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When was the last Triple Crown winner? Year-by-year breakdown of most successful racehorses

Horse racing isn’t at the forefront of most sports fans’ minds, but that all changes when the Triple Crown races roll around.

Triple Crown races are the most prestigious events in horse racing. The Kentucky Derby is the sport’s pinnacle, and the winners are forever immortalized.

But the rare dozen-plus horses that have been able to win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes after winning the Derby? Those are the true legends of thoroughbred racing.

Winning the Triple Crown has been rare; that’s part of the reason the accomplishment means so much. So few horses, and even fewer jockeys, have done it.

MORE: Horses, odds, expert picks & more for 2024 Kentucky Derby

So, which horses have won the Triple Crown, and which horse was the most recent to do it? Here’s what to know about Triple Crown history:

What are the Triple Crown races?

The Triple Crown consists of three stakes races for 3-year-old horses. They are, in order:

  • Kentucky Derby
  • Preakness Stakes
  • Belmont Stakes

The Derby is the biggest of them all despite it being the youngest. The 1 1/4-mile race began in 1875 and has become the premier event in horse racing.

The Preakness has the distinction of being the shortest race of the three at 1 3/16 miles. It has been run since 1869 and favors slightly faster horses, or at least ones with good closing burst that can avoid slow starts.

The Belmont Stakes is the oldest of the three races, having begun in 1867. It also is the longest race at 1 1/2 miles. The distance tests horses’ stamina, and many Triple Crown candidates have fallen victim to its length by fading in the stretch.

When was the last time there was a Triple Crown in horse racing?

The last Triple Crown occurred in 2018 when Justify, a Bob Baffert-trained colt, won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Justify entered the Kentucky Derby as one of the race favorites, but history was not on the horse’s side. He hadn’t raced as a 2-year-old, and no horse had won the Kentucky Derby without doing so since Appolo in 1882.

Justify broke the so-called “Curse of Appolo” by logging a 2 1/2-length win over Good Magic under sloppy conditions at Churchill Downs. He continued to fare well in wet weather at the Preakness, which was run in thick fog and on a Pimlico Race Course track that was slick from several days of rain ahead of the race.

Justify ran one of his slowest races in the Preakness but still managed to hold on for the win by a half a length over Bravazo. Those two, plus Tenfold and Good Magic, all finished within about a length of one another.

Though Justify wasn’t at his best in the Preakness, he was strong at the Belmont Stakes. He got out well on the rail and then held off Gronkowski in the stretch for a 1 3/4-length win at Belmont Park. That made him the 13th winner of the Triple Crown.

To relive all of Justify’s 2018 glory, you can check out the video of his three races below.

Triple Crown winners by year

Thirteen horses have won the Triple Crown. Only two have achieved the feat since 1979: Justify in 2018, and American Pharoah, who ended a 37-year Triple Crown drought in 2015.

Only one jockey has won multiple Triple Crowns in horse racing: Eddie Arcaro, who rode Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948.

The full list of Triple Crown-winning horses and jockeys, from Sir Barton and Johnny Loftus in 1919 to Justify and Mike Smith in 2018.

Year Horse Jockey
2018 Justify Mike Smith
2015 American Pharoah Victor Espinoza
1978 Affirmed Steve Cauthen
1977 Seattle Slew Jean Cruguet
1973 Secretariat Ron Turcotte
1948 Citation Eddie Arcaro
1946 Assault Warren Mehrtens
1943 Count Fleet Johnny Longden
1941 Whirlaway Eddie Arcaro
1937 War Admiral Charles Kurtsinger
1935 Omaha Willie “Smokey” Saunders
1930 Gallant Fox Earl Sande
1919 Sir Barton Johnny Loftus
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