Triple Crown of Horse Racing

31 May 2023

Officially called the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, this is a series of three races for three-year-old thoroughbreds.  (Isn’t that an awful lot of threes?)  In 1950 the Triple Crown Trophy was commissioned and awarded to those horses who won all three of these races.  In fact, it was issued retroactively to those horses who won prior to 1950.  In addition to the trophy, the winner’s owner collects the prize money from each race, not to mention the deals that can be made for breeding rights.

The races are held in May and early June each year, unless adjustments are made like in 1945 and 2020.


Kentucky Derby

Probably the most famous of the three races, but the last one established (in 1872), the “Run for the Roses®” was the brainchild of William Clark (famed companion of Meriwether Lewis) after he attended the Epsom Derby in England.  With the aid of his uncles John and Henry Churchill, the Louisville Jockey Club eventually opened what we now call Churchill Downs.

The first place winner in 2023 received $1.86 million, of which 10% goes to the jockey; second place $600,00, of which the jockey gets 5%; and $300,000, with the jockey getting 5%.


Preakness Stakes

The Preakness is run on the third Saturday of May, which coincides with Armed Forces Day.  It is held at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.  It is held two weeks after the Kentucky Derby.

First held in 1873, it is named after the colt who won the first Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico.  Pimlico is derived from a Native American name Pra-qua-les or Quail Woods.  At the first running, it is reported that the jockey untied a bag of gold coins that was hung on a wire across the finish line as his prize.  Actually the term “purse” as prize money had been widely used for over a century previously.

The winning horse gets a blanket of Black-eyed Susans, which in reality is artificial and and made from daisies.  It is designed to represent Maryland’s state black and yellow colors, and the flower generally has 13 petals, representing the state as one of the original 13 colonies.

This year’s prize money saw payouts at $900,000, $300,000, and $165,000.


Belmont Stakes

The earliest established event of the Triple Crown, it is run last on either the first or second Saturday in June.  In 2023 it will be on June 10 at the Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.  The stakes is named after August Belmont, a financier, politico, and horse racing enthusiast.  It is the fourth oldest race in the United States.  The Stakes was run at various tracks over the years before its current home.  This is considered one of the most difficult tracks in horse racing because of the sandy terrain.

The winner gets a blanket of red carnations made from over 700 flowers.  The prize money for last year was $800,000 for first; second at $280,000, and third paid $150,000, slightly different but comparable to the Preakness.



In an publicity effort, in 1987 Chrysler Motors offered a three-tiered bonus for any horse that swept all three legs of the Triple Crown.  That would bring the combined winnings to $5 million.  The second part was $1,000,000 to any horse that started and finished in all three races plus had the highest combined total finish.  The final portion was a new Chrysler vehicle to the winning jockey of every Triple Crown race.  If the same jockey won a second race during the same annual series, the vehicle was go to the horse’s trainer.  None of this ever happened and there were no bonus payments ever made. The offer was discontinued in 1993.

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