A Century of the Crown

Century of the Crown On May 10, 1919, mud flying, jockey Johnny Loftus and Sir Barton crossed the wire to win the Kentucky Derby. Only four days later, they won the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, and in June, after also clinching the Withers, the pair found themselves charging into racing history by finishing first in the Belmont with a record-breaking time. They didn’t know it then, but Sir Barton and his team had just become the very first Triple Crown champions.

The Triple Crown series is a grueling test of endurance and speed for its hopefuls. Within five weeks, under great physical stress from both the races themselves and the travel they require, a horse is expected to achieve something that has, more than a few times in history, been called impossible. During the twenty-five year gap between Citation (1948) and Secretariat (1973), many racing fans were convinced the Triple Crown was nothing short of myth. The longer period between Affirmed (1978) and American Pharoah (2015)—a staggering thirty-seven years—had a similar effect on fans and horsemen alike.

Journalists from the Daily Racing Form and New York Times popularized the phrase “triple crown” in the 1930s, but The Jockey Club did not officially recognize the American Triple Crown until 1950. They retroactively awarded the eight winners prior to 1950 an iconic, three-sided Cartier trophy for their achievements. Now, one-hundred years after Sir Barton, the American racing world is celebrating its thirteenth Triple Crown champion in the gleaming chestnut giant Justify. He was the first to receive the newly-designed Triple Crown trophy, a fitting tribute to the magnificent first century of the Triple Crown.