This Saturday, May 5, marks the 144th year of the Kentucky Derby, the longest-running sports event in American history. Since the famed race’s inception in 1875, there have only been a select few horses that have earned the prestigious Triple Crown honor, which entails winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes all in the same season.
24/7 reviewed the 12 horses that have ever accomplished the feat of winning the Triple Crown, according to Kentucky Derby Woodford Reserve’s comprehensive list. The first horse earned the title in 1919 and the last in 2015.
The first year of the Kentucky Derby welcomed some 10,000 spectators. Today, an estimated 150,000 pack into the Churchill Downs track every spring to watch the year’s elite group of horses race to the finish.
Thoroughbred horse Secretariat still holds the 1.25-mile course record, smashing the 2-minute barrier in 1973 with a time of 1:59.40. Secretariat was the ninth horse to win all three races. His predecessors, while not as fast, come with their own set of accolades and stories rich in flavor and triumph. Most of these horses were not even considered race favorites.
For example, Assault, winner of the 1946 Triple Crown, was crippled at the onset of his career. His trainer, Max Hirsch, never would have suspected his wobbly steed would stand a chance against fierce competitors. Assault ended up overcoming the odds, making his mark in history as one of the greatest racehorses ever with a racing career of 18 wins.