Triple Crown Winners: The 11 Best Race Horses of All Time

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- UPDATED: To include information on California Chrome.

On Saturday, June 7 horse racing fans could not disguise their disappointment when California Chrome failed to win the race and The Triple Crown, finishing tied for fourth, thus becoming the latest in a line of 36 horses to lose a bid at the Triple Crown.

Now, California Chrome is taking some time off as his trainers and staff work to help the colt recover from an injury to the hoof he suffered during the Belmont. 

The injury is superficial and will take about three weeks to heal, according to trainer Art Sherman. 

California Chrome has earned $3.5 million so far this year. 

The Triple Crown is made up of three races: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.

It is the most coveted title in racing. By winning the Triple Crown, a horse has proven it has the right mix of speed and stamina to be first in three grueling races spread across five weeks.

Many horses have come close to the crown, winning the Kentucky Derby and then the Preakness Stakes but falling short at the Belmont Stakes.

It has been 36 years since we last saw a Triple Crown winner: Affirmed in 1978.

A total of 11 horses have won the Triple Crown since 1919 when Sir Barton became the first to wear the crown, although he wasn't recognized as the first winner until 1948.

The following is a list of the 11 Triple Crown winners:


Sir Barton

In 1919 Sir Barton became the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes before the term "Triple Crown" was coined.

Sir Barton is described as a "cranky colt who disliked all humans" by belmontstakes.com.

The 1919 Kentucky Derby was Sir Barton's first start as a 3-year-old, and his original purpose in the race was to exhaust the favorite, Eternal, and give his stable-mate Billy Kelly a shot at the win.

Following a victory at the Preakness, Barton would go on to win the Belmont in record time facing only two other horses.



Gallant Fox

Gallant Fox won the Triple Crown in 1930. Unlike his predecessor, was a loveable horse who enjoyed being around people and other horses, belmontstakes.com says.

In 1930 the Preakness was run before the Kentucky Derby, and Gallant Fox won both races, but the colt was not the favorite heading into Belmont that year.

The favorite was a horse named Whichone, who had missed the first two races due to a knee injury.

But Gallant Fox was not about to let his crown be usurped and would win the Belmont by three lengths winning a purse of $66,040.

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Omaha

This colt turned a Triple Crown victory into a family affair when he won in 1935 following in the footsteps of his sire Gallant Fox.

This handsome chestnut was tall like his father and inherited his speed, which came in handy with the colt earning a reputation as the 3-year-old to beat.

In 1935 Omaha won the Roses by one and a half lengths, and a few weeks later he was the victor at the Preakness, winning by six lengths.

Omaha's win at the Belmont was not an easy victory as he was shuffled back when the gates opened. With only three furlongs to go Omaha was able to move past the pack and win by one and a half lengths.

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War Admiral

When you are the son of the legendary race horse Man o'War great things are expected of you, and this mink-brown colt delivered when he became the Triple Crown champion in 1937.

His trainer called him a "high-strung individual," according to belmontstakes.com, and said he would jump three times when taken out.

At the 1937 Derby, War Admiral delayed the beginning of the race by 8 minutes but would lead from start to finish, cantering home with a one-and-three-quarter length lead.

During the following race War Admiral would face a tough opponent in the 3-year-old champion Pompoon, and the race would be won by a head as the two colts battled it out along the track.

The Belmont Stakes would prove to be an easy victory as War Admiral won by three lengths, but the victory was not without sacrifice.

After acting up and delaying the start of the race, War Admiral stumbled at the break cutting off a chunk of his front right heel. He ended the race lame.

War Admiral would return to racing the following fall, winning Horse of the Year with an 8-0 record.

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Whirlaway

Known as racing's "Runningest" horse, and called "dumb," "stupid" and "crazy" by his owner, this brilliant chestnut gained a number of fans thanks to his antics on the track.

Joe Palmer wrote in the Blood-Horse that Whirlaway had "an annihilating burst of speed which he can apparently turn on at any stage of the race."

In 1941 Whirlaway became the fifth horse in history to win a Triple Crown and would retire at the age of 5 with a bankroll of $561,161.

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Count Fleet

In 1942 this colt distracted a nation consumed by war, becoming a national hero when he won the Triple Crown.

The brown colt won 10 of his 15 starts as a 2-year-old and would go wire to wire during his Kentucky Derby bid the following year.

Winning by three lengths at the Derby, Count Fleet moved on to the Preakness, winning by eight lengths.

That June, only two horses were brave enough to compete in the Belmont against Count Fleet, and the colt would win by an impressive 25-length lead, a record that would stand until 1973.

The win came with a price. After the race, people discovered that Count had a bowed tendon, which ended his racing career.

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Assault

This Triple Crown champ from 1946 was not an impressive specimen. He stood at only 15-2 hands tall and had a permanent limp at the walk and trot.

But when running at full gallop Assault, could not be caught.

"He beat whatever they threw at him. Assault was all heart," said his jockey, belmontstakes.com reported.

After the Triple Crown, Assault continued his brilliant racing career and retired in 1950 with 18 wins in 42 races and a bankroll of $675,470.

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Citation

Citation was racing's eighth Triple Crown winner, and his 1948 season is described as the best a racehorse has ever run.

Citation finished 1948 with 19 wins out of 20 starts and was retired in 1951, becoming racing's first millionaire horse with a bankroll of $1,085,760.

"Citation was the best horse I ever saw, and I saw Man o'War," said trainer Jimmy Jones in a 1996 New York Times interview.

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Secretariat

No racehorse in history is as beloved and awe-inspiring as the big red colt from Virginia.

Secretariat's story is the stuff of sports legends, and his record-setting victory at the Belmont, by 31 lengths, has never been touched.

"Big Red," as he was affectionately known by his army of loyal fans, was featured on the cover of national magazines and was named horse of the year twice during his career.

It was his astonishing victory at the Belmont that turned Secretariat into the greatest race horse of all time.

Breaking away from the pack and finishing the race alone, Secretariat was "moving like a tremendous machine," said announcer Chick Anderson.

The victory ended a 25-year Triple Crown drought.

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Seattle Slew

Described by belmontstakes.com as having "no white markings, big floppy ears, and a domineering personality," Seattle Slew was the 10th Triple Crown winner, a triumph that only one more horse would accomplish.

Seattle Slew would enjoy a successful career and go on to sire more than 100 stakes winners.

The 1977 Triple Crown winner passed away on May 7, 2002, the 25-year anniversary of his Kentucky Derby win.

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Affirmed

Affirmed was racing's last Triple Crown winner, taking home the title 37 years ago.

The 1977 race to the crown included a tense rivalry between Affirmed and Alydar.

The two thoroughbreds would meet up in six races ahead of the 1977 Triple Crown, splitting the victories with three each.

At the Kentucky Derby, Affirmed beat Alydar by a length and a half and won the Preakness by a neck.

At the Belmont, Affirmed's trainers had planned to send him out from the start positioning him on the inside. He enjoyed enjoyed a comfortable lead at first, but Alydar caught up to him at the mile marker.

The two rivals were matched stride for stride until the very last moment when Affirmed came out by a head, winning the Belmont Stakes.

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