Tag Archives: Triple Crown

Canadian Triple Crown

Mighty Heart has a chance today to be the 13th Canadian Triple Crown winner. The three-year-old colt won the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie, returning to Woodbine for the Breeders’ Stakes. (TSN 5-6 pm ET)

Mighty-Heart-Queens-Plate-CBC.ca
Mighty Heart at Queen’s Plate, cbc.ca

The Canadian Triple Crown is a test of a horse’s ability at different lengths and on different surfaces. The Queen’s Plate is 1¼ miles on a synthetic track, the Prince of Wales 1 3/16 miles on dirt and the Breeders’ Stakes 1½ miles on turf. So a horse has to be equally adept with all three surfaces and lengths. A test for champions.

Queensway-canadianthoroughbred.com
Queensway, 1st winner 1929

The three races have been run since 1929. But they didn’t formally become known as the Triple Crown until 1959. The five winners in those first 30 years, however, are included in the list of 12 Triple Crown champions. Their names, with sire and dam, are below.

12 in 91 years

  • 1932  Queensway (filly, Old Koenig / Chrysoberil
  • 1939  Archworth (Worthmore / Archipelago)
  • 1945  Uttermost (Soleil Du Midi / Uppermost)
  • 1955  Ace Marine (Ace Admiral / Mazarine)
  • 1956  Canadian Champ (Windfields / Bolesteo)
  • 1959  New Providence (Bull Page / Fair Colleen)
  • 1963  Canebora (Canadian Champ / Menebora)
  • 1989  With Approval (Caro / Passing Mood)
  • 1990  Izvestia (Icecapade / Shy Spirit)
  • 1991  Dance Smartly (filly, Danzig / Classy ‘N Smart)
  • 1993  Peteski (Affirmed / Vive)
  • 2003  Wando (Langfuhr / Kathie’s Colleen)

Northern Dancer’s great-greats

In 1964, Northern Dancer won the Queen’s Plate in July. That was a month after his run for the American Triple Crown. He won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but alas, not the Belmont. Due to lameness he developed later that month, that was his last race. And the start of his stud career.

His great-great-granddaughter Wonder Gadot won the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown in 2018. She did not run in the Breeders’ Stakes, instead competing in New York’s Travers Stakes a week later.

This year, it’s another Northern Dancer descendant with a Triple Crown chance. Mighty Heart is his great-great-great-grandson through both his dam, Emma’s Bullseye, and his sire, Dramedy.

Mighty Heart has a lot of heart. He’ll need it. He’s only one of two in the expected field of 12 to compete in all three races. And Mighty Heart has only one eye. He lost his left eye when he was just two weeks old. A blinker with a protective covering keeps debris from flying into his eye socket.

His main competition is expected to come from his stablemate Belichick. They’ll be side by side in the starting gate. Both are trained by Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame trainer Josie Carroll. Good luck to all, and safe ride!

Later – Spoiler Alert:

Belichick ran the winning race. So Josie Carroll was the three race winning trainer, but she did so with her other horse. Congratulations to all, and thanks, Mighty Heart, for some exciting rides.

Twelve Canadian Triple Crown Heroes: True Test of a Champion

Justify

Justify belmont-time-nbcsportsA big chestnut colt won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Five weeks ago, Justify won the Kentucky Derby. Three weeks ago, he won the Preakness. So he won the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred horse racing. It’s the second Triple Crown in three years, also second Triple Crown in forty years.

The jockey of another big chestnut colt was there watching Justify baffert-greets-ron-turcotte-2018 belmont stakes-nbcsportsdo it. Ron Turcotte could see the blue and white pole at the side of the track. It is 31 lengths from the finish line, marking the distance by which he and Secretariat won the 1973 Belmont, and the Triple Crown. No horse ever has matched that margin (76 metres) or Secretariat’s track record time.

Secretariat-pole-2018-Belmont-nbcsports
Frontrunners passing Secretariat pole 2018 Belmont Stakes

But Justify won the extraordinarily long race, at 1 1/2 miles, wire to wire. He was first out of the gate, and he kept his lead. For what felt like a long, long time, all the other horses were keeping up with him, just back a bit. Keeping up but not increasing their speed. Still, I was terrified. Someone was going to go into overdrive somewhere in that last half- or quarter-mile. “Pull him back, Mike, he’s got to save something for the stretch.”

Justify 1st, Gronkowski last to 2nd

gronkowski-last-2018-nbcMike Smith knows more about riding horses than I do. Justify did have something left. He pulled ahead a bit right near the end, finishing 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Gronkowski. That order of finish was a total surprise. Gronkowski was a long shot who wasn’t even near the pack for much of the race. And then he flew past horses to the front, almost. If you’d bet that unlikely combination, you’d have made some real money.2018-belmont-official-results-nbcsports

Justify is the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown in its 99 year history. His name and silks join theirs in the small field at Belmont Park honouring the winners. The silks of red with yellow stars justify 2018-triple-crown-plaque-nbcbelong to the China Horse Club, co-owners of Justify. In the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, he wore the colours of WinStar Farms, the other owners in the partnership.

With luck, we’ll see Justify run again this year. Maybe the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August and the Breeders’ Cup in November at Churchill Downs. In 2015 American Pharoah won the Breeders’ Cup but finished behind Keen Ice in the Travers.

Justify_2018_Belmont_Stakes-Mike-Lizzi-wikicommonsjpgJustify is the son of Scat Daddy and Stage Magic. He has a lot of Northern Dancer in him, through both parents. 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew is his mother’s great-great-grandsire. A  Man_o_War_winning_Belmont-1920-wikipedia chestnut big redgeneration back from there on his dad’s side, there’s Big Red, Secretariat. Another few generations back and you’ll see the original Big Red, the big chestnut champion Man o’ War.

Breeders’ Cup

Saturday was Hallowe’en. A big day. This October 31st was a big day for another reason. The Breeders’ Cup Classic horse race and the chance to see something that’s never happened before. It happened.

breeders' cup classic pharoah-and-victorWire to wire and breaking the track record time, American Pharoah won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Therefore, he won the grand slam, the four most prestigious Thoroughbred races in North America. He is the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown and the first who had the chance to add a fourth jewel. (Watch the race here)

The Breeders’ Cup was started in 1984 by American horse breeders as a showcase for the sport and the bloodstock. Each year, on dirt and turf tracks, the best of the best compete. The Classic is for 3 year old and older horses. It’s a big end to the race meet and the season.

Breeders’ Cup Classic = Grand Slam

five-length-leadUnlike the Triple Crown races, the Breeders’ Cup moves from track to track each year. This year, for the first time, it was held at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. In light of the history it made, that was especially nice. Keeneland is an old and prestigious track right in the middle of the blue grass and horse farm country.

Breeders cup celebration wave

After the Classic

The day after the Breeders’ Cup, American Pharoah was trailered a few kilometres down the road to his new home, Ashford Stud at Coolmore Farms. It would have been a difficult day for the Zayats, saying goodbye to him.

He’s still their horse but they sold the breeding rights to Coolmore. It’s likely his stud fee will be about $200,000. That will go up or down, depending on what happens when his babies start racing. The fee for the services of Pioneerof the Nile, his dad, jumped way up to $120,000 after American Pharaoh won the Triple Crown. It was evidence of good genes being passed on. So now we wait to see if American Pharoah passes them to his offspring.

classic championI wish American Pharaoh a long and happy life. His name will be a distinguished one in the record books forever. He’ll have a special place in our hearts. A Triple Crown after 37 long years, when it seemed all but impossible. Then the cherry on top – the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But most of all for his heart and personality, for making it look so easy.

 

Ron and Secretariat

Last weekend, my dog and I went to Grand Falls/Grand-Sault in secretariat-and-ron-photo-d-stewartnorthern New Brunswick to see a statue unveiled. It is Ron Turcotte and Secretariat crossing the finish line at the Belmont Stakes in 1973 and thereby winning the Triple Crown.

As you cross the falls on the Ron Turcotte Bridge heading to the town’s centre, the statue is the first thing you see in the middle of the beautiful Broadway Boulevard. New Brunswick artist Yves Thériault made it, and it is magnificent.

In an article I read, M. Thériault said he wanted to convey the sense of turcotte-statue photo dorothy stewartthe race itself, that moment of victory. How can you do that in bronze, I wondered. He did it. The long narrow dirt-filled base is the track, with M. Turcotte’s career wins and awards engraved on the sides. Beside Secretariat, the finish line tower shows the time (2:24). Crouched over his neck, Ron Turcotte looks back to unseen horses, way way back.

Statue Unveiling

The monument was under wraps of course, and the wrap was Secretariat’s blue and white checkerboard. The statue was unveiled secretariat-unveiling-photo-d-stewartby little kids dressed in The Meadow’s silks, complete with boots and helmets. During the removal of the cover, the actual race call played over loudspeakers. That was a truly inspired moment of theatre.

Ron Turcotte, his wife Gaétane, children and grandchildren and his brothers and sisters were all there. Horse racing dignitaries were there, fans from all over Canada and the US and hometown people ron-and-leo-photo-d-stewartcelebrating their own local hero. A lovely message of congratulations from Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery was read out.

It was a party, with cake and plush-toy Secretariats. Everyone wanted to talk with M. Turcotte and have their picture taken with him. As he headed to the tent from the statue, he kindly stopped to allow me to take a photo of him with my dog Leo.

Memorabilia

turcotte-signs-3-triple-crown-printIn the tent, he signed autographs on small cards and large posters. He signed the glass of large framed prints for people who cared enough to lug them all the way there. For me, he signed a photograph of another dog of ours standing beside the Secretariat statue at the Kentucky Horse Park. That truly made the day complete for me.

I stopped at the Falls on my way out of town. I couldn’t quite see the statue from there. Probably in winter, when there are no leaves on the trees, you’ll be able to. I didn’t stop at the town’s museum across the road, but I wish I had. M. Turcotte’s riding boots and goggles are on display.

motel-leo-photo-d-stewartLeo and I enjoyed our stay at the Motel Leo. Lovely people and a fine room. Merci.

See Secretariat: The movie for the picture I had autographed and my thoughts on the movie.

Also see my Turcotte, the movie for more on the excellent 2013 NFB film Secretariat’s Jockey about Ron Turcotte’s life and horse racing career.

American Pharoah

american pharoah in belmontSaturday, I saw something I’ve never seen before: the winning of the American Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. I hadn’t expected it to happen, but I hoped. American Pharoah made it look easy. It’s not.

He’s the 12th horse to win it in almost a century. The last time the triangular statue was handed to an owner was 1978. Thirteen times triple-crown-trophy-2015in the 37 years since, it’s sat in a secure storeroom at Belmont, waiting to be given to a potential winner, only to be put in storage again. The trio of 1970s winners were represented Saturday: Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery, Seattle Slew’s trainer William H. Turner Jr., and Affirmed’s jockey Steve Cauthen.

five-and-a-half-lengthsAmerican Pharoah is bred and owned by Zayat Stables. He will stand at stud at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud Farm in Kentucky. It will cost a lot to get one of his babies. Breeders are likely poring over his pedigree and those of their mares, trying to choose one with performance and conformation in her background that, with luck, will enhance and balance his.

The best to the best

unofficial-winnerBreed the best to the best, and hope for the best, is the rule of thumb. Getting the “superhorse” is the dream, and they’re one in a million – literally. Stats on NBC’s Belmont broadcast showed that, since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, 1.4 million Thoroughbred foals have been born.

American Pharoah was born February 2, 2012 to Pioneerof the Nile and Littleprincessemma. Look through his pedigree (tap chart to enlarge). You will see well-known names. On his sire’s side are Mr. Prospector, Northern Dancer and Bold Ruler, sire of Secretariat. On his dam’s side are Northern Dancer, Secretariat and Raise a Native.

Amer-Pharoah-pedigree

Triple Crown Club

The great Man o’ War is found in eleven of American Pharoah’s 16 great-great grandparents. Man o’ War could have, should have, been a member of the Triple Crown club. He won the Preakness and Belmont in 1920, but did not run in the Kentucky Derby. At the time those races were simply three of many, so whether to run or not had no great significance.

triple crown silks-belmont-parkBeing only five weeks apart with differing distances that test a horse’s ability, the three stakes races were first called the Triple Crown by a journalist in 1923. But they didn’t become that officially until 1930. That year, Gallant Fox won all three. Sir Barton in 1919 was the only other horse to have done so. Therefore, in 1947, ten years after his death, Sir Barton was included as the first Triple Crown winner. I’m sure that, had he run the Derby, Man o’ War would be in that select group.