Watching horse racing is one of America’s favorite pastimes. The sport dates back to 1665 when the Newmarket course was established in Salisbury, New York. The state’s colonial governor, Richard Nicolls, supervised North America’s first racing meet.
In 1868, the American Stud Book was published. It prompted the start of organized horse racing in the United States. By 1890, there were already 314 horse racing tracks in operation in the country. Four years later, the American Jockey Club was formed.
The anti-gambling sentiments during the early 20th century led to the decline of horse racing since most states banned bookmaking, the process of taking bets, calculating odds, and paying out winnings. Horse racing didn’t regain its popularity in the United States until horses started competing in the newly inaugurated Triple Crown Series.
The Triple Crown series is a five week horse racing event in the United States. It’s composed of the Kentucky Derby. Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. It was in 1875 that all three races were simultaneously operating.
However, the concept of the Triple Crown only caught the attention of racers, trainers, and owners during the 1930s. Charles Hatton, a columnist for the Daily Racing Form, consistently used the term to refer to the three races. By the 1940s, newspapers throughout the country were routinely using the term already.
In December 1950, the Thoroughbred Racing Associations in New York proclaimed the Triple Crown title during their annual awards dinner. They posthumously awarded Sir Barton, the first horse to win all three races in 1919. Since then, only 12 other horses have accomplished such a feat. 2018 was the last time a horse named Justify won the Triple Crown.
This is why many horse owners and trainers plot their horse racing schedule around the Triple Crown race series. Winning the Triple Crown is still considered the most coveted and celebrated achievement in horse racing and all sports. The prestige it gives to the winning horse is unmatched.
The Kentucky Derby is considered the most prestigious American horse race. It was established in 1875. The race is annually scheduled on the first Saturday of May at the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s known as “The Run for the Roses” since the winning horse is draped in a blanket of roses.
The Derby is only limited to 20 three-year-old horses. The race distance used to be 1.5 miles but was reduced to 1.25 miles in 1896. Colts and geldings are required to carry 126 pounds, while fillies carry 121 pounds when joining the race.
Even though the race is fondly called by the media and fans alike “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” only two (2) horses have finished the racecourse in less than two minutes. Secretariat won the race in 1973 in 1:59 minutes, and Monarchos won the 2001 Derby in 1:59.97 minutes.
Moreover, Jockeys Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack share the record for the most Kentucky Derby wins throughout their historic careers at five (5). At the same time, Ben Jones holds the record of the winningest trainer in the Derby with six (6) wins.
This year’s Kentucky Derby, which was held last May 6, was won by Mage. Mage bested 17 other horses with a time of 2:01.57. This win gave trainer Gustavo Delago and jockey Javier Castellano their first Kentucky Derby win.
Immediately after the race, the Kentucky Derby started their countdown for next year’s 150th race on May 4, 2024. Organizers have also re-envisioned the paddock of Churchill Downs for the historic milestone to enhance the heart of the fan experience at the track.
The second leg of the Triple Crown is held in the Preakness Stakes. It’s the shortest race of the three and is scheduled annually in mid-May. The race happens at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.
It was established in 1873 after the horse that won the Dinner Party Stakes in 1870. The race was suspended in 1889, and its race was in Morris Park, New York, in 1890. The race returned in 1894 after a three year hiatus, but it was held at Gravesend Track in Brooklyn, New York. It was only in 1908 that the Preakness Stakes returned to Pimlico.
Among the tradition in Preakness Stakes includes the singing of Maryland’s official state song and the “painting of the colors,” wherein a painter, after the winner has been announced, climbs at the top of the Old Clubhouse replica and paint the cupola’s jockey-and-horse weathervane with the winning team’s silks. The winning horse is also draped with a blanket of “blacked-eyed Susans,” Maryland’s state flower.
The 148th Preakness Stakes in 2023 was held last May 20. National Treasure narrowly won it over the late-surging Blazing Sevens. The win gave jockey John Velasquez his first win at Preakness. Trainer Bob Baffert also won his eighth title, the most in Preakness Stakes. Kentucky Derby winner Mage settled for third, ending his hope of a Triple Crown this year.
The Belmont Stakes is the oldest and longest among the Triple Crown races. It was founded in 1867 and named after sportsman August Belmont. It has run its races at different distances and race tracks throughout its history. The race course has been 1.5 miles long since 1926, and Belmont Park, near New York City has been its home since 1995.
The race is annually held in early June, making it the last race of the Triple Crown. It means that by this time, the horses that are competing here have fully matured. The pool of competitors in Belmont has also been narrowed down to the very best, which usually has the smallest field. Horse racing professionals and fans have called the Belmont the “Test of the Champion.”
Arcangelo won the 155th Belmont Stakes last June 10, 2023. He defeated the race frontrunner Forte who finished slightly behind him. Preakness Stakes winner National Treasure failed to finish in the top five (5).
The win made Jena Antonucci the first female trainer to win any Triple Crown race. Jockey Javier Castellano also won his first Belmont Stakes. He was also the jockey of Kentucky Derby winner Mage who did not compete in the race.
The 2023 results of the Triple Crown races, which produced different winners, show that achieving the Triple Crown is not easy. It’s why since 1875, there have been only 13 horses who hold the prestigious honor of being called a Triple Crown winner.
With the 2023 Triple Crown quest finished, horse racing owners and trainers already set their sights on the 2024 version. They’re now training and honing their best horses for them to once again qualify for America’s most celebrated annual five-week-long horse racing showcase.
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