WINDSOR, Ontario - There have been 11 winners of the Triple Crown, 11 members of one of the most exclusive club in American sports.
The first of these was Sir Barton, a chestnut colt who accomplished the feat in 1919, well before it was considered a major milestone. Sir Barton's win in the Kentucky Derby was his maiden victory, and he followed that up with a win in the Preakness just four days later. He won another race before winning the Belmont in a then-record time, winning the Triple Crown in just 32 days, with another race thrown in for good measure.
While the Triple Crown didn't have the luster in 1919 that it would in later years, Sir Barton was still widely celebrated, being named the Horse of the Year in 1919. His fame was soon upstaged, though, by an even better horse.
Man o' War dominated as a two-year-old in 1919, winning nine times in 10 starts - and with his only loss coming when he had his back to the starting line at the start. There was a lot of optimism surrounding him as he entered his three-year-old year. He didn't enter the Kentucky Derby because his owner did not like racing in Kentucky, so Man o' War's first race in 1920 was the Preakness, which he won going away. The horse set the track record for the mile in the Preakness before being eased up for the finish. Next came the Belmont, which he won by a record 20 lengths.
Man o' War's dominance ended up being detrimental - no other trainer wanted to run his horse up against him. Soon, Man o' War couldn't find any competition at all, with the exception of a good-natured match race against Hoodwink, who only lost by 100 lengths.
Man o' War had to leave the country to compete for the final time, as a race was set up with Sir Barton on November 12, 1920, in the Kenilworth Park Gold Cup in Windsor. Even with another horse that was supposed to give him a challenge, only one other horse was signed up for the race; that horse, Exterminator, was later scratched, setting up a match race between the two racing legends.
Due to the anticipation of what was supposed to be a great battle, the Gold Cup was filmed in its entirety for the first time that day. What the camera men saw was a completely dominating performance, as Man o' War quickly and efficiently put Sir Barton away. The race was over by the first furlong, and Man o' War won by seven lengths despite being pulled up at the end.
His superiority established, Man o' War retired to stud, where he sired many champion race horses in the next decades. Among his sires were two straight Belmont winners and a Kentucky Derby winner. The famous Seabiscuit was a grand-sire of Man o' War, and War Admiral, another sire, did what Man o' War wasn't allowed the opportunity to do: he won the Triple Crown, accomplishing the feat in 1937.