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Relive Triple Crown Victories and Close Calls

Dr. Michael Huang

Dr. Michael Huang

Today Justify will try to become the second Triple Crown winner in four years.  Before he races for history, relive the most emotional moments from Belmont Park with the Triple Crown on the line.

1930: Gallant Fox

When Gallant Fox won the Triple Crown, the Preakness was the first leg of the Triple Crown.  At the 1930 Kentucky Derby, the races’ namesake traveled from Britain to watch the historic race. Gallant Fox conquered the slop to win by four lengths in the Belmont.

1946: Assault

I’m not 100% certain of the venue in this Keeneland portrait of Assault.  I’m 100% certain I would be too terrified to stand on the track in the middle of a horse race.


Assault won by three lengths in the 1946 Belmont Stakes to become the seventh winner of the Triple Crown.

1973: Secretariat

Maybe the most amazing race in the history of the sport, Secretariat’s 31-length record-setting victory is absolutely incredible.  It’s perfectly acceptable to get emotional when you hear, “He is moving like a tremendous machine!”

1977: Seattle Slew

It isn’t the most dramatic ending to a race, but Seattle Slew’s win in the mud was still extremely impressive.

1978: Affirmed vs. Alydar

It’s the greatest rivalry in horse racing history.  Affirmed won the Belmont by a nose, and the Triple Crown by a combined two lengths.  The two dueled ten times over two years, with Affirmed winning seven. Alydar got the last laugh, winning their final bout via disqualification in the Travers Stakes.

Read more about their epic rivalry here.

1979: Coastal Upsets Spectacular Bid

Spectacular Bid was this close to becoming the third Triple Crown winner in a row.  Leading by three lengths entering the final turn, Coastal was shot out of a cannon along the inside of the rail as they went down the stretch.

1997: Touch Gold

Bob Baffert’s first Kentucky Derby Winner almost brought home a Triple Crown.  Silver Charm denied Free House as they entered the stretch.  It appeared that was all Silver Charm needed to do to win, but Gary Stephens could not get enough out of the horse, falling to Touch Gold by a half-length.

1998: Victory Gallop

The most gut-wrenching Triple Crown loss ever, Bob Baffert returned to Belmont Park one year after he was denied a Triple Crown with another chance to make history.  Real Quiet had the lead until the photo finish.  As they wait for the photo results, I still get anxiety watching Victory Gallop appear ahead by a nose.

2004: Birdstone Beats Smarty Jones

It took no time for Smarty Jones to become a fan-favorite.  The first unbeaten Kentucky Derby Winner since Seattle Slew, a record crowd of more than 120,000 was on hand to see him get caught at the wire by 36-1 longshot Birdstone.

2015: American Pharoah

Bob Baffert finally caught his white whale.  American Pharoah became the greatest race horse of his generation by going wire-to-wire to win the Belmont Stakes and snap the 37-year Triple Crown drought.

If Baffert has another Triple Crown winner today, it will not take anything away from Pharoah’s greatness.


Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR