Rob Murphy, Breeding Analyst

The most exclusive list in thoroughbred racing is this group of horses – the twelve Triple Crown winners.

Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), and American Pharoah (2015).

I started watching racing in the 1970s as a casual fan.  My favorite horse, Seattle Slew, won the Triple Crown while still undefeated.  I named my miniature dachshund after him. In an upside down way, I named my business after Slew, M375 Thoroughbreds.  With three winners in six years in the 70s, and almost three in a row, it was as if there should be a Triple Crown winner every year.

Then the drought….thirty-seven long, frustrating, difficult years… people wanted to change the rules, people wanted to change the breed.

But, eventually, that streak was snapped. Finally.

All we needed was the reigning 2yo champion to attempt the Triple Crown. When he finally did, he won it.  That’s all it took.

In 37 years since Spectacular Bid, only American Pharoah was the returning champ. Only American Pharoah had the opportunity.  Only American Pharoah got it done.

These horses were certainly excellent runners: California Chrome (2014), I’ll Have Another (2012), Big Brown (2008), Smarty Jones (2004), Funny Cide (2003), War Emblem (2002), Charismatic (1999), Real Quiet (1998), Silver Charm (1997), Sunday Silence (1989), Alysheba (1987), Pleasant Colony (1981).

But none was the reigning champ.  Some were undefeated when they broke out of the gate in the Belmont. Only American Pharoah…

In about three weeks, we will see another brilliant 3-year-old colt, Justify, by Scat Daddy, out of the Ghostzapper mare, Stage Magic, seek to join that elusive company as a Triple Crown winner.

He is undefeated.

He broke the curse of Apollo from 1882.

Yet, he was not the Eclipse Award winner from last year.


There are many conflicting thoughts and circumstances.  There is a lot yet unknown.  The one thing I do know is that I will be watching from my living room. I might even get on my knees and pound the floor rooting Justify home, just like my mom did for Affirmed in 1978.

Affirmed and my mom got the job done. Go, Justify!