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Few accomplishments in sports can match the feat of sweeping the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing. The triumvirate of races-Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes-have been held each spring and early summer for more than 125 years to determine the best of that year's crop of 3-year old Thoroughbred racehorses.

Since 1919, just 11 3-year-old Thoroughbred race horses have managed to sweep the Triple Crown racing series. The last to accomplish the feat was Affirmed in 1978, which makes this the longest streak between Triple Crown winners in the sport's history.

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A variety of factors attribute to the difficulty of becoming a Triple Crown winner. A major reason is the fact a Triple Crown winner must win three races at three different race courses in just five weeks, which is a grueling schedule virtually unheard of in modern racing. Additionally, the races are run at different distances, the longest distances these three-year-old Thoroughbreds have ever raced in their young racing careers.

The Kentucky Derby is contested over 1 1/4-miles at Churchill Downs Race Course in its namesake state, while the Preakness covers 1 3/16-miles at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland and the Belmont is run at 1 1/2-miles at Belmont Park Racetrack in New York.

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One additional reason winning the Triple Crown is so difficult to accomplish is the timing of the races. The Triple Crown occurs at a time in a Thoroughbred's life that can be comparable to a pubescent teenager in human terms. Thoroughbreds are still developing during the spring of their 3-year-old seasons and that means the competition among these young race horses is constantly changing and improving.

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While all three Triple Crown races date to the 19th century, it wasn't until decades later that they were identified as being part of any type of series. As the story goes, Charles Hatton of the Daily Racing Form first coined the term "Triple Crown" in 1930 to describe Gallant Fox's sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

However, it wasn't until 1931 that the Triple Crown fell into its current schedule of having the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs Race Course, followed two weeks later by the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course and concluding with the Belmont Stakes in New York three weeks later.

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Perhaps the biggest reason for the current drought between Triple Crown winners has been the evolution in training methods. Up through the 1970's, it was commonplace for a Thoroughbred to race every one or two weeks throughout the year, which made the grueling Triple Crown series not so out of the ordinary. However, in the modern game, racehorses are only asked to compete every four to six weeks on average. That makes the Triple Crown series schedule of three races in five weeks a completely unique and daunting challenge.

With the memory of Affirmed's Triple Crown sweep continuing to fade, there has been a growing chorus in the Thoroughbred industry calling for the Triple Crown schedule to be altered to allow for more time between races. However, that idea has yet to gain much traction. Proponents of the current system point out winning the Triple Crown is not meant to be easy, but when the right Thoroughbred horse comes along it can still be accomplished.

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It's worth noting that prior to Secretariat coming along in 1973, it had been 25 years since racing's last Triple Crown winner-Citation in 1948-and similar sentiments were being expressed about the Triple Crown being impossibly difficult. That idea was smashed, for the time being at least, when three horses would go on to win the Triple Crown during the 1970's.

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    Below is a brief look at all 11 of Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown winners:
  • 1919-Sir Barton
    Sir Barton holds the unique distinction of being the only Triple Crown winner to ever win the Kentucky Derby while still a Maiden, which is a horse that has never won a race. Incredibly, Sir Barton also managed to shoehorn a win in the Withers Stakes in New York between the Preakness and Belmont. Breed and care for an offspring by this world champion Thoroughbred. Join Now!
  • 1930-Gallant Fox
    Gallant Fox won nine of 10 starts as a 3-year-old with his only defeat coming in the Travers Stakes to 100-to-1 shot Jim Dandy, who now has a race named in his honor at Saratoga. He was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1957. Want to breed to this champion Thoroughbred race horse? Click here and play the most popular horse racing free game on the Internet. Join Now!
  • 1935-Omaha
    A son of Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox, Omaha was just an average 2-year-old but put it all together the following spring to easily sweep the Triple Crown and earn champion 3-year-old honors. After retiring with nine wins from 22 starts and earnings of $154,755. Omaha was inducted into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame in 1965. Want an offspring sired by this top Thoroughbred champion? Play our exciting online horse game now! Join Now!
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  • 1937-War Admiral
    Considered one of the top racehorses of all time, the son of Man O' War was named champion 3-year-old and Horse of the Year for his Triple Crown winner exploits. He retired with 21 wins from 26 starts and earnings of $273,240. War Admiral was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1958. Imagine a baby in your barn sired by this exceptional Thoroughbred. Join Now!
  • 1941-Whirlaway
    Whirlaway was the first of two Triple Crown winners to be owned by the legendary Calumet Farm in Central Kentucky. He was Horse of the Year in both 1941 and 1942 and compiled a career record of 32 wins from 60 starts with earnings of $561,161. Whirlaway entered the Hall of Fame in 1959. This world-class champion Thoroughbred race horse is ready to provide you a virtual Thoroughbred to compete in races against our community of horse race fans. Join today - play our Thoroughbred racing game now! Join Now!
  • 1943-Count Fleet
    Count Fleet was rated the top 2-year-old in the country in 1942 and was unbeaten as a 3-year-old on the Triple Crown trail. Count Fleet's 25-length win in the Belmont Stakes is the second-largest margin of victory in the race, trailing only Secretariat. Your virtual Thoroughbred sired by this champion race horse could give you the excitement of competing in amazing 3D races against players from all over the world. Play our free racing game online now. Join Now!
  • 1946-Assault
    Assault had been rather average early in his career and was considered a bit of an outsider in the Kentucky Derby. However, he easily defeated his rivals in the Derby and scored narrow wins in the final two legs of the Triple Crown. He retired with 18 wins from 42 starts and earnings of $675,470. Assault was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964. Breed and care for an offspring by this world champion Thoroughbred. Join and participate in 3D virtual online horse racing by owning your own champion. Play now! Join Now!
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  • 1948-Citation
    Citation was the champion 2-year-old of 1947, champion 3-year-old in 1948 and champion older horse in 1951. He won 32 races from 45 starts with earnings of $1,085,760, which made him Thoroughbred racing's first millionaire. Triple Crown winner Citation was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1959. Why not breed to this classic Thoroughbred champion race horse? Click here and play the highly-acclaimed virtual online 3D horse racing game. Join Now!
  • 1973-Secretariat
    Secretariat became nothing short of a cultural phenomenon on his way to becoming the sport's first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. He completed the Kentucky Derby in 1:59 2/5, a record that stands to this day, and set a world record for 1 1/2-miles on dirt (which also still stands) when he won the Belmont Stakes by a record 31 lengths in 2:24 flat. Imagine a baby in your barn sired by 'Big Red', the greatest Thoroughbred ever. Hurry up, Secretariat's waiting. Sign up and play our online fantasy racing game. Join Now!
  • 1977-Seattle Slew
    Purchased by his owners at auction for just $17,500 while a yearling, Seattle Slew was champion 2-year-old and would go on to become the only horse to ever win the Triple Crown while still undefeated. He was retired with 14 wins from 17 starts and $1.2-million in earnings. Seattle Slew joined the Racing Hall of Fame in 1981. This world-class champion race horse is ready to provide you a virtual Thoroughbred to compete against a worldwide community of online horse racing fans. Join today and play a leading virtual Thoroughbred horse race game. Join Now!
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  • 1978-Affirmed
    Affirmed was champion 2-year-old prior to winning the Triple Crown. Affirmed is best known for his epic duels with Alydar in the Triple Crown series. Affirmed's margins of victory over Alydar in the Triple Crown races were 1 1/2-lengths, a neck, and a nose. A two-time Horse of the Year, Triple Crown winner Affirmed was retired with 22 wins from 29 starts and nearly $2.9-million in earnings. Your virtual Thoroughbred sired by this champion race horse could give you the excitement of competing in amazing 3D online horse racing against players from all over the world. Play our free fantasy racing game now. Join Now!

In all, 30 horses in the event's history have managed to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but only the 11 listed above were able to join the pantheon of Triple Crown winners with a win in the Belmont.

In recent years there has been a particularly high amount of near-misses in the Triple Crown. Since 1997, seven horses have entered the Belmont with a chance at winning the Triple Crown but were ultimately denied in "The Test of a Champion," as the Belmont Stakes is known. The last horse to do this was Big Brown in 2008. Other recent Kentucky Derby-Preakness winners that failed in the Belmont are Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Charismatic (1999), War Emblem (2002), Funny Cide (2003), and Smarty Jones (2004).

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