Triple Crown Winners

Click on a Triple Crown winner to read from the historical pages of The Blood-Horse

Sir Barton

1919

Excerpted 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 had 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.

Gallant Fox

1930

Excerpted from the June 14, 1930, issue of The Blood-Horse on Gallant Fox winning the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown.


Gallant Fox, magnificent son of Sir Gallahad III, property of William Woodward, proved his superiority and his rightful claim to championship of the 3-year-olds when, at Belmont Park, June 7, he added the famous Belmont Stakes to his Wood Memorial, Preakness Stakes, and Kentucky Derby victories. Ridden by Earl Sande, who has piloted him in all of his starts this season, Gallant Fox finished the one mile and one-half three lengths in front of H.P. Whitney’s Whichone, his challeger. James Butler’s Questionnaire was third, three lengths back of the Whitney colt and 20 lengths in front of Walter J. Salmon’s Swinfield. The fractional time for the distance was :23 4/5, :37 2/5, :50 1/2, 1:03 3/5, 1:16, 1:28 3/5, 1:41, 1:54, 2:07, 2:31 3/5. The weather was rainy, but the track was considered good. The net value to the winner was $66,040, the greatest amount the event has ever been worth.

Excitement was high as the four were paraded to the post, and, although it was raining, many risked a drenching and crowded along the rail to see the starting. The Woodward colt had first position, Swinfield next, and then Whichone and Questionnaire. There was a false start, for which Gallant Fox was responsible, but Sande had him under entire control and returned him to the post without any trouble.

When the barrier went up Sande at once sent the son of Sir Gallahad III to the front and he led all the way. Questionnaire raced after him and then Swinfield. Workman had Whichone in last place. The Woodward colt had a lead of two lengths before the run to the backstretch had been completed, but he was galloping under restraint. After they turned out of the backstretch Workman made his move on Whichone, and he went along smoothly until he was in contention. Gallant Fox continued to gallop along like a piece of machinery, and when the Whitney colt seemed a possible menace, Sande urged his mount slightly and the colt moved away gamely, until at the end he was three lengths clear and racing along easily.

This was Gallant Fox’s first start since the Kentucky Derby, and marked his fourth consecutive victory this season, included in which are the three oldest of the stakes races for 3-year-olds. Gallant Fox has now achieved what only one other horse, Sir Barton, was ever able to do, that is win the Preakness, Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. The two might be called Triple Event winners. The Woodward colt still has in the immediate future the American Derby (June 14) and the Classic (Arlington Park, July 19) before him to add to his earnings, which now are $198,730.


Afternote: Gallant Fox didn’t run in the American Derby. He won the Classic, then was beaten as the favorite by 100-1 Jim Dandy in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. He won his next three starts and was retired with world-record earnings of $328,165. He sired Woodward’s 1935 Triple Crown winner Omaha from his first crop. Gallant Fox ranks No. 28 on The Blood-Horse’s Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.

Omaha

1935

Excerpted from The Blood-Horse of June 15, 1935, on Omaha winning the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown.


The nearest counterpart to England’s Derby now left in America is the Belmont Stakes (3-year-olds, 1½ miles), endowed for its sixty-seventh running with $25,000.

The 1935 renewal, at Belmont Park, June 8, brought only five starters to the post, so completely had the superiority of Belair Stud’s Omaha been conceded. Walter M. Jeffords’ Firethorn, closest to Omaha in the Preakness, Foxcatcher Farm Stable’s Rosemont, victor over the Belair star in the one-mile Withers Stakes, and Alfred Vanderbilt’s Cold Shoulder, fresh from a workout over the Belmont distance in 2:29 2/5, were the only colts whose owners still retained hopes of downing William Woodward’s fine racer. The remaining starter, Sir Beverley, is a stablemate of Omaha.

The small field gave Starter George Cassidy little trouble, and was away quickly. Willie Saunders, who was beaten on Omaha in his last previous start, profited by the experience and steered for the rail, saving every possible inch around the first turn. Cold Shoulder was indulged with the lead, and soon had opened a sizable gap, with Firethorn in second place. Omaha was next, Rosemont fourth. Sir Beverley, after a half-mile, was simply not in the race. The order was not changed until the field had gone nearly a half-mile. Cold Shoulder had widened his advantage to five lengths, and had not begun to shorten stride.

Those who remembered the Vanderbilt colt’s fine workout began to believe that the Display colt might hold his lead. No such fear affected Saunders on the Gallant Fox colt, or Raymond Workman on Firethorn. Each was watching the other, careless of how far Cold Shoulder stole into the lead. After seven furlongs Rosemont sprinted past both of them, but neither moved to repulse the Foxcatcher colt. Then, with a half-mile to go, Workman asked Firethorn the question, and the Sun Briar colt began moving swiftly forward on the inside. Immediately Saunders swung his bat on Omaha, and the Belair crack lengthened stride. The leaders were picked up without the formality of a challenge, and Firethorn entered the stretch in first place, Omaha at his throat-latch. A determined struggle in the stretch carried the leaders far out from the rest of the field. Fifty yards from the finish Omaha had taken the lead, and he drew out to win with a half-length of daylight showing over Firethorn. Rosemont was third, eight lengths behind the Jeffords colt, a length in front of Cold Shoulder. Fifteen lengths farther back came the winner’s stablemate, Sir Beverley, eased up after being outrun.

Amid hearty cheering, Saunders brought Omaha back to the winner’s circle, the victory being the the most popular of the day. There, despite a driving rain, waited Omaha’s owner, William Woodward, and the New York banker led in, for the second time in his Turf career, a horse which had won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in his colors. The first, in 1930, was Gallant Fox, sire of the present 3-year-old champion, now indisputably at the top of his division. Omaha was the third horse to complete the triple, Sir Barton having accomplished the feat in 1919, and was the first to be sired by a horse which had won the three events.

Omaha’s victory was worth $35,480, and brought his total earnings to $106,930, of which $103,080 has been won this year. In 15 starts he has won five races, finished second five times, third once. He has won four of his six starts at three, finished once second, once third.


Afternote: Omaha met the great handicap star Discovery in the Brooklyn two weeks after the Belmont and finished third behind him. Discovery went on to become Horse of the Year, stamping Omaha as the only Triple Crown winner who failed to earn the highest honors. Omaha raced as a 4-year-old in England, where his supreme effort came in a nose loss in the prestigious Ascot Gold Cup at 2½ miles. Omaha, who was returned to the U.S. to stand at stud, was buried near the entrance to Ak-Sar-Ben near Omaha, Neb. He ranks No. 61 on The Blood-Horse’s Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.

War Admiral

1937

Excerpted from from The Blood-Horse of June 12, 1937, on War Admiral winning the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown.


In 1879, at Jerome Park, James R. Keene’s Spendthrift won the Belmont Stakes. He was the third son of Australian to win this test, Joe Daniels having been successful in 1872, Springbok in 1873. A grandson, Algerine, had won it in 1876.

Almost 20 years later in 1896, Spendthrift’s son, Hastings, won the Belmont, which had been moved to Morris Park. In 1900 the race fell to Ildrim, by Kingston, son of Spendthrift; in 1902 to Masterman, by Hastings. In 1908, a few years after the removal of the race to Belmont Park, Hastings’ great son, Fair Play, went out in quest of a third generation victory, but was beaten a head by Colin, the great James R. Keene racer, which never had his colors lowered.

In 1920 Fair Play’s son, Man o’ War, took the Belmont, in record time of 2:14 1/5, over what was then a 1 3/8-mile route. Fair Play also sent out the 1924 winner in Mad Play, and another son, Chance Shot, won in 1927. Chance Shot sired the 1934 winner, Peace Chance. Another grandson of Fair Play, Faireno, won in 1932. But the best record in the classic, now at 1½ miles, is held by the sons of Man o’ War, Crusader in 1926, American Flag in 1927, won the Belmont Stakes, and on June 5, in one of the best performances on the American Turf in many years, Glen Riddle Farm’s War Admiral added a third victory to Man o’ War’s record.

In the five generations of the family which have contested the Belmont Stakes, War Admiral turned in perhaps the most impressive performance. Running in front from the first few strides, War Admiral carried 126 pounds for 1½ miles faster than any American horse had ever done. Handy Mandy, at Latonia in 1927, had set the record of 2:28 3/5, equaled by War Admiral, but with only 109 pounds in the saddle. Man o’ War, whose track record at Belmont Park had stood until War Admiral clipped one-fifth of a second from it, had but 118 pounds up when he set his record.

At the outset, the fortunes of racing broke against the Riddle colt. Starting from the outside, War Admiral left the gate with his customary speed. Perhaps a trifle off balance as he was hustled forward, he grabbed himself, cut deeply into his right fore quarter. He stumbled, and for a breathless second Jockey Charley Kurtsinger thought his mount was going down. Before he had time to think further, War Admiral had recovered and was in front. J. H. Whitney’s Flying Scot took up what must now be considered the fruitless task of chasing the Man o’ War colt, with Maxwell Howard’s Sceneshifter lapped on him …

For six furlongs Flying Scot raced some three lengths behind the leader. Then Jockey Johnny Gilbert placed him under pressure, saw War Admiral increase his margin to four lengths … The little brown colt came to the finish line three lengths in front, with speed in reserve. Like his great sire, he won unextended … Time, :24, :48, 1:12 1/5, 1:37 1/5, 1:49 4/5, 2:02 1/5, 2:15 2/5, 2:28 3/5 (new track record, equals American record), track fast. Stakes division, $38,020, $5,000, $2,500, $1,000.

War Admiral came back with blood tricking from his injury, and Trainer George Conway found that he had spattered himself with blood as he raced. He cooled out very lame, but on the following day was able to put a little weight on the injured leg. Trainer Conway said, “I don’t see how he can be brought back to the races before fall, and even that is doubtful … Time will prove the best healer, though we have to look out for infection, made doubly dangerous by the fact he race the entire distance with the open wound … He’s eligible for three stakes at Saratoga, including the Travers and Saratoga Cup, but it’ll take a miracle for him to be in condition. It’s a better guess to say he’ll race in September at Belmont, if at all … He’s probably not as great as his daddy, but a better horse than Crusader.” The 3-year-old champion horse, investigation disclosed, had cut away a section of the wall of his hoof, apparently going off balance when the ground broke from beneath him at the start.

War Admiral had now spread-eagled five fields this season, at six furlongs, a mile and 70 yards, mile and a quarter, mile and three-sixteenths, mile and a half. He has been in front at every post. In his two seasons he has started 11 times, won eight races, finished second twice, third once, and has earned $159,420. His 1937 earnings, $144,620, make him leading money winner of the year, are likely to keep him in that position even if he does not race again. He is thirtieth among American money-winners of all time, immediately behind Rosemont.


Afternote: War Admiral didn’t make it back to the races until late October. and one of his autumn victories came in the inaugural Pimlico Special. War Admiral made the 1940 Saratoga meeting, winning all four of his starts, all stakes. That fall, he tried to make it two straight in the Pimlico Special, but was beaten by Man o’ War's grandson, Seabiscuit. War Admiral was retired the following season with 21 wins from 26 starts and earnings of $273,240. He became a successful sire, getting 40 stakes winners, but his name remains alive today in pedigrees because of his success as a broodmare sire. War Admiral ranks No 13 on The Blood-Horse Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.

Whirlaway

1941

Excerpted from The Blood-Horse of Issue of June 14, 1941, on Whirlaway winning the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown.


In a manner of speaking, Whirlaway won the Belmont Stakes on successive Saturdays in May, for his decisive triumphs in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes left owners of other contenders with little hope for the Belmont. When Whirlaway charged in the earlier races nothing had proved able to go with him, and in the stretch at Churchill Downs and Pimlico it was a clear case of “the farther it went, the worse it got.” So from the leading 3-year-olds only J.F. Byers’ Robert Morris came out for the Belmont Stakes, and the other starters were C. V. Whitney’s Yankee Chance and King Ranch’s Itabo, the latter unbeaten in three previous starts, all at short distances and against no such opposition as he met in the Belmont.

Itabo, a son of the Derby-Preakness winner Bold Venture and the high-class Snowflake, went to the front, but at a fairly slow pace, and Robert Morris, Whirlaway, and Yankee Chance followed as named, all under restraint. Possibly there was some faint hope that a slow enough pace might work to Whirlaway’s disadvantage, but Jockey Eddie Arcaro easily saw through this strategy. After a half-mile, he reported afterwards, he turned to Jockey Robertson on Robert Morris and Jockey James on Yankee Chance, and said, “The hell with this, fellas, I’m leaving.” He left forthwith, giving the chestnut colt his head, and after the next quarter-mile Whirlaway was seven lengths in front. There Arcaro took him in hand again, rated him along steadily, while Robert Morris passed the failing Itabo and took up a discouraging chase.

On the last turn Whirlaway came out from the rail a little but was quickly straightened, and he finished with speed in reserve, two and a half lengths ahead of Robert Morris, which closed gamely. Yankee Chance moved up slightly in the stretch and finished third, five lengths behind Robert Morris, five lengths ahead of Itabo. Each starter carried 126 pounds. Time, :25 2/5, :49 4/5, 1:13 4/5, 1:39 1/5, 2:05, 2:31, track fast. Stakes division, $39,770, $5,000, $2,500, $1,000.

The ease of Whirlaway’s victory was perhaps reflected more clearly by the time than his margin of success. He was nearly three seconds away from the track record which Sorteado set in 1939, a factor explained by the fact that he beat his field in the third quarter-mile and had little to do thereafter. He met the smallest field since Sun Meadow and Jamestown disputed the issue with Twenty Grand in 1931, and if his victory was not particularly impressive, it was obviously because his opposition could not extend him.


Owner Warren Wright did not see Whirlaway complete his triple crown victory, being at Denver, Colo., with Mrs. Wright, to see their son, Warren Jr., graduated from Denver University. He listened to the broadcast of the race with considerable confidence, told Denver reporters that Ben Jones deserved the credit for making a great consistent racer out of a temperamental, willful 2-year-old. Someone asked what system had been employed with Whirlaway, and Owner Wright answered: “One doesn’t employ a system in raising an unusual child. One studies the child, watches nervous reactions, follows awakening interests, or, in other words, carefully bends the twig.”

Meanwhile the twig faced a busy summer. He is engaged for the Dwyer and Shevlin Stakes at Aqueduct, the Arlington Classic and American Derby, the Travers at Saratoga, the Lawrence Realization and Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. Trainer Ben Jones apparently plans to accept as many of these engagements as the condition of the horse warrants, and should Whirlaway win these, approximately $140,000 in first monies would be added to his total, placing him in striking distance of Seabiscuit’s money-winning record. He has also been nominated for the Hollywood Derby and Hollywood Gold Cup. No announcement has been made from the Calumet Stable, but it has been hazarded that Whirlaway may be sent after the Santa Anita Handicap next winter.


Afternote: Whirlaway won the Dwyer, Travers, American Derby, and Lawrence Realization, ran second in the Arlington Classic and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and didn’t run in the Shevlin and the three California races. He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup over Alsab, Bolingbroke, and The Rhymer the following year, plus five stakes under 130 pounds and the Pimlico Special in a walkover. Whirlaway was the first horse to earn more than $500,000, and he concluded his racing days with 32 wins (22 in stakes) from 60 starts and earnings of $561,161. He started at stud at Calumet near Lexington, but was sent to France, where he died in 1953. Whirlaway ranks No. 26 on The Blood-Horse’s Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.

Count Fleet

1943

Excerpted from The Blood-Horse of Issue of June 12, 1943, on Count Fleet winning the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown.


Small fields are not new in the history of the Belmont Stakes, and the result of the seventy-fifth running ($25,000 added, 3-year-old colts and fillies, 1½ miles) on June 5 was no more of a foregone conclusion than the renewel of 1920, when Man o’ War was 1 to 20 to beat Donnacona, not much more than that of 1910 when only Duke of Ormonde contested Sweep’s victory, or those of 1887 and 1888, when Hanover and Sir Dixon were the respective winners. But all of those races were run before the pari-mutuels. It is the judgment of the New York legislators that no horse can be worse than 1 to 20, and this price is the legal minimum. Since 5 per cent on one’s capital in approximately 2½ minutes appeals to one class of horseplayers, the Belmont Stakes of 1943 was not only a virtual walkover, it was worse: the track had a minus pool which cost $15,912.

Mrs. John D., Hertz’s Count Fleet, of course, was the cause of the difficulty. The trainers of the 3-year-olds which chased him in the early season races have apparently seen the futility of it, and against him were arrayed Foxcatcher Farm’s Fairy Manhurst, winner of a maiden race and a Class C allowance race, and Beverley Bogert’s Deseronto, with only a maiden race to his credit. Each of the three had 126 pounds.

From the start, the race was only a question of whether Count Fleet would beat War Admiral’s record in the race, or Bolingbroke’s track record. He beat the one, missed the other. He took the lead out of the gate, picked up eight lengths in the first half-mile, built it to 20 in 10 furlongs and galloped down the stretch to win by 25. Fairy Manhurst, second all the way, had to be driven hard to beat Deseronto three-fourths of a length. This passed more or less unnoticed, while race-goers were waiting for the official time. It was 2:28 1/5, which was two-fifths of a second faster than War Admiral’s record for the race (in Man o’ War’s day the race was at 1 3/8 miles), and four-fifths of a second slower than Bolingbroke’s track record. The fractions were :23 3/5, :48, 1:12 3/5, 1:37 4/5, 2:03 3/5, 2:28 1/5, track fast. Stakes division, $35,340, $5,000, $2,500.

Count Fleet has materially improved on the record of his sire though it must be recorded that Reigh Count, after winning the Kentucky Derby, was out of action until Saratoga because of a cut suffered in a preparatory race. He is the sixth winner of the American triple crown, and he and Sir Barton are the only horses to add the Withers to the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. He has started 21 times, won 16 races, finished second four times, third once, and has earned $250,300. The victory moved him from twenty-second place among American money winners to eighteenth place, just behind Exterminator, just ahead of Man o’ War. His record this year is six straight wins and $174,055 in earnings.

It was reported shortly after the race that Count Fleet had struck himself during the early running, and his left fore ankle was immediately X-rayed for possible serious injury, though the colt was walking soundly. The examination indicated that a slight wrench was all Count Fleet had suffered, and it seemed that all effects would be gone in a few day. The ankle filled slightly, soon subsided.


Afternote: Count Fleet didn’t run the remainder of 1943 and attempts to return him to racing the following year were unsuccessful. He entered stud in 1945 at John Hertz’ Stoner Creek Stud near Paris, Ky. Eight years after his Triple Crown, a son, Count Turf, won the Run for the Roses to complete a male-line Derby triple. Another son, Counterpoint, took that year’s Belmont, and another son, One Count, won the race the next year. Count Fleet, who lived to the ripe old age of 33, ranks No. 5 on The Blood-Horse’s Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.

Assault

1946

Excerpted from The Blood-Horse issue of June 8, 1946, on Assault winning the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown.


When King Ranch’s Assault made a tentative bid for a grand slam of the 3-year-old classics by winning the six-furlong Experimental Handicap at Jamaica on April 9, his first start of the year, scarcely anyone was looking. Most observers were studying the Maine Chance Farm challengers, which they continued to do in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, both of which fell to Assault. And in the Belmont Stakes, last leg of the Triple Crown, the Texas colt wasn’t taken wholly seriously, for he went to the post $1.40 to $1, against $1.35 to $1 for Lord Boswell, the Maine Chance hope. He hadn’t yet convinced the skeptics.

But that was when there was a mile and a half to go, which in a horse race is room for reasonable doubt. From the eighth-pole home, however, the issue was settled beyond dispute and at the wire Assault was first, three lengths in front of Natchez, and 5½ lengths before the Maine Chance colt, which finished fifth.

At the start of the race Assault stumbled but recovered immediately, was dropped alongside Lord Boswell, behind Hampden, which took his usual position in front afer Cable had held a brief lead, and Natchez and War Watch. Along the back side Hampden stretched his lead to two lengths, Natchez had moved to second, War Watch was third, Assault was a head before Lord Boswell.

On the far turn Mehrtens let Assault move to third, as Hampden held his lead and Natchez bore out. At a time when Lord Boswell might have been supposed to move up, Cable passed him and began to pull away. As the horse turned into the stretch, Assault was taken to the outside and began his drive, putting Hampden and Natchez away. The latter had taken the lead when Hampden flagged in the straightaway. The Foxcatcher horse also was passed by Cable, which ran a steady race and got up to beat Hampden by a head for third.

Natchez possibly forced the pace for the benefit of Mahout, his stablemate which had closed like the wind in the Peter Pan Handicap, beating Lord Boswell, Cable, and War Watch, among the Belmont field. Mahout had no sprint left for the stretch run, this time, and Conn McCreary persevered with Natchez to save second money. Neither did Lord Boswell have the finish kick he had exhibited in the Blue Grass Stakes and the Preakness.


Assault’s series of victories this year represent the first Triple Crown for the King Ranch, for Texas, for Jockey Warren Mehrtens, and for Trainer Max Hirsch. The veteran trainer had, however, saddled Bold Venture, sire of Assault, for wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and sent Vito out to win the Belmont in 1928 for A. H. Cosden.

Robert J. Kleberg, Jr., of the King Ranch, received the August Belmont Memorial Cup from Admiral Marc A. Mitscher (another Texan) with a practiced hand. In accepting the trophy, Mr. Kleberg said: “We’re deeply happy and we feel others will agree with us now that Assault is a great horse. I want particularly to compliment Max Hirsch (also a Texan) on a great training job.” Mehrtens, a beaming participant in the ceremony, analyzed the race: “The only time I was worried was coming out of the gate, when Assault stumbled. He recovered at once and we were never in difficulty again. I had more confidence this time than in either the Derby and Preakness, but I still can’t believe we’ve won the Triple Crown.”


The crowd of 43,599 spectators had arrived at Belmont Park clad for spring weather and the temperature suddenly dropped 20 degrees within the space of half an hour. But there was no lack of enthusiasm, and the bettors poured in $147,409 on Lord Boswell and $146,587 on Assault.

Beside the six-furlong Experimental, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes, Assault this year has won the Wood Memorial. His only defeat came in the Derby Trial, in which he was fourth. In 15 starts, he has won seven races, finished second twice, and third once, earned $316,270. He now is in twelfth on the list of leading American money winners.


Afternote: Assault took the Dwyer in his next start, then lost six straight. He ended the year with wins in the Pimlico Special over Stymie and the Westchester Handicap, and extended his win streak to seven by winning five consecutive stakes to start the 1947 season. Assault and Stymie battled each other several times that year, including once in a celebrated match race in which the older Stymie prevailed. Assault’s racing career ended in 1950 with a record of 18 wins from 42 starts and earnings of $675,470, pretty good for a horse with a deformed hoof caused by an injury as a weanling. He proved infertile at stud and never sired a registered offspring. Assault ranks No. 33 on The Blood-Horse’s Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.

Citation

1948

Excerpt from Joe Palmer’s Sidelights column in The Blood-Horse issue of June 19, 1948, on Citation winning the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown.


Citation was passing the half-mile pole, three lengths ahead. Behind him Arnold Kirkland swung Escadru to full stride, and around the turn the margin shortened. Three furlongs away it was a scant two lengths, and the whole lone searching Belmont stretch lay ahead. It looked long to me; maybe it looked interminable to Citation. No Bull Lea had ever managed a top twelve furlongs, and I thought, with an odd constriction, that quite possibly Citation’s banner was coming down.

And this was an unusual thing. I have no particular preference between Warren Wright and W. L. Brann, nor between Jimmy Jones and Ed Christmas, being on friendly terms with all four. In another race I would have been reasonably impartial.

But this wasn’t another race. It was Citation, which I had watched grow in stature for almost a year, now, with the slowly crystallizing hope that here, at long last, was the horse we’d been looking for since a great golden chestnut roared to a stop at Kenilworth Park back in 1920.

He had come to the Belmont with undiminished brilliance, because those minors affairs behind Saggy and Bewitch had no more real significance than Upset’s Sanford Stakes. Class and speed he had shown in abundance, the test of stamina was at its straining utmost, there on the turn. And Citation was yielding ground, with more than a quarter-mile to go.

I knew that he might stagger in. But if Citation was the horse I thought he was, that wouldn’t have been enough. A gasping, barely-win victory would have been almost as bad as a defeat, and I would have been sorry for either, and I would have written a bad story, and afterward I would have behaved illogically.

I could not see Arcaro move. But with some slight dropping of the hands, he released the swelling energy of the great racer beneath him. Citation opened away. He was three-sixteenths away but he was home. The Belmont crowd began to roar, before he hit the furlong-pole. This observer dropped his glasses, climbed over assorted cameramen, and went downstairs to get into the champagne.

Secretariat

1973

Excerpted from Kent Hollingsworth’s “What’s Going On Here” column in The Blood-Horse issue of June 18, 1973, on Secretariat winning the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown.


This one we saw. Seeing is believing, but Secretariat’s Belmont challenged credulity. He ran so far beyond known reference points, he left us with no measurable comparison. We saw it, believed it; we are having trouble, however, comprehending the preternatural.

Yet it was not a horse race, really, for Secretariat already had established his superiority over current rivals. He was racing against memories held of great horses in other years, a vague field against which no contemporary horse even so much had placed since Citation.

It was a contest between a horse and apprehension. Tim Tam, too, had dominated his rivals, but was struck down by injury. Carry Back had only the distance to beat, but failed. Pace had thwarted many champions.

So when Secretariat broke with the early-speed horses, not last as he had in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, apprehension took the lead. And when (jockey Ron) Turcotte let him run easily to the first turn on the front end, we became alarmed. You Can’t Win A Belmont With A Quarter in :23 3/5! We shouted to him.

He went on, anyway, with Sham right there. Sham taking the lead by a half-length on the turn. Let Him Have It! Drop Back And Take A Breather!

Good Lord, they’ve gone the first half in :46 1/5. Nobody can last a mile and a half at that pace! What’s the matter with that jock! YOU’RE BLOWING IT! Pincay’s taking back. Oh no; I think Secretariat’s Bolted! 

Look at that Time! He’s gone three-quarters in 1:09 4/5! Well, it’s over. No horse can do that. Gimme a rifle — I’ll get that jock.

Secretariat looks like he’s still going, though. He drawing off. Why he must be 10 lengths out there! Could be 15 lengths. He’s got a bigger lead now than Graustark had in the Blue Grass. Oh, look at that mile time, 1:34 1/5. It is impossible for him to do that and stay.

He does seem to be rolling along there pretty easily, though; don’t you think he’s going easy? He must be 25 lengths on top. I don’t believe he can lose that kind of lead, can he? EASE UP ON HIM TURCOTTE!

He’s moving out. He’s moving out on the turn! … I believe he’s gonna do it! He IS gonna do it!

Come On With THAT HORSE TURCOTTE. DAMMIT COME ON WITH HIM, COMEONWITHIM! LOOKA THAT DUDE RUN WILLYA! GO. WITH. HIM! GO WITH HIM! GOWITHIM!

Two twenty-four flat! I don’t believe it. Impossible. But I saw it. I can’t breathe. He won by a sixteenth of a mile! I saw it. I have to believe it.

To see that which never before has been seen is an emotional experience. And we figure to be quite snobbish about having seen it. So when old racing men begin to reminisce of Buckpasser’s Suburban, Kelso’s International, the Ridan-Jaipur Travers, Swaps’ Sunset, Tom Fool, Native Dancer, Citation, Count Fleet, Alsab against Whirlaway, War Admiral and Seabiscuit, Equipoise: Gentlemen, we will say, let me now tell you about a nonpareil, a genuine race horse I saw win the Belmont by a sixteenth of mile without working up a lather.

Seattle Slew

1977

Excerpted from the June 20, 1977, issue of The Blood-Horse on Seattle Slew winning the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown.


Seattle Slew is about out of answers, but only because racing is about out of questions. Speed? — Plenty, whenever needed. Stamina? — Name the distance and he’ll run it. Heart? — See For The Moment and Cormorant. Class? — Absolutely.

One blank left unfilled on the report is that beside History. This is up to outsiders. Where does he fit in the annals of the Turf. Seattle Slew is not concerned personally, here, all he does is run. It is a free choice to those who watch him and hear of him to decide whether he is at or near the top of his kind.

Comparison of horses of different years is universally said to be impossible, and it is universally engaged in — with relish. All foals are born amid hope of success, a dream of glory, but not even the horse breeder — perhaps the most optimistic of human forms — has ever had any solid ground for looking at a new foal and musing: “Looks like the one for the Triple Crown. Probably go undefeated.”

Until last week, there never had been such a horse, never a winner of the American classics — the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), Preakness (gr. I), the Belmont (gr. I) — that never had tasted defeat. There was much precedent for winning the Triple Crown, nine examples of the ultimate for a 3-year-old, but there was no precedent for an unbeaten Triple Crown winner.


On Belmont Day, the last morning of the argosy of the trilogy, trainer Billy Turner noticed something different about Seattle Slew. For many months he had seen him daily, for hours, watched him in the morning, touched him, studied him. Now, he saw something slightly different, and it pleased him.

“His eyes were not with us. He looked different, I told Mike Kennedy (exercise rider), ‘I've never seen him so determined.’ ”

Seattle Slew was to gallop around the huge 1½-mile Belmont track which has been his headquarters for most of the year, but Kennedy pulled him up after only a half-mile.

“He was afraid he could not hold him,” Turner said. “I had warned the outriders, too. This horse might have gone around two or three times.”

Safely returned to Turner’s barn, Seattle Slew was bathed and then walked around a ring nearby, still the darling of photographers and television crews. Watching were some of his people, “the troops,” they call themselves. (Mickey and Karen Taylor own the horse in partnership with Dr. Jim Hill and his wife, Sally, and all have been close to the colt virtually every day since his 3-year-old campaign began in Florida.)

Were they glad it was about over?

“We will be if it has a happy ending,” Mickey Taylor said, but Billy Turner, often one to joke, said, “Oh, no. I wish there was one more race, actually.” Then he wandered off to talk with jockey Jean Cruguet.


Slew’s handlers are ardent admirers of the colt, but they realize that no horse can go through a fall, winter, and spring without a loss and not be lucky. It does not necessarily take good luck, but it certainly requires an absence of bad luck.

“You can make your own luck to a degree,” said Hill. “I immunized him for everything I could think of, and we worm him regularly, but still, this entire year has been like a dream. It just seems that everything has gone right, and if it continues to go right for a few more hours we’ll be the happiest people you ever want to see.”


The futility of the chance was not completely apparent until more than a mile had been run. Spirit Level and Run Dusty Run had moved abreast of the leader (Seattle Slew), as Cruguet sat still. Everything in control, but no horse can be absolutely certain of getting 12 furlongs until he really does it, so there was some question left of the outcome when Sanhedrin made a quick spurt into second and Run Dusty Run continued to stay in tough.

Nearly the quarter-mile pole, Seattle Slew burst away, losing touch in perhaps six strides, and he had a daylight margin while straightening for the final three-sixteenths of a mile. Through the stretch, Cruguet hit him lightly a couple of times, but it was a needless gesture. Run Dusty Run, gritty colt that he is, came back on the inside and passed Sanhedrin again to be second, assuring that the order of the first three was the same as in the Kentucky Derby.


Cruguet also for a moment was an overly exuberant one, for he stood up, prior to the finish, and waved his whip, just the sort of thing to make a trainer’s heart leap to his adam’s apple.

The vision of his rider tumbling to the turf a few feet from the finish may crop up now and again in a Billy Turner nightmare. But it did not happen on Belmont Day. Cruguet stayed aboard, and Seattle Slew glided under the wire, America’s 10th Triple Crown winner. The margin was four lengths and could have been greater. The time was 2:29 3/5 and could have been swifter.

Affirmed

1978

Excerpted from the June 19, 1978, issue of The Blood-Horse on Affirmed winning the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown.


If you care anything about horse racing, you must have seen the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) unless something else happened that was very important. If you saw it on television, then you know that it was a great race — maybe the greatest you have seen or ever will see — and you know about the coolness of the riders and the courage of the horses. You know that Alydar went at it the only way he could, since he had been beaten using his own style. He went to the throat of Affirmed early, a mile or so from the finish, and he fought on Affirmed’s ground, at Affirmed’s game.

Alydar could not risk it with a stretch run, a late kick that has run by every other horse he has met and on occasion even got him by Affirmed. He could not risk that again, because in the Preakness (gr. I) and other races he had gotten to terms and had not been able to make it to the front.

If you saw it on television, you know that Alydar did everything he could, and you know that Affirmed stood up to him again, fought back when Alydar caught and passed him, and ran on desperately and won by a head. If you watched on television, you know all about the Belmont.

What you missed is hard to measure, but you would have liked it better if you could have been there.

There is no way to generalize about how 65,000 people react — some might have been bitter that they lost money, others only anxious to cash, some might have been disgusted at the length of the betting lines and food lines, and some simply might have missed watching the race. There is no way to describe 65,000 people as if they were one, but there were a lot of them there who knew it was better to be at Belmont Park than to be anywhere else June 10.

There was a reaching out to those horses, albeit one way, that could not exit across the air waves.


We sat in a section of the crowd where those around us were not directly involved with the Turf, not owners or trainers or jockeys’ wives or officials. Around us grew unabashed sound, enormous sound, at once high but low, shrill but growling. Once Affirmed and Alydar were locked in the stretch, the sound was locked in, too, and around us after the race there were looks of amazement. Many appeared to have had no particular choice in the race, simply had been overwhelmed by the beauty of the struggle, and afterward they cheered Alydar almost as loudly as they cheered Affirmed. There was a winner and a loser, but the brilliance of each made a hero of the other.

If you saw it on television, you know all about the Belmont, but you missed hearing hardened New York race fans on the MTA Belmont Special. You missed the black lady in the green scarf and the plump, middle-aged white man in the yellow pullover, taking about two horses, calling them by their names and never “the two horse and the three horse,” remarking over and over how great they both were, and never putting the knock on the jock who happened not to be on the winner.

What you missed is hard to measure, but you would have liked it better if you could have been there.

Near Misses

So Close…

The 2014 chase for the Triple Crown proved once again how challenging sweeping this series can be and why it is the most sought-after trophy in sports. California Chrome is now the 12th trophy contender to find disappointment at Belmont Park. Read about the others who have tried since Affirmed took the Triple Crown in 1978 and come so painstakingly close in BloodHorse.com’s longform “Waiting, and Waiting, for Crowning Glory.”

Year Derby/Preakness winner Belmont Finish Belmont winner
2014 California Chrome 4th Tonalist
2012 I’ll Have Another Did Not Start Union Rags
2008 Big Brown Did Not Finish Da’ Tara
2004 Smarty Jones 2nd Birdstone
2003 Funny Cide 3rd Empire Maker
2002 War Emblem 8th Sarava
1999 Charismatic 3rd Lemon Drop Kid
1998 Real Quiet 2nd Victory Gallop
1997 Silver Charm 2nd Touch Gold
1989 Sunday Silence 2nd Easy Goer
1987 Alysheba 4th Bet Twice
1981 Pleasant Colony 3rd Summing
1979 Spectacular Bid 3rd Coastal
1971 Canonero II 4th Pass Catcher
1969 Majestic Prince 2nd Arts and Letters
1968 Forward Pass 2nd Stage Door Johnny
1966 Kauai King 4th Amberoid
1964 Northern Dancer 3rd Quadrangle
1961 Carry Back 7th Sherluck
1958 Tim Tam 2nd Cavan
1944 Pensive 2nd Bounding Home
1936 Bold Venture Did Not Start Granville
1932 Burgoo King Did Not Start Faireno