March 5, 2010

In all of horse racing, only three races matter: Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. They make up racing's Triple Crown. Eleven thoroughbred horses have won the Triple Crown. In reverse order, those horses are Affirmed 1978, Seattle Slew 1977, Secretariat 1973, Citation 1948, Assault 1946, Count Fleet 1943, Whirlaway 1941, War Admiral 1937, Omaha 1935, Gallant Fox 1930 and Sir Barton 1919. There were three Triple Crown Winners in the 1970s, four in the 1940s and three in the 1930s. A horse is a horse. Even though I have their pictures on my site, I could put any name on any horse and would not know the difference. All thoroughbreds descended from three Arab stallions brought to England over 300 years ago. Thoroughbreds can run 40 miles an hour.

1978 AFFIRMED - Affirmed cannot be mentioned without Alydar. Theirs was the greatest rivalry in racing history. They met 10 times. Affirmed won 7. It was always close. Affirmed beat Alydar by 1-1/2 lengths in the Kentucky Derby and by a neck in the Preakness. In the Belmont, the rivals ran side by side through the stretch. At the wire, it was Affirmed by a head. I was at Churchill Downs when Affirmed won the Derby, having driven up from Tennessee. I knew nothing about the two horses. Someone told be to bet Alydar because he came from Calumet Farm. I lost $280 that day, hard earned money. It would be 15 years before I returned to the track and when I did, it was with my father and son. I let Michael bet $2 a race for 4 races to show him that no one beats the horses. Affirmed was the first $2 million winner. Alydar did better at stud and got the last laugh.

1977 SEATTLE SLEW - I was living in Tennessee where there is no horse racing. Still, I knew Seattle Slew was strong. He went off 1-to-2 in the Derby. He was Horse of the Year. He raced as a 4-year-old and beat Affirmed twice.

1973 SECRETARIAT - Secretariat was a superhorse, one of the three greatest with Man o' War and Citation. I was at Churchill Downs when Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby. I bet $75 on him to show. I was cautious after being burned by horses. I do not trust them. Secretariat was owned by Penny Tweedy. Ron Turcott was his jockey. Secretariat set a record for the Derby, running the 1 1/4 miles in 1:59-2/5, the only horse to run it in under two minutes. It was in the Belmont that he attained immortality. He won by 31 lengths, destroying Sham. Secretariat set a record for the Belmont, running 1 1/2 miles in 2:24. He was explosive. He might have beaten Man o' War. Both ran 21 races. Man o' War won 20 to Secretariat's 16. Secretariat was the darling of Baby Boomers. That Onion beat him proved no horse is infallible. Turcott later fell from a horse and was paralyzed.

1948 CITATION - Citation was Calumet Farm's second Triple Crown winner. He won 32 of 45 races and became horse racing's first millionaire. He is one of the three greatest horses and the last Triple Crown winner for 25 years. Eddie Arcaro was the jockey.

1946 ASSAULT - Assault's right front hoof was malformed after he stepped on a stake as a foal. He was sterile and raced until he was 7.

1943 COUNT FLEET - Count Fleet won 16 of 21. An ankle injury ended his career after the Belmont.

1941 WHIRLAWAY - Whirlaway was owned by Calumet Farm and was the first of Calumet's two Triple Crown winners. Whirlaway was ridden by Eddie Arcaro. He became the third Triple Crown winner to lose a match race, losing to Alsab by a nose.

1937 WAR ADMIRAL - War Admiral won 21 of 26 races. Like Sir Barton, he lost a match race to a more popular horse. Seabiscuit beat him. Samuel Riddle ran War Admiral in the Kentucky Derby to avoid repeating the mistake he made with Man o' War.

1935 OMAHA - Son of Gallant Fox.

1930 GALLANT FOX - Gallant Fox was the second Triple Crown winner. He sired the third Triple Crown winner, Omaha.

1919 SIR BARTON - Sir Barton was the first Triple Crown winner. This was before the races were called the Triple Crown. Man o' War beat Sir Barton by 7 lengths in a match race. In 1920, Man o' War won the Preakness and the Belmont. He did not run in the Kentucky Derby because his owner, Samuel Riddle, thought Churchill Downs was too far west. Man o' War won 20 of 21 races. He was beaten by a horse called Upset. He beat Upset 6 times. Man o' War had a voracious appetite and was very popular. He once went off at 1-100. He did well at stud. War Admiral was one of his progeny. Man o' War lived to be 30. He is the greatest thoroughbred even though he did not win the Triple Crown.

Three-year-old classics:
1 KENTUCKY DERBY - 1 1/4 mile
The Kentucky Derby is run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the first Saturday in May. Churchill Downs opened in 1875 and was named after the brothers who owned the land. The Twin Spires became its symbol. The Derby is called the Run for the Roses.

Michael and I went to the 2005 Kentucky Derby. Long shot Giacomo won. We bet George Steinbrenner's horse, Bellamy Road. We were in the infield. Michael did not care for the mob and wants to sit in the stands next time. We will buy tickets off ebay.

2 PREAKNESS - 1 3/16 mile
The Preakness is run at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Black-Eyed Susans are the flowers.

3 BELMONT - 1 1/2 mile.
The Belmont is run at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, located on Long Island. Belmont at Elmont! White carnations are the flowers.

Kentucky Derby site
Churchill Downs