 miles, the race is the longest in the Triple Crown and offers a test of endurance new to most 3-year-old horses (the only age allowable in the Triple Crown races), and a test of strategy for jockeys, who must coax their horses through the unaccustomed distance. This longer distance also allows some slow-burning racehorses a chance to shine - for example, Rags to Riches, a filly, won the race in 2007, the first filly victory in a Triple Crown race since 1924 and the first at Belmont since 1905. The course record here as well belongs to Secretariat, whose 1973 victory at Belmont yielded a world dirt record for the mile and a half: 2:24 flat. The Belmont Stakes are, fittingly, the final leg in the Crown, occurring three weeks after Preakness and five weeks after the Derby.

The first Triple Crown winner was Sir Barton in 1919 but many racing fans forget that. Credit for the phrase "Triple Crown" goes to sportswriter Charles Hatton in 1930, as he praised that year's triple winner Gallant Fox. Since then such horses as Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), and Assault (1946) made the Triple Crown victory seem at least a semi-regular occasion for almost two decades, but after Citation in 1948 no horse won the Crown again until Secretariat.

Only two horses have won since Secretariat's stunning 1973 season - Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978. Many racing experts and fans attribute this dearth to the increasing tendency of trainers and owners to specialize their horses in a limited range of distances. But near-victories in 1998 and 1999 raised fans' hopes, offering the possibility that today's thoroughbred spectators might see the historic achievement once again. Whether you're a fan of horse racing gambling or just like the thrill of live horse racing, the sport is full of drama and passion, and sports news sources, as well as tip services, can help you maximize your enjoyment of thoroughbred horse racing by clarifying the details and letting you know who the favorites are.
About the Author
TRP Services offers Thoroughbred horse racing and horse racing tips online for horse racing handicapping and those who love thoroughbred horses for the horse racing tracks.
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