Triple Crown Races

The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes are known collectively as the Triple Crown.

Here's a bit of background and vocabulary to better appreciate/understand horse racing jargon.

The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association’s Graded Stakes Committee evaluates, ranks or “grades” stakes races. These races have no restrictions other than age or gender of the horses. There are three grades assigned, with Grade 1 being the highest caliber. In the US these are run on a flat track (no obstacles) on either dirt or turf. All three Triple Crown races are run on dirt tracks.

A furlong--a measurement is now only used in measuring distances in horse racing--is an eighth of one mile or 220 yards. Eight furlongs equals one mile.

A horse length, or simply length, is a unit of measurement for the length of a horse from nose to tail, approximately 8 feet (2.4 m).

The official Triple Crown adult beverages:
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness, have the Mint Julep and the Black-Eyed Susan, respectively. The Belmont's official drink is the Belmont Jewel.

Click the image to get the recipe

Mint Julep

Mint Julep

Black Eyed Susan cocktail

Black-Eyed Susan

Belmont Jewel Cocktail

Belmont Jewel

Thirteen Derby winners went on to win the Preakness Stakes in Maryland and the Belmont Stakes in New York, capturing the Triple Crown.

The last Triple Crown winner was Justify in 2018.

The Kentucky Derby

Held annually on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, The Kentucky Derby is a Grade 1 stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles (10 furlongs).

The fastest Kentucky Derby was run by Secretariat in 1973 (1:59.40 minutes), and his record still stands today.

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The Preakness Stakes

The Preakness Stakes is held on the third Saturday in May each year at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. It is a Grade 1 stakes race run over 9.5 furlongs (1 3/16 miles) on dirt.

The winner of the Kentucky Derby has only completed step one of the elusive Triple Crown journey. Now they must capture the Middle Jewel to remain a Triple Crown prospect. Only 13 horses in history have won the coveted Triple Crown.

Sports travel writer James Thompson wrote a great article about attending The Preakness Stakes.

In 1973, Secretariat finished the Preakness in 1:53 minutes, but he wasn’t awarded the record time until 39 years later. The New York Times wrote about the controversy in 2012.

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The Belmont Stakes

Like its two sister jewels, The Belmont Stakes is an American Grade 1 stakes race open to three-year-old Thoroughbreds. It runs on the first or second Saturday in June at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. At 1.5-mile (12 furlongs) it is the longest, and most demanding leg of the triple crown.

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With Secretariat blazing into the far turn in the 1973 Belmont Stakes on his way to the first Triple Crown in 25 years, track announcer Chick Anderson summed up the astonishing performance: “Secretariat is widening now,” he said. “He is moving like a tremendous machine.” Ridden by Ron Turcotte, Secretariat would win the Belmont Stakes by 31½ lengths, and in a record time of 2:24.

Watch it here: 
June 11, 1973, Secretariat made the covers of TIME Magazine, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated, the only figure in history to do so.

John Skeaping’s stunning statue of Secretariat graces the center of the Belmont Park Paddock.

Triple Crown Secretariat by John Skeaping
triple crown races 02 jeff-griffith-662733-unsplash

“Belmont Park is the hallowed ground where Man o’ War left the crowd in awe, breaking the American record while being eased under the wire—and where Secretariat pounded the dirt to thundering acclaim and scored a 31-length victory in world record time, while announcer Chic Anderson famously cackled, "He is moving like a tremendous machine!"