Triple Crown Heroes: Sir Barton

Triple Crown Heroes: Sir Barton
Photo: Blood-Horse Publications
Sir Barton, after winning the 1919 Kentucky Derby, on his way to racing's first Triple Crown.

Editor's Note: Sir Barton was the first of the 11 Triple Crown winners, although the series was not defined as such until the 1930s. When Sir Barton won the three races, the Preakness Stakes was run at 1 1/8 miles, the Belmont at 1 3/8 miles, and the Kentucky Derby at its present distance of 1 1/4 miles. By the time Gallant Fox became the second Triple Crown winner, 11 years later in 1930, the distance of both the Preakness and Belmont had been changed to its present day 1 3/16 miles and 1 1/2 miles, respectively.

Following is an excerpt from "The Great Ones," written by Kent Hollingsworth and published by The Blood-Horse in 1970, on Sir Barton's Triple Crown:

 

 

The Derby was generally thought to lie between Eternal and Billy Kelly, which had finished in that order in a match the previous fall. Earl Sande chose to ride Billy Kelly, leaving Sir Barton to John Loftus. Through driving rain, Sir Barton led all the way, supposedly as Billy Kelly's pacemaker. Billy Kelly could close the gap only to a half-length at the stretch call, then fell back to lose by five lengths. Eternal, which hated the going, was last of 10.

There might have appeared to be some fluke aspects to Sir Barton's triumph, including the fact that under the conditions of the race in 1919 he was receiving some seven pounds from Billy Kelly and 10 from Eternal, but trainer Guy Bedwell ha enough confidence in Sir Barton afterward that he did not run Billy Kelly with him in the Preakness.

The Derby was on May 10, and at the middle of the next week Sir Baron and Eternal were running at Pimlico in the Preakness Stakes. The track was fast and the pair carried even weight of 126 pounds, but Sir Barton was the betting choice.

Again streaking into the lead early, he put away King Plaudit after a half-mile. Eternal moved to second, but his challenge was repelled easily. Sir Barton led by six lengths in the upper stretch before Loftus allowed Eternal to close again to within four lengths at the finish...

For the 1 3/8-mile Belmont Stakes on June 11, Sir Barton had only two rivals, the W. R. Coe entry of Sweep On and Natural Bridge. He was an overwhelming favorite and won easily. Loftus allowed Natural Bridge to take a three-length lead after a half-mile, but moved Sir Barton to the front, easily turned back a meek bid by the other Coe runner, and drew off to win by five lengths, his time of 2:17 2/5 setting a new American record.

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