The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, also simply known as the Triple Crown, is the pinnacle of horse racing in North America, particularly the United States. It consists of three annual thoroughbred races: Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.
It all starts on the first Saturday in May with the Kentucky Derby, which is a 1.25-mile race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The second race is the Preakness Stakes, a 1.1875-mile race at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, which happens on the third Saturday in May. And the third and final race is the Belmont Stakes is three Saturdays after the Preakness, and it is a 1.5-mile race at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
The races are open to colts and fillies, and they are all held on dirt tracks. Through the 2018 racing season, there have been only 13 horses that have won all three races of the Triple Crown to hold their places in horse racing history.
For more than a century, people wanting to bet on Triple Crown races had to find a nearby track that offered pari-mutuel wagering for those races, which was prohibitive to many racing fans around the world. Betting sites, however, have made it possible for anyone to log on and make wagers, essentially participating in the historic races and feeling a part of Triple Crown betting history.
The first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875 at Churchill Downs, the same location it runs today. The race was originally set for 1.5 miles, but it was shortened by a fourth-mile in 1896. Its popularity started at the very beginning with approximately 10,000 people in attendance to see the 15 horses run. While some years saw a cramped field, the rules were changed in 1975 to limit the race to 20 horses. Winners receive the Kentucky Derby trophy.
The Preakness Stakes is the shortest of the three races and limited to 14 horses. While this race started two years prior to the Kentucky Derby, it stopped in 1891 and didn’t resume until 1894. It also changed locations several times but returned to Pimlico in 1909 and has remained there ever since. The winner receives the Woodlawn Vase.
The Belmont Stakes is the longest of the three races and limited to 16 horses. It was actually the first of the three to run in 1867 but ran into problems with anti-gambling legislation in the early 1900s, thus not able to run in 1911 and 1912. Belmont Park didn’t become the official location of the race until 1905 but has been consist since then. The August Belmont Trophy goes to the race’s champion.
Since the inception of the Triple Crown, these horses and jockeys have run their way into racing’s hall of fame and solidified their place in history:
- 1919: Sir Barton (Jockey: Johnny Loftus)
- 1930: Gallant Fox (Jockey: Earl Sande)
- 1935: Omaha (Jockey: Willie Saunders)
- 1937: War Admiral (Jockey: Charley Kurtsinger)
- 1941: Whirlaway (Jockey: Eddie Arcaro)
- 1943: Count Fleet (Jockey: Johnny Longden)
- 1946: Assault (Jockey: Warren Mehrtens)
- 1948: Citation (Jockey: Eddie Arcaro)
- 1973: Secretariat (Jockey: Ron Turcotte)
- 1977: Seattle Slew (Jockey: Jean Cruguet)
- 1978: Affirmed (Jockey: Steve Cauthen)
- 2015: American Pharoah (Jockey: Victor Espinoza)
- 2018: Justify (Jockey: Mike Smith)
There are three most common ways to bet on the Triple Crown race. These straight bets are:
- Win: Betting on a horse to win.
- Place: Betting on a horse to finish in first or second place.
- Show: Betting on a horse to finish in first, second, or third place.
There are also exotic bets, some that can be place on race days and others for the other races that take place at the tracks on those day. Each of the special races of the Triple Crown are also part of larger race day programs at those tracks.
- Across the board: Three separate bets to win, place, or show.
- Exacta: Chosen horses finish in first and second place, in that exact order.
- Trifecta: Chosen horses finish in first, second and third place, in that exact order.
- Superfecta: Chosen horses finish in first, second, third, and fourth place, in that exact order.
- Box: Three above bets without exact order mandatory. (Quinella or exacta box is two horses chosen to finish first and second in any order. Trifecta box is three chosen horses finishing first, second, and third in any order.)
- Double (or Daily Double): Bettor picks horses to win in two successive races.
- Triple (or Pick Three or Treble): Bettor picks horses to win in three successive races.
- Quadrella: Better picks horses to win four nominated races at the sae track.
- Hi 5 or Super 5: Bettor picks five horses to finish first through fifth, in that exact order.
- Pick Six or Sweep Six: Bettor picks winners of six consecutive races.
- Parlay bets, also referred to as accumulators, are a series of bets that stake the winnings of one race on to the next in a let-it-ride fashion.
Many bettors take a historic betting attitude toward the Triple Crown races. For example, when a horse wins the Kentucky Derby, a bettor may place a small wager on that horse to win the Preakness just to have a record of the winning ticket in case that horse goes on to win the Triple Crown. Similarly, if a horse goes to the Belmont Stakes with two wins and could win the Triple Crown, bettors may again place a small wager on that horse. The odds may be very low and not a profitable endeavor, but fans of horse racing may want a record of the bet for nostalgic purposes.
The strategy for betting Triple Crown races online should be the same as betting any other horse race, as an analysis of the horses’ racing history, jockeys, track surfaces, trainers, and owners all play a role. Studying for serious bettors is a must.
Triple Crown bettors can also find some special exotic futures bets online at the time of the Kentucky Derby, with bets available on possible Triple Crown winners, upsets, and even racing times. Each site offers different options for horse racing fans.