American Pharoah after winning the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 6, 2015, in Elmont, N.Y.
Photograph by Al Bello — Getty Images
By Andrew Nusca
June 7, 2015

Whoa.

On Saturday American Pharoah—as opposed to “pharaoh,” the proper spelling of the word—won the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes, becoming the first Triple Crown winner in a generation and only the 12th in nearly a century.

The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing is a trio of races for three-year-old horses run in May and early June of each year in the United States. Their names are arguably more famous than the circuit on which they reside: The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.

To the winner goes the Triple Crown Trophy, commissioned in 1950. And, of course, a cash prize: American Pharoah takes home $800,000 with his weekend Belmont win; never mind the prizes for the Preakness and Derby.

Horse racing is big business in the U.S. According to the American Horse Council, which represents the industry in Washington, the horse industry “has a direct economic effect on the U.S. of $39 billion annually” and is responsible for 460,000 full-time equivalent jobs. About 4.6 million Americans are involved in the industry and tens of millions serve as spectators.

More than a dozen horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but lost the Belmont in the 37 years since the last horse won the Triple Crown. Here’s a look at that winner—and the 10 that precede him.


Affirmed (1978)

Affirmed (#3) and Alydar (#2) at the Belmont Stakes on June 10, 1978 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
Robert Riger Getty Images

Affirmed’s road to success is best known by his rivalry with another horse, Alydar. Their duel was a thread that ran through Affirmed’s eventual Triple Crown win: The former bested the latter by just 1.5 lengths in the Derby, by a neck in the Preakness, and by a hair in the Belmont. Affirmed’s win marked the first time the Triple Crown had been won in consecutive years.


Seattle Slew (1977)

Seattle Slew (5) at the Belmont Stakes on June 13, 1977, at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
Focus On Sport—Getty Images

Slew wasn’t a looker, as they say, and known for his dark appearance and dearth of white markings. But he was dominant, emerging from early chaos to win the Derby by almost two lengths, the Preakness by a length and a half, and the Belmont by an impressive four lengths. Slew was the first undefeated Triple Crown winner.


Secretariat (1973)

Secretariat racing to win the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes on June 9, 1973 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
Focus On Sport Getty Images

Secretariat captured hearts and the covers of magazines nationwide. Known as “Big Red,” the horse is remembered for his Belmont Stakes win, claimed in a world-record 2:24 and besting the runner-up by an incredible 31 lengths. It was the first Triple Crown win in 25 years.


Citation (1948)

Citation, the first thoroughbred ever to earn one million dollars in purses.
Richard Meek Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

Though his races were thrilling, Citation is most notable for breaking a different kind of Triple Crown record—the millionaire mark. Upon retirement, he became the sport’s first millionaire with a bankroll of $1,085,760 and a record of 32-10-3.


Assault (1946)

Assault is acknowledged at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, in 2014.
Raymond Boyd Getty Images

Assault didn’t look like much. He was a delicate horse (less than 1,000 lbs.) who suffered from internal injuries and a misshapen hoof. But the “Club-Footed Comet” overcame those shortcomings with a strong gallop and Triple Crown sweep.


Count Fleet (1943)

Businessman John D. Hertz and his Triple Crown-winning race horse Count Fleet in Paris, Kentucky in 1943.
Gordon Coster The LIFE Picture Collection/Gett

In the midst of a world war, the Count won 10 of his 15 starts—but a Triple Crown winner that does not make. No, that title came courtesy of the Count’s increasing strength—a three-length win in the Derby, an eight-length win in the Preakness, and a jaw-dropping 25-length win in the Belmont, a record until Secretariat topped it thirty years later.


Whirlaway (1941)

Whirlaway with jockey George Woolf on October 28, 1942.
Underwood Archives/Getty Images

No one thought Whirlaway was the best horse, or even the smartest. But the horse known for running all over the racetrack—swinging to the edge as he came off a turn—managed to run all over his competition to become the fifth Triple Crown winner and a star who occasionally shined brighter than the biggest sports stars of the era: Baseball player Joe DiMaggio and boxer Joe Louis.


War Admiral (1937)

War Admiral during the "The Match of the Century" at Pimlico Race Course on November 1, 1938 in Baltimore, Maryland.
NBC/NBCU Photo Bank—Getty Images

War Admiral first rose to prominence as the progeny of Man o’ War, but it was an undefeated second year that gave the horse a reputation to call his own. The Admiral won the Derby comfortably but the Preakness only by a head, securing his hat trick at Belmont with violence—a slashed heel caused a trail of blood en route to the finish line.


Omaha (1935)

Racehorse Omaha after winning the Belmont Stakes in 1935.
NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images)

When the gates opened at the Belmont, Omaha was unable to surge to the front of the pack. It wasn’t looking good. No matter: Jockey Willie Saunders patiently pushed Omaha to the front and fought for a lead position. It worked, of course, and Omaha became the third Triple Crown winner by a margin of 1.5 lengths.


Gallant Fox (1930)

Gallant Fox in a special horse car en route to a stock farm at Paris, Kentucky in 1930.
NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images

No other horse was fast enough to keep up with a young Gallant Fox, and that proved consistent as the horse made a run at the triple title in 1930. The Fox’s success led him to become the sport’s all-time money earner at the time and helped cement the notion that the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes were what American sportswriters would call the “Triple Crown.”


Sir Barton (1919)

Sir Barton is acknowledged at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, in a photo taken in 2014 in Louisville.
Raymond Boyd—Getty Images

There was no such thing as a “Triple Crown” when Sir Barton became the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. Still, he managed the feat with attitude (he was known for his dislike of humans) and style (with soft feet, he often lost his shoes during his race) and is buried—where else?—under a statue of a horse in Wyoming.

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