Winners of horse racing's Triple Crown compose one of the most exclusive clubs in sports, a fraternity with just 11 members—none of them living—that hasn't had an initiate in 37 years. There is but a single requirement for admission: Finish first in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes in the same year.
The last horse to accomplish the feat was Affirmed, who held off Alydar in the Belmont on June 10, 1978. Since that afternoon, 14 horses have won both the Derby and the Preakness; 12 of them failed to win the grueling 1½-mile Belmont.
The next to try, in Saturday's 147th Belmont Stakes, will be American Pharoah, the 10th horse in the last 18 years with a chance to end the drought.
2 of 10Tim Layden
Trainer Bob Baffert
Pharoah is in the capable hands of trainer Bob Baffert, who has brought three horses to New York with a chance to win the Triple Crown, and who, in 1997 and '98, missed by a total of less than a length with Silver Charm and Real Quiet. American Pharoah will be the only horse in the Belmont to have run in all three Triple Crown races.
3 of 10Tim Layden
4 of 10
Trotting Through the Shedrow
5 of 10
Off to the Track
6 of 10
Eyes on the Prize
Baffert watches American Pharoah gallop at Churchill.
7 of 10Tim Layden
A Pedigree to Make History
Pharoah is a bay colt who won this year's Derby on May 2 at Churchill Downs after a grinding stretch drive, and who splashed to a dominant seven-length victory at sloppy Pimlico two weeks later. He has the requisite qualities to make history, including a long, effortless stride—the kind that makes horsemen swoon—and a pedigree that includes 2003 Belmont winner Empire Maker.
8 of 10Tim Layden
A Once Over
9 of 10Tim Layden
After a full morning, the Derby and Preakness champ nibbled a snack.
10 of 10Tim Layden
A Date with Destiny?
American Pharoah will be the only horse in the Belmont to have run in all three Triple Crown races. Among his rested opponents will be Frosted, who finished fourth in the Derby, and Materiality, who finished sixth.
It is a familiar story line and a daunting assignment. Of course, if it was easy, it would have happened again by now.
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