The Triple Crown Series is a title made of three horse racing events. The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes are the trio that makes up the Triple Crown Series. Most jockeys and trainers would consider this to be their ultimate goal.
Since its inception, the Triple Crown Series has proved to be the most difficult feat every three-year-old thoroughbred could complete in horse racing. Since the title was first awarded in 1950, just 13 horses have competed in all three races and come out on top.
Opens to only three-year-old thoroughbred horses in America and even abroad, coming together in these three prestigious races. Local horse breeders and trainers all around the world look forward to being part of the races. The endurance of elite three-year-old thoroughbred horses being tested in this field makes the triple crown series a must-attend racing event for racegoers around the world.
That being said, we’re learning about the tradition and short history of the three races that made up the Triple Crown Series; the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. And more importantly, why all three are must-visit events for many racing fans.
#1 – The Kentucky Derby otherwise known as the “Run for the Roses”
The Kentucky Derby dubbed “Run for the Roses”, happens annually on every first Saturday in the month of May, held in Louisville, Kentucky, and is the first event of the Triple Crown Series. Its first ceremonial race kicked off at the same time as today on May 17, 1875. The Kentucky Derby’s official racing distance for its event is approximately 1 1/4 miles comprising 10 furlongs. Considered to be the ultimate test of endurance, the derby which is also dubbed the “most exciting two minutes in sports’ is reportedly the longest-running sports event in the United States of America.
Short History of the Kentucky Derby
Held first in 1875, the Kentucky Derby was founded by Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr who also founded the Louisville Jockey Club. The construction of the Churchill Downs Racetrack was also initiated by him in 1937. The Kentucky Derby’s first winner was Astride.
The colt at the racecourse was built by jockey Oliver Lewis who was trained by Ansel Williamson. Secretariat’s record as the fastest horse to “Run for the Roses”, finishing the race in 1:59.4 minutes, remains untouched.
The Kentucky Derby returns for its 149th year of racing in the coming month of May. To get a hint of horses lined up in a bid to overthrow the Secretariat’s long-standing record as the fastest horse to “Run for the Roses”, Bet on the Kentucky Derby has all the news, details and horse ranking on their website.
The Kentucky Derby Racing Traditions
In addition to long-standing customs that many viewers adore about this event, the Kentucky Derby features the fastest three-year-old thoroughbreds of their age. Every year, there’s a record of 120,000 Mint Juleps to be served at the Run for the Roses event at Churchill Downs, making it the race’s official cocktail. The names of the Kentucky Derby past-winners are printed on the special glass in which these mint juleps are served. It can be taken home by guests as a memento of the occasion.
The Kentucky Derby is attended by well-dressed racegoers in addition to mint juleps. Female visitors are urged to wear their best cocktail dresses and colourful hats, however, there is no official dress code. Men should likewise dress professionally by donning their formal suits, trousers and a pair of loose-fitting shoes.
#2 – The Preakness Stakes
Preakness Stake’s official venue is located at the Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore Maryland. Much like the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stake also features three-year-old thoroughbred horses that would race over a distance of 1 3/16 miles or 9.5 furlongs. Two weeks after the Kentucky Derby ends, this event is traditionally held.
Short History of the Preakness Stakes
A look at the Preakness Stakes history shows the first event was held on May 27. 1873. The event was named after a colt Preakness, who won the Dinner Party Stakes racing event held at the Pimlico for the first time on October 25, 1870, by former Maryland Governor Oden Bowie. The Preakness Stakes, however, was first won by Survivor, who bagged a $2,050 USD winning prize for the race.
According to the viewership ratings, the Preakness Stakes, after the Kentucky Derby, is the second most-viewed horse racing event in the whole of North America.
Preakness Stakes Traditions
There’s not much happening at the Preakness Stakes in terms of tradition other than its long-standing singing of Maryland’s official state song, “Maryland, My Maryland.” While the song is being sung, spectators are encouraged to sing aloud the song’s third stanza bringing the utmost feeling to everyone at the venue. Second is the painting of the winning horse and his jockey in a weather vane of an event infield in the colours of the victorious owner’s silks.
#3 – The Belmont Stakes dubbed “Test of the Champion”
The Belmont Stakes being the longest among the three races in the Triple Crown Series got his name as the “Test of the Champion”. Belmont Stakes is raced at an official racing distance of 1 1/2 miles or 12 furlongs. That’s one hell of course!
The Belmont Stakes is held every year on every second Saturday of June at Belmont Park, Elmont, New York, United States. The first inaugural horse racing at the Belmont Stake came into effect on June 18, 1867.
Short History of the Belmont Stakes
The first Belmont Stakes was sponsored by August Belmont Sr. and held at Jerome Park Racecourse in the Bronx. The first Belmont Stakes was won by a female horse that goes by the name Ruthless.
Sir Barton’s victory in the Belmont Stakes in 1919, following victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, marked the beginning of the Triple Crown Series. The August Belmont Trophy, which would be given to the winning thoroughbred the following year, was first awarded to the race’s victor in 1926. The winner will receive a silver miniature to keep forever.
Belmont Stakes Traditions
The winner of each race will receive a blanket covered in white carnations. In this way, the event came to be known as “The Run for the Carnations.” “The Sidewalks of New York” is the Belmont Stakes’ opening post-parade song.
From 1997 through 2009, Frank Sinatra’s Theme from New York, New York was used in its place. The following year, it was modified to Jasmine V’s Empire State of Mind. In 2011, a Theme from New York, New York was once again used as the post-parade song.
Every one of the three races herein is crucial to American history. These races serve as a stage for promising thoroughbreds to display their perseverance and vigour as three-year-olds in addition to bringing the horseracing community closer together. The Triple Crown Series has been the goal for these hopefuls, who can only enter these races once.
The oldest race run at the Cheltenham Festival is Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase or, more correctly, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase, as the race has been known since 2005.
The late Major John ‘Johnny’ Henderson, father of leading National Hunt trainer Nicky Henderson, was an influential figure in the horseracing world. In 1963, he brought together a group of investors to buy Cheltenham racecourse for £240,000, thereby preventing it from being taken over by property developers. The following year, he was instrumental in the formation of Racecourse Holdings Trust (now Jockey Club Racecourses). Henderson Snr. died in December, 2003, aged 83 and, two years later, his name was added to the race title in recognition of his contribution to safeguarding Cheltenham.
Nowadays, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase is run over a distance of about 2 miles, or 1 mile, 7 fulongs and 199 yards to be precise, on the New Course at Cheltenham on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival. However, the inaugural Grand Annual Chase was run on April 4, 1834 – five years before the first ‘official’ running of the Grand National –
in the vicinity of Andoversford, east of Cheltenham. Thus, the Grand Annual Chase is not only the oldest race run at the Cheltenham Festival, but also the oldest surviving race in the British National Hunt calendar.
The Grand Annual Chase was run over various courses and distances – in 1835, for example, a distance ‘upwards of four miles’ – in the locality until 1843 and, after a four-year hiatus, was transferred to Noverton, adjoining Prestbury Park. Between 1861 and 1866, the race was run at Southam, Warwickshire and, thereafter, not run at all until the early twentieth century; it finally returned, permanently, to Cheltenham in 1913.
As the name suggests, the Ascot Chase is a Grade 1 steeplechase run over 2 miles, 5 furlongs and 8 yards at Ascot in February. Inaugurated, as the Comet Chase, in 1995, the race was orginally run over a distance of 2 miles, 3 furlongs and 110 yards, but has been lengthened, shortened and lengthened again at various points in its history. The 2005 and 2006 renewals – staged at Lingfield Park during the multi-million pound redevelopment of Ascot – were contested over 2 miles, 4 furlongs and 110 yards. Back at Ascot, on the partially reconstructed National Hunt course, in 2007, the distance was shortened to 2 miles 2 furlongs and 175 yards before being lengthened to the current yardage the following year.
Worth £150,000 in guaranteed in prize money, the Ascot Chase has the distinction of being the most valuable steeplechase run at Ascot. It is also the third, and final, National Hunt race of the season at the Berkshire course and, more importantly, the final Grade 1 race, of any description, before the Cheltenham Festival. The intermediate distance is ideally suited to top-level horses who lack the speed for two miles and the stamina for three. That said, the indomitable Kauto Star – a Grade 1 winner at two miles, three miles and three-and-a-quarter miles – demonstrated his versatility with an easy 8-length victory in 2008.
A total of four horses – Tiutchev (2001, 2003), Monet’s Garden (2007, 2010), Riverside Theatre (2011, 2012) and Cue Card (2013, 2017) – have won the Ascot Chase. Paul Nicholls, trainer of Kauto Star, also saddled Rockforce (2000) Silviniaco Conti (2016) and Cyrname (2019) to victory and, alongside Martin Pipe, is jointly the most successful trainer in the history of the race.
The 2023 renewal of the Ascot Chase is scheduled for Saturday, February 18. Ante-post prices are not yet available, but favourites have an excellent recent record, winning six of the last 10 renewals.
Bargoed-born David Probert, a graduate of the British Racing School in Newmarket, had his first ride in public on Tiny Tim, trained by Andrew Balding, in a lowly banded stakes race at Lingfield on December 13, 2006. He rode his first winner, Mountain Pass, trained by Bernard Llewellyn, in an equally woeful selling stakes race at Wolverhampton nearly a year later. However, from such humble beginnings, under the mentorship of former champion trainer Ian Balding, he made rapid progress, such that in 2008 he shared the apprentice jockeys’ championship with fellow Kingsclere apprentice William Buick.
Thereafter, it would be fair to say that Probert has enjoyed a successful career without hitting the heights that, at one point, seemed likely. In recent seasons, Andrew Balding has tended to entrust his ‘big guns’ to three-time champion jockey Oisin Murphy, such that, more often than not, Probert has found himself playing second fiddle to his younger rival. Of course, Murphy is currently banned until February, 2023, so that dynamic may well change but, for now, Probert is still without a Group 1 winner to his name.
Nevertheless, Probert celebrated 1,000 winners on British soil when riding Tronada, trained by Alan King, to victory at Lingfield on June 8, 2020. In 2021, he enjoyed far and away the most successful season of his career so far, with 169 winners, including a 257/1 five-timer at his home course, Ffos Las, on August 11, and over £2 million in prize money for the first time. Between May 1 and October 16, he rode 93 winners, thereby finishing fourth in the Flat Jockeys’ Championship. Probert continued in excellent form over the winter and was crowned champion all-weather jockey at Newcastle on Good Friday, 2022.