Skip to Content

What Horses Won the Triple Crown? Meet 13 Great Champions

Any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase. Thanks in advance – I really appreciate it!

 

Triple Crown winners are members of an elite club. It requires a horse to win three races at various distances against the world’s best competition over a grueling schedule. So what does it take to be a triple crown winner, and what horses succeeded?

NameYearSexColorRecord
Sir Barton1919StallionChestnut31: 13–6–5
Gallant Fox1930StallionBay17: 11-3-2
Omaha1935 StallionChestnut22-9-7-2
War Admiral1937StallionBrown/Bay26: 21-3-1
Whirlaway1941StallionChestnut60: 32-15-9
Count Fleet1943StallionBay21: 16-4-1
Assault1946StallionChestnut42: 18-6-7
Citation1948StallionBay45: 32–10–2
Secretariat1973StallionChestnut21: 16–3–1
Seattle Slew1977StallionBay17: 14–2–0
Affirmed1978StallionChestnut29: 22–5–1
American Pharoah2015StallionBay11: 9–1–0
Justify2018StallionChestnut6–0–0

Triple Crown winners include Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, American Pharoah, and Justify. These are the only thirteen horses to claim the Triple Crown since its inception over 145 years ago.

The Triple Crown captures the world’s attention, and the horses that have won the award are unique individuals with fascinating histories.

If you’re interested in checking out some racehorse art or other memorabilia, you can find them by clicking here.

Information about the Triple Crown

The Triple Crown is the summit of Thoroughbred horse racing. It pits the best three-year-old racehorses in the world against each other in three races, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.

To be awarded the Triple Crown, a horse must sweep all three races. In the one hundred and forty-five year history, only thirteen horses have accomplished this feat.

The term “Triple Crown” was not in existence when Sir Barton won all three races in 1919, but he was the first horse to reach the goal. The phrase was coined in 1930 by a columnist of the Daily Racing Form named Charles Hatton.

Interesting facts:

  • No gelding or filly has ever won the Triple Crown. All Triple Crown winners are stallions,
  • Two coat colors are dominant, seven chestnut horses and five-bay horses have won, the lone exception is War Admiral, who was brown.
  • The Belmont Stakes is the oldest of the three Triple Crown races.

Triple Crown Winners

Sir Barton-1919

  • Sex: Stallion
  • Color: Chestnut
  • Record: 31: 13–6–5
Picture of triple crown winner sir barton,

Interestingly, Sir Barton wasn’t entered to win the Kentucky Derby in 1919, but instead, he was supposed to set the pace for his stablemate Billy Kelly. Billy Kelly was the champion two-year-old in 1918 and the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby in 1919.

However, Sir Barton didn’t know he was supposed to be his stablemates’ rabbit and upset the field, winning by five lengths. With his confidence, high Sir Barton entered the Preakness Stakes and four days later had his second career win, and in both races, he led wire to wire.

Amazingly, Sir Barton ran in the Withers Stakes and won before sweeping the triple crown’s final leg, the Belmont Stakes. In the Belmont Stakes, Sir Barton, a new record for a mile and three-eighths race. He accomplished all this within a span of 32 days.

2. Gallant Fox-1930

  • Sex: Stallion
  • Color: Bay
  • Record: 17: 11-3-2

Gallant Fox gets credit for being the spark for the term “Triple Crown” because, after his three victories, Charles Hatton of the Daily Racing Form first used it.

Gallant Fox captured the heart of the racing world. He began slowly as a two-year-old but dominated after turning three. During this time, the schedules of the races weren’t etched in stone like today.

Gallant Fox’s first Triple Crown victory was the Preakness, then he won the Kentucky Derby after only a seven-day break, and finished the sweep with a win at Belmont. Gallant Fox’s Triple Crown victories spanned twenty-nine days.

3. Omaha-1935

  • Sex: Stallion
  • Color: Chestnut
  • Record: 22-9-7-2

Omaha followed in his fathers’, Triple Crown winner Gallant Foxs’, footsteps and became only the third horse to win the Triple Crown, and is the only offspring of a Triple Crown winner to win the crown.

He was trained by Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, who also taught Gallant Fox. Omaha was a big Chestnut colt that didn’t have a spectacular career but won when it counted.

He seemed to run his best races in the mud; two of his Triple Crown victories were raced over wet tracks. It was pouring rain and cold during the Kentucky Derby, and at the Belmont, the track was “sloppy.”

Like Sir Barton, Omaha ran in the Withers Stakes amid the Triple Crown races; however, unlike Sir Barton, he lost his race.

4. War Admiral-1937

  • Sex: Stallion
  • Color: Brown
  • Record: 26: 21-3-1
Portrait of War Admiral,

War Admiral is one of the greatest racehorses that ever raced. He not only won the Triple Crown; he also went undefeated his three-year-old season and set a track record at one and a half miles.

Interestingly, the track record he broke was established by his sire Man’ o War seventeen years earlier. Unfortunately, many remember War Admiral not so much for the races he won, but for one race he lost.

He was matched against Seabiscuit in 1938. The match was a blockbuster event, pitting the two best horses in the world against each other.

The race showcased Seabiscuit, the undersized, ugly duckling that failed to win a race in his first seventeen matches, against War Admiral, a member of East Coast royalty. Much to the dismay of War Admiral’s owner, Seabiscuit won the race and captured the country’s heart.

5. Whirlaway-1941

  • Sex: Stallion
  • Color: Chestnut
  • Record: 60: 32-15-9
Painting of the racehorse Whirlaway,

Whirlaway put on a spectacular show at the Kentucky Derby. Shortly after the race started, Whirlaway trailed the leader by 14 lengths, but once he made it to the home stretch, he kicked into high gear and blew the competition away.

He tied the record for winning the Kentucky Derby by the largest margin, eight lengths, and set a new derby record at 2:01 2/5. This record stood for twenty-one years.

He was ridden by hall of fame jockey Eddie Arcaro for his Triple Crown wins. His best seasons were his three and four years old. He won the Triple Crown and never finished worse than a third in forty-two starts.

Whirlaway had a great career that lasted until he was five years old, after which he was sold as a stud prospect. When he retired, he was the all-time leading money earner in horse racing.

6. Count Fleet-1943

  • Sex: Stallion
  • Color: Bay
  • Record: 21: 16-4-1
Belmont Stakes, 1943

Count Fleet was a dominant racehorse, so dominant that only two competitors enter the Belmont stakes to challenge him. He not only won races, he regularly crushed his competition.

He set the record for the fastest mile ever by a two year Thoroughbred; he won the Belmont Stakes by 25 lengths and broke the stakes record. He also joined Sir Barton to win the Withers Stakes during his running of the Triple Crown competitions.

Unfortunately, after his outstanding Belmont performance Count Fleet never recovered from a lingering ankle injury. The Belmont Stakes concluded his superb racing career. He retired and was a successful stud siring many great racehorses, including Kentucky Derby winner Count Turf.

7. Assault-1946

  • Sex: Stallion
  • Color: Chestnut
  • Record: 42: 18-6-7

Assault reached two first, he was the first colt bred outside of Kentucky to win the Kentucky Derby, and he is the only Texas-bred horse to win the Triple Crown.

Assault was raised on a famous quarter ranch, the King Ranch, which is considered the American Quarter Horse breed’s birthplace. Assault sustained a nasty foot injury while a foal. The damage was so severe there was discussion about putting him down.

However, his breeding saved his life, and he went on to have a stellar career. He always maintained a slight limp when walking, but he didn’t favor his injured leg when asked to run.

8. Citation-1948

  • Sex: Stallion
  • Color: Bay
  • Record: 45: 32–10–2
Portrait of triple crown winner, Citation,
https://collections.carli.illinois.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/nby_teich/id/5793,

Citation hit the ground running; as a two-year-old, he won eight of the nine races he entered. He won sixteen straight races during his three-year-old season, including the Kentucky Derby, Precniss, and Belmont Stakes earning the Triple Crown.

Citation was jockey Eddie Arcaro’s second Triple Crown mount; he rode Whirlaway for the same farm, Calumet, in 1941. By the time Citation concluded his three-year-old season, he had amassed a record of 27 wins from 29 starts.

Citation arguably had the best two and three-year-old seasons in the history of horse racing.

9. Secretariat-1973

  • Sex: Stallion
  • Color: Chestnut
  • Record: 21: 16–3–1

Secretariat won the Triple Crown after a 25-year drought and set records at each race. During his Kentucky Derby run, he broke last but quickly made up ground.

His speed increased over the course, running each quarter-mile faster than the previous one. He shattered the earlier Kentucky Derby record in a blistering time of 1:59 2/5 seconds, which has never been broken.

In the Preakness, the race was never in question; Secretariat took charge early and won by 2 1/2 lengths over Sham, his closest rival. The clock malfunctioned, but the time was confirmed to be 1:53, and Secretariat had another stakes record.

Secretariat, put on a show at the Belmont, won by 30 lengths and his time in the race was not only a record for the Belmont Stakes, but it was also the fastest ​1 12 miles on dirt in history, 2:24.

Secretariat was a massive horse with exceptional conformation. His nickname “Big Red” fits him. He could win at any distance and over any surface.

Secretariat won horse of the year as a two-year-old and three-year-old. His performances made him a sports icon, like Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali. To learn more about Secretariat, click here.

10. Seattle Slew-1977

  • Sex: Stallion
  • Color: Dark Bay
  • Record: 17: 14–2–0
Photograph of triple crown winner Seattle Slew,
By Pawneese – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org

Seattle Slew was purchased as a yearling for $17,500, a meager sum for a horse this caliber. Seattle Slew won the first nine races of his career, including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. This feat made him the first horse to win the Triple Crown while undefeated.

The next horse to accomplish this feat was Justify in 2018, a descendant of Seattle Slew. Seattle Slew retired with only one race out of the money in seventeen starts.

After retiring from racing, Seattle Slew was turned out to stud. He produced terrific runners that continue to influence Thoroughbred racing today. Most notable is Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Swale, and A.P. Indy, also a Belmont Stakes winner and recipient of Horse of the Year.

Seattle Slew is Tapit’s grandsire, the leading sire in North America in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

11. Affirmed-1978

  • Sex: Stallion
  • Color: Chestnut
  • Record: 29: 22–5–1
Picture of the great racehorse Affirmed
Visindar at English Wikipedia / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Affirmed likely had the most formidable foe of any horse to win the Triple Crown, Alydar. The two faced off in each contest and pushed each other to their limits, but Affirmed held on to win.

Of the five second-place finishes in Affirmed’s career, three were won by Alydar. Affirmed is the first horse to earn two million dollars and was the Horse of the Year for 1978 and 1979. The only time he was out of the money was because of a disqualification.

Notably, he was the great-great-grandson of Triple Crown winner War Admiral. Speculation surrounds how Affirmed got its name; some believe it references the court of Appeals’ decision to affirm the horse owners’ criminal conviction.

12. American Pharoah-2015

  • Sex: Stallion
  • Color: Bay
  • Record: 11: 9–1–0
Picture of American Pharoah after winning the Kentucky Derby,
Maryland GovPics / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

When American Pharoah won the 2015 Belmont Stakes, he broke a thirty-seven-year drought of Triple Crown winners. Some people began to believe the competition in horse racing made winning a Triple Crown in modern times impossible.

Previously the longest drought was twenty-five years, the span between Citation and Secretariat.

American Pharoah was named two-year-old champion and 2015 Horse of the Year. After a short but successful career, he was retired to stud. His first prospects seem promising.

Interestingly, both he and his sire were auction buybacks for almost the same price by the same owners. In 2007 Zayat bought back Pioneer of the Nile, American Pharoah’s sire, for $290,000. In 2013 they bought back American Pharoah for $300,000.

13. Justify-2018

  • Sex: Stallion
  • Color: Chestnut
  • Record: 6–0–0
Picture of the racehorse Justify during a race,
By Mike Lizzi from Nassau County , USA – Justify – 2018 Belmont Stakes, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Justify made history not only by winning the Triple Crown but also for how he accomplished the feat. He is the first horse to win the Triple Crown without running as a two-year-old and only the second undefeated horse to win the Triple Crown, joining Seattle Slew.

He is also the only Triple Crown winner to retire undefeated, but he is also the least raced of any Triple Crown winners, retiring after just six races. Justify was voted 2018 Horse of the Year.

FAQ

Was Secretariat the greatest racehorse of all time?

Secretariat is definitely in the conversation for the “GOAT” (Greatest Of All Time), but my pick for GOAT is Man O’ War.
Choosing the greatest racehorse is subjective, and many people believe Secretariat is the greatest racehorse ever to grace a racetrack, and they have a strong argument for their position. Here are my picks of the top ten racehorses of all time: Top 10 Greatest Racehorses of All Time. Two You May Not Know

Has a female horse ever won the Triple Crown?

No female horse has ever won the Triple Crown. Three have won the Kentucky Derby, Regret, Genuine Risk, and Winning Colors. One two have won the Belmont, and five won the Preakness.
To read more about female racehorses, check out this article: Are All Racehorses Male? No! List of Top 10 Females Horses

Related articles: