This April 1989 file photo shows American Thoroughbred Secretariat at the Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., in April 1989.

This April 1989 file photo shows American Thoroughbred Secretariat at the Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., in April 1989.

Two days ago, the Belmont Stakes, the third leg in the Triple Crown of horse racing was held and the results were that we didn’t have a new Triple Crown winner. Hats off anyway to California Chrome for winning the first two parts of the Triple Crown.

There have been 11 Triple Crown winners in history.  The famous story of Secretariat captured our hearts in the 2010 Disney film.

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On June 9, 1973, with a spectacular victory at the Belmont Stakes, Secretariat becomes the first horse since Citation in 1948 to win America’s coveted Triple Crown–the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. In one of the finest performances in racing history, Secretariat, ridden by Ron Turcotte, completed the 1.5-mile race in 2 minutes and 24 seconds, a dirt-track record for that distance.

Secretariat wins Triple Crown Secretariat didn't just win the 1973 Belmont to cap the first Triple Crown in 25 years. Big Red redefined greatness in horse racing. Another colt, Sham, was still close as they headed toward the backstretch, but Secretariat broke free and continued to pull farther and farther ahead. The 31-length victory and track-record time of 2:24 marked Secretariat as the greatest horse of his generation.

Secretariat wins Triple Crown
Secretariat didn’t just win the 1973 Belmont to cap the first Triple Crown in 25 years. Big Red redefined greatness in horse racing. Another colt, Sham, was still close as they headed toward the backstretch, but Secretariat broke free and continued to pull farther and farther ahead. The 31-length victory and track-record time of 2:24 marked Secretariat as the greatest horse of his generation.

Secretariat was born at Meadow Stables in Doswell, Virginia, on March 30, 1970.

Secretariat as a baby in the fall of 1970 at The Meadow Stable in Doswell, Virginia

Secretariat as a baby in the fall of 1970 at The Meadow Stable in Doswell, Virginia

He was sired by Bold Ruler, the 1957 Preakness winner, and foaled by Something Royal, which came from a Thoroughbred line known for its stamina. An attractive chestnut colt, he grew to over 16 hands high and was at two years the size of a three-year-old.

Top: Bold Ruler, the sire. Middle: Secretariat his son.. Bottom: Somethingroyal, Secretariat's dam.

Top: Bold Ruler, the sire. Middle: Secretariat his son.. Bottom: Something Royal, Secretariat’s dam.

He ran his first race as a two-year-old on July 4, 1972, a 5 1/2-furlong race at Aqueduct in New York City. He came from behind to finish fourth; it was the only time in his career that he finished a race and did not place. Eleven days later, he won a six-furlong race at Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, New York, and soon after, another race. His trainer, Lucien Laurin, moved him up to class in August, entering him in the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, which he won by three lengths. By the end of 1972, he had won seven of nine races.

Trainer Lucien Laurin

Trainer Lucien Laurin

With easy victories in his first two starts of 1973, Secretariat seemed on his way to the Triple Crown. Just two weeks before the Kentucky Derby, however, he stumbled at the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct, coming in third behind Angle Light and Sham. On May 5, he met Sham and Angle Light again at the Churchill Downs track in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. Secretariat, a 3-to-2 favorite, broke from near the back of the pack to win the 2 1/4-mile race in a record 1 minute and 59 seconds. He was the first to run the Derby in less than two minutes and his record still stands.

Secretariat wins the Kentucky Derby 1973

Secretariat wins the Kentucky Derby 1973

(Above: Ron Turcotte with Penny Chenery and Secretariat's trainer, Lucien Laurin, after winning the Kentucky Derby on 6 May 1973.)

(Above: Ron Turcotte with Penny Chenery and Secretariat’s trainer, Lucien Laurin, after winning the Kentucky Derby on 6 May 1973.)

Two weeks later, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, Secretariat won the second event of the Triple Crown: the Preakness Stakes. The official clock malfunctioned, but hand-recorded timers had him running the 1 1/16-mile race in record time.

ecretariat" Preakness Stakes photo #1 1973 signed by jockey "Ron Turcotte"

ecretariat” Preakness Stakes photo #1 1973 signed by jockey “Ron Turcotte”

On June 9, 1973, almost 100,000 people came to Belmont Park near New York City to see if “Big Red” would become the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown. Secretariat gave the finest performance of his career in the Belmont Stakes, completing the 1.5-mile race in a record 2 minutes and 24 seconds, knocking nearly three seconds off the track record set by Gallant Man in 1957. He also won by a record 31 lengths. Ron Turcotte, who jockeyed Secretariat in all but three of his races, claimed that at Belmont he lost control of Secretariat and that the horse sprinted into history on his own accord.

This June 9, 1973 file photo shows Penny Chenery, owner of Secretariat, reacting after her horse won the Belmont Stakes, and the Triple Crown.

This June 9, 1973 file photo shows Penny Chenery, owner of Secretariat, reacting after her horse won the Belmont Stakes, and the Triple Crown.

Secretariat would race six more times, winning four and finishing second twice. In November 1973, the “horse of the century” was retired and put to stud at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. Among his notable offspring is the 1988 Preakness and Belmont winner, Risen Star. Secretariat was euthanized in 1989 after falling ill. An autopsy showed that his heart was two and a half times larger than that of the average horse, which may have contributed to his extraordinary racing abilities. In 1999, ESPN ranked Secretariat No. 35 in its list of the Top 50 North American athletes of the 20th century, the only non-human on the list.

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The link below is the source of the following chart of the 11 Triple Crown winners so far.

Triple Crown Winners of Horse Racing

UPDATE:  On June 6, 2015 at the Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah became the next Triple Crown winner.

Date Horse Jockey Trainer Owner
1919
Sir Barton John Loftus H. G. Bedwell J. K. L. Ross
1930 Gallant Fox Earl Sande James Fitzsimmons Belair Stud
1935 Omaha William Saunders James Fitzsimmons Belair Stud
1937 War Admiral Charley Kurtsinger George Conway Samuel D. Riddle
1941 Whirlaway Eddie Arcaro Ben A. Jones Calumet Farm
1943 Count Fleet John Longden Don Cameron Mrs. J. D. Hertz
1946 Assault Warren Mehrtens Max Hirsch King Ranch
1948 Citation Eddie Arcaro Ben A. Jones Calumet Farm
1973 Secretariat Ron Turcotte Lucien Laurin Meadow Stable
1977 Seattle Slew Jean Cruguet William Turner, Jr. Karen L. Taylor
1978 Affirmed Steve Cauthen Lazaro S. Barrera Harbor View Farm
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7 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    I love horses and was hoping this last horse would win the triple crown but he is still a great horse (or is it a she??) Amazing that the horse had such a large heart but i believe that did help.

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  2. Reblogged this on Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin and commented:
    I began following this blog during the #AtoZ Challenge and it is well worth the time! This amazing post will reach a few more lucky folks as I reblog it. Thanks to Maryann Holloway.

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  3. Honestly Maryann, this post is a great gift. I graduated from the University of Kentucky where I learned to read a racing form and arranged Spring classes so Thursday afternoons were free to go to Keenland Race track for the Spring meet. I have shared your post on my personal Facebook page and have rebloged it on Stephenyhoughtlin.com I hope it brings new followers to you Many thanks for the incredible work you do to create something like this Triple Crown information.

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  4. I watched (on TV) California Chrome win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, and I was really hoping for another triple crown winner. I have to say I was disappointed in the finish. I thought Chrome’s owner’s remarks after the race were interesting and wondered how the race would have gone if it had only included horses that had run in the first two races. Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

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    • I don’t know a lot about horse racing but it does seem to me that since such a big deal is made over the combination of these three races, there should be some rules about what horses can run in them. Thanks for reading.

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