Which Horses Have Won the Triple Crown? A Full Breakdown

From Sir Barton to Justify, here's a look at who's taken home racing's big prize.
Jun 6, 2015; Elmont, NY, USA; Fans cheer as American Pharoah (5) approaches the finish line.
Jun 6, 2015; Elmont, NY, USA; Fans cheer as American Pharoah (5) approaches the finish line. / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past century, horse racing has gradually retreated in popularity—going from one of America's only sports worth following to one of many.

Yet the Triple Crown endures. There is a certain magic in the reliability of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes (all of which are well over 100 years old). Only 13 horses have accomplished the feat of winning all three races, and no reliable pattern has emerged as to when a winner will strike. The only certainty is that equine fame and human fortune will follow.

What is the Triple Crown?

The Triple Crown refers, collectively, to the three most prestigious American horse races: the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, and the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, N.Y. on Long Island. In order to claim a Triple Crown title, the same horse must win all three races.

Mystik Dan won the Kentucky Derby on May 2, and will attempt to win the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. The Belmont Stakes are on June 8.

How Many Horses Have Won the Triple Crown?

There are 13 horses throughout history who have captured the American imagination by winning the Triple Crown.

What Horses Have Won the Triple Crown?

Sir Barton (1919)

The first winner, bred appropriately enough in Kentucky. The term "Triple Crown," which originally referred to England's major races, was not in wide usage in America at the time. His Wikipedia page identifies him as "grouchy."

Gallant Fox (1930)

The first winner to whom the term "Triple Crown" was widely applied. His son won the Triple Crown as well; we'll meet him in a minute. Retired as the winningest horse in history in terms of prize money.

Omaha (1935)

The Ken Griffey Jr. of his era (Gallant Fox was his sire). Like Gallant Fox, "Sunny" Jim Fitzsimmons trained him. Took a much-publicized trip to England as a four-year-old, where he took second in the prestigious Gold Cup.

War Admiral (1937)

The only Triple Crown winner most famous for losing—to Seabiscuit in the 1938 Pimlico Special, the so-called "Match of the Century." Won the Triple Crown despite a severe injury during the Belmont. Famously hated starting gates.

Whirlaway (1941)

Jockeyed by Eddie Arcaro, the only two-time Triple Crown winner (more on him later). One of four horses to win the Kentucky Derby by eight lengths, a record. Also won the prestigious Travers Stakes.

Count Fleet (1943)

The only wartime Triple Crown winner. Won the Belmont by 25 lengths, a record at the time. Lived to be 33, still a record for Kentucky Derby winners.

Assault (1946)

Bred in Texas, had one severely deformed hoof. Like Whirlaway, won the Kentucky Derby by eight length. Arcaro rode him, too, but not until after his Triple Crown campaign.

Citation (1948)

One of three racehorses to crack ESPN's 100 greatest athletes of the 20th Century list. His original jockey, Al Snider, disappeared off the Florida Keys in March 1948; the aforementioned Arcaro replaced him. The first horse to win a million dollars.

Secretariat (1973)

You might have heard of this one. SI, Time and Newsweek all put him on their covers in 1973. His 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes is one of North American sports's most enduring moments, and the fastest mile-and-a-half on dirt in American history.

Seattle Slew (1977)

Made $1.2 million after his owners bought him for just $17,500. Unbeaten when he won the Triple Crown; he was the first horse ever to do that. A fan favorite who got his own Kentucky license plate in 2015.

Affirmed (1978)

His jockey, Steve Cauthen, is the only teenager to win the Triple Crown. Famously finished immediately ahead of the same horse, Alydar, in all three races; none of them were decided by more than a length and a half. Formed the back half of the first two-year run of Triple Crown winners.

American Pharoah (2015)

Ended a 37-year wait between Triple Crown winners. His jockey, Victor Espinoza, is the oldest Triple Crown winner at 43. Many stories have been offered as to why his name was misspelled.

Justify (2018)

The most recent winner. Unbeaten in his short career—the only Triple Crown winner who can make that claim. Failed a drug test after winning the Santa Anita Derby, an event that set off a lengthy court case when it came to light in 2019.


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Patrick Andres

PATRICK ANDRES

Patrick Andres has been a Staff Writer on the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated since 2022. Before SI, his work appeared in The Blade, Athlon Sports, Fear the Sword, and Diamond Digest. Patrick has covered everything from zero-attendance Big Ten basketball to a seven-overtime college football game. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.