Triple Crown: The Most Prestigious Races in Horse Racing

Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes comprise the highly-coveted Triple Crown Series. This is probably the ultimate dream of every trainer and jockey. The Triple Crown Series is the most challenging horseracing feat any horse could achieve. Only 13 horses have completed and won the three races in a year since the title was first proclaimed in 1950.

Elite three-year-old thoroughbreds from different parts of America and even abroad participate in these three prestigious races. Local and foreign breeders and trainers also look forward to joining the races. The prestige of these races is undeniable, making them all must-attend events for racegoers around the globe. 

Let’s learn more about the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes and why they are bucket-list-worthy events for many racing fans.

Kentucky Derby

Held in Louisville, Kentucky, the Kentucky Derby is the first jewel of the Triple Crown Series that happens annually every first Saturday of May. Its inaugural race happened at the same venue on May 17, 1875. The official distance of the race is 1 1/4 miles of 10 furlongs. It’s also known as the “Run for the Roses” and the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” The Kentucky Derby is considered the longest-running sports event in the US. 

Short History

Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. is the founder of the Kentucky Derby. He also founded the Louisville Jockey Club, which initiated the construction of the Churchill Downs Racetrack, officially naming it in 1937. The first winner of the Kentucky Derby is Astrides. 

 

The colt was mounted by jockey Oliver Lewis and trained by Ansel Williamson. Secretariat was the fastest horse to run in the Run for the Roses and finished the race in 1:59.4 minutes. To get a hint of which horses can possibly overthrow Secreatriat’s record, read horse racing FanDuel news and rankings on their website. 

Traditions

Besides showcasing the fastest three-year-old thoroughbreds of their generation, the Kentucky Derby has long-lived traditions that many spectators love. The Run for the Roses serves over 120,000 mint juleps in the Churchill Downs every year, making it the official cocktail drink of the race. These mint juleps are served in a unique glass with the names of the Kentucky Derby winners. Guests can bring it home a souvenir of the event. 

Other than mint juleps, the Kentucky Derby is also attended by nicely-dressed racegoers. The dress code is not strict, but female guests are encouraged to wear their best cocktail dresses and vibrant hats. Men are also expected to wear their formal suits and pants, with a pair of comfortable shoes. 

Preakness Stakes

The Preakness Stakes is the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Its official venue is Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, Maryland. Three-year-old thoroughbreds would compete over a distance of 1 3/16 miles or 9.5 furlongs. It is traditionally held two weeks after the Kentucky Derby. 

Short History

The first Preakness Stakes was held on May 27, 1873. The former Maryland governor Oden Bowie named the race after the colt Preakness, who won the Dinner Party Stakes held at the Pimlico when it opened its gate on October 25, 1870. The first Preakness Stakes winner was Survivor, who earned a $2,050 winning purse in the race. 

In North America, the Preakness Stakes was the second most-watched horseracing event after the Kentucky Derby. 

Traditions

The most popular tradition of the Preakness Stakes was the singing of Maryland’s official state song, “Maryland, My Maryland.” In the song’s third verse, the audience is encouraged to sing along, bringing goosebumps to everyone at the venue.  

Once the winner is proclaimed, a painter will paint the jockey and horse in the weather vane of the infield structure with the colors of the victorious owner’s silks. 

Belmont Stakes

The Belmont Stakes is also known as the “Test of the Champion” since it is the longest race in the Triple Crown Series, with an official distance of 1 1/2 miles or 12 furlongs. It is held annually every first or second Saturday of June at Belmont Park, Elmont, New York. The inaugural race of the Belmont Stakes happened on June 19, 1867. 

Short History

 August Belmont Sr. financed the first Belmont Stakes held at Jerome Park Racetrack, The Bronx. A female horse named Ruthless won the inaugural Belmont Stakes. 

The Triple Crown Series was inaugurated when Sir Barton won the Belmont Stakes in 1919 after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. In 1926, the August Belmont Trophy was presented to the winner of the race, which would be turned over to the winning horse the following year. A silver miniature will be given to the winner for permanent ownership. 

Traditions

After every race, the winner will be awarded a blanket of white carnations. This is how the race was dubbed “The Run for the Carnations.” The first post-parade song of the Belmont Stakes is “The Sidewalks of New York.

It was later replaced with Frank Sinatra’s Theme from New York, New York in 1997 to 2009. It was changed to Jasmine V’s Empire State of Mind the following year. In 2011, the post-parade song reverted to Theme from New York, New York. 

Conclusion

All three races are essential pieces of American culture. More than bringing the horseracing community closer, these races serve as a platform for promising thoroughbreds to showcase their tenacity and vigor as three-year-olds. These horses can only run once in these races, and winning the Triple Crown Series has been a target for these hopefuls. 

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