The Triple Crown starts with The Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday
of May. The Preakness follows two weeks later. The Belmont Stakes is three weeks after The Preakness in early June. In the
U.S., the term "Triple Crown" is the usual reference for these three horse races, a term shared with a hitter who leads his
league in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in, and a pitcher who leads in earned run average, wins, and strikeouts
during a single Major League Baseball regular season.
Racing Form writer Charles Hatton is commonly credited with
originating the term to reference these races in 1930, they were referred to by that name at least as early as 1923.
Only 11 horses have ever won the U.S. Triple Crown; none since 1978
Triple Crown Trivia
As of June 7, 2008, the current period of 30 years, since Affirmed
won in 1978, is the longest drought between Triple Crown winning horses. Since 1978, eleven horses have won both the Kentucky
Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Of those, Real Quiet has come the closest to winning the Triple Crown, losing the Belmont
Stakes by a nose in 1998. Charismatic led the Belmont in the final furlong in 1999 but broke his left front leg in the final
stretch and fell back to third. The four most recent to win the Kentucky Derby contest and the Preakness but lose the Belmont
were War Emblem in 2002, Funny Cide in 2003, Smarty Jones in 2004, and Big Brown in 2008. War Emblem tripped at the start of the Belmont, Funny Cide
lost the Belmont in the slop to fresh horses, Smarty Jones lost by only a length, and Big Brown, who ran so well at the Derby and
Preakness, seemed out of sorts at Belmont, finishing last. In addition, several horses have won two of the three races since
the last Triple Crown win, most recently Afleet Alex in 2005, who lost the Kentucky Derby but won the Preakness and Belmont.
Only one horse, Alydar, has placed (second place) in all three races. He was defeated by Affirmed
in all three races in 1978 by a combined margin of two lengths. In addition, Mane Minister finished third in each race in
1991, and Hawkster finished fifth in each race in 1989.
2006 was the first time since 2000 that three different horses won
the races: Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby (but then suffered an eventually fatal injury
during the Preakness), Bernardini won the Preakness, and Jazil won the Belmont Stakes. It happened again in 2007, with Street Sense
winning the Kentucky Derby, Curlin winning the Preakness and the filly Rags to Riches winning the Belmont. Rags to Riches is 2006 Belmont winner Jazil's half
Gallant Fox is the only triple crown winner to sire another triple crown winner,