The goal at the beginning of every racing season in the United States is to achieve the Triple Crown with their leading three-year-old. However, the challenge is far more easier said than done, and that is highlighted by the fact that only 13 horses have achieved that feat. The feat has come under the microscope throughout this season, with many experts claiming that extra time should be made in between the races to allow the horses to recover.
Those arguments gathered pace after it was decided that Rich Strike would bypass the Preakness Stakes after winning the Kentucky Derby, while Preakness winner Early Voting also won’t be going to the Belmont Stakes this year. But, which horses were the last three winners of the Triple Crown?
The most recent horse to achieve the Triple Crown in the United States was Justify in 2018. He was trained by Bob Baffert throughout his career, and only made six career starts; winning on all occasions. He was also only the second horse after Apollo to have won the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a two-year-old. Justify began to gain support for the opening Triple Crown race after a dominant success in the G1 Santa Anita Derby.
That support was vindicated, as he would win the Kentucky Derby by two and a half lengths from Good Magic. His biggest test came in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, as he finished just half a length clear of Bravazo at Pimlico. He would wrap up the Triple Crown in excellent fashion with a one and three-quarter-length success over Gronkowski in the Belmont Stakes. Justify’s career came to an end after the Belmont Stakes, which meant that he became just the second Triple Crown winner to finish his career with an unbeaten record.
You can find out more if you read TwinSpires article about Justify’s horse racing career here.
While Justify may be one of the only Triple Crown winners to retire with an unbeaten record, it is American Pharoah that many consider still to be the best Triple Crown winner in modern history. This horse was also trained by Bob Baffert, and won nine of the eleven starts that he made. American Pharoah warmed up for the Kentucky Derby with victories in the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby, before winning the Derby by a length from Firing Line.
His dominance in the division would only grow in the following two Triple Crown races, as he finished seventh lengths clear of Tale of Verve in the Preakness and lead from wire-to-wire in the Belmont Stakes; finishing five and a half lengths clear of Frosted. Unlike Justify, his campaign would continue, which included a victory in the Haskell Stakes. He would end his racing career with a dominant victory by six and a half lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Classic; making him the first, and only, horse to complete the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing.
Before American Pharoah’s Triple Crown success in 2015, you have to go back 37 years to the last horse to achieve that feat. Affirmed was part of one of the most engrossing battles that we have ever seen on the track against Alydar throughout the Triple Crown campaign in 1978. However, it was always Affirmed that came out on top when the two met on grandest stages. Affirmed was the second choice in the betting for the Kentucky Derby in 1978, but managed to win the race at Churchill Downs by a length and a half from Alydar.
The two would clash again in the Preakness, as Affirmed set to pace. However, history would repeat itself, as the three-year-old was able to hold off his rival and win by a neck. The Belmont Stakes would present a clash for the ages, as the tactical battle saw Affirmed set a very slow pace. The two rivals were neck-and-neck for half of the race, before he managed to pull away towards the finish to win by a nose.
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