The Triple Crown is arguably the most prestigious title a male thoroughbred can win in America. This is largely because it is so hard to win. The title can be held by one horse for over 25 years before another horse is able to claim it. Because of this, horses have to be a bit of a freak of nature to win this title.
All three races in the Triple Crown are Group 1 races against the best horses. Therefore to win just one of these races, a horse has to have something special. However, when we think back to the famous Triple Crown winners, they didn’t just win their races, they won with a style which left the competition trailing in their wake. To be this superior to other top horses, they must be a ‘freak’.
Some of the horses which support this are:
Man O’ War is one of the most famous horses in American history, despite not actually winning the Triple Crown. He never ran at Kentucky as the owner didn’t want him to, and this was before the Triple Crown had come about, so there was no pressure to enter the Kentucky Derby. Man O’ War was a ‘freak’ of a racehorse leaving the competition behind (including Sir Barton the first ever Triple Crown winner) and winning in style. Over his 2 year career, Man O’ War won 20 of his 21 races, beat 3 track records, 2 American records and 3 World records.
War Admiral, son of Man O’ War, was the winner of the 1937 Triple Crown, following in his fathers footsteps. In 1937 he was also voted American horse of the year, beating Seabiscuit. Not only was he a top racehorse for his time, but he also proved himself as a fantastic breeding stallion, siring 40 stake winners and being named ‘Leading sire in North America 1945’ and ‘Leading broodmare sire in North America 1964, 1964’.
Secretariat, arguably the most famous American racehorse ever (only ever second to Man O’ War), was a real freak of the thoroughbred industry. He had a huge stride length and angle, 2 moments of suspension and a larger than average heart. All these things would contribute to him being an excellent athlete. He won the 1973 Triple Crown winner, the first in 25 years, setting race records for each of the three races. These records still stand today. Throughout his career, he won 16 of his 21 races.
American Pharoah, the 2015 Triple crown winner and the first in 37 years. After also winning the breeders Cup this year, he also became the first horse to win the ‘Grand Slam’ of American horse racing. He won many of his races by several lengths, showing how superior he was to his rivals. People are already queuing up to be the first to breed with American Pharaoh, despite him being totally unproven, (like Frankel.) I will be interested to see how American Pharoah’s offspring do.
These 4 horses stand out when talking about the American Triple crown because they were true ‘freaks’ of the thoroughbred industry. However, despite being hugely successful, only Man O’ War and War Admiral were able to pass this success onto their offspring. Secretariat was a rather disappointing stallion and American Pharoah is yet to prove himself as a breeding animal. The fact that not all of these champion horses produce great offspring suggests that racing ability is much more than just genetics. (Read more of my thoughts about this here.)