As the anticipation for the Kentucky Derby builds, many horse racing enthusiasts cannot help but conjure up dreams and hopes that their racing favorite might make history, and become the twelfth horse to grab hold of the Triple Crown title. The Kentucky Derby, also known as the Run for the Roses, is the first leg of the Triple Crown and since its inauguration race in 1875 it has been one of the most popular racing events in the United States.
The second leg of the Triple Crown is the Preakness Stakes, often referred to as the Middle Jewel of the Triple, which is held approximately two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and was inaugurated in 1873. The Belmont Stakes, or The Final Jewel, is the last race and the longest in the Triple Crown. Inaugurated in 1867, the Belmont is where many Triple Crown dreams have been shattered and not many spectators understand how grueling it really is to win this title. Asking a horse to run greater distances to what it is used to and doing it three times over in the space of five weeks, is probably the biggest effort any owner or trainer could ask of a horse, and it is for this reason that only eleven horses have ever been able to achieve Triple Crown status.
The eleven horses to have won the Triple Crown are Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978). Affirmed remains the last of the Triple Crown winners, and the magnificent Seattle Slew was the last to pass away on 7 May 2002, at the age of twenty-eight. To date, not one filly has won the spectacular title and for the first time in history, there is not one Triple Crown winner alive today.
Many horse racing careers have come to an end while chasing the Triple Crown, as the strain proves to be too much on the developing bodies of the three year olds that take part in these racing events. But every year, as the Kentucky Derby energy starts to build up, hopes for a new Triple Crown winner always seems to appear, and this year will be no different. If there is a Triple Crown victor out there, they will be the first in thirty years.