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2012 Belmont Stakes, Triple Crown Winners: Sir Barton, 1919

With I’ll Have Another trying to become the 12th Triple Crown winner in horse racing history, and the first since Affirmed in 1978, at the June 9 Belmont Stakes, let’s take a look back at each of the 11 previous Triple Crown winners.

We will do that with a series of posts on each winner. The blurb on each horse comes from the media guide. We start with Sir Barton, the first Triple Crown winner.

Sir Barton, 1919

When Sir Barton became the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1919, he did so before the phrase “Triple Crown” was even invented. Indeed, the chestnut son of Star Shoot wasn’t even the most popular horse of his era. The darling of the media that year was a freshman sensation named Man o’ War, a winner of nine of his 10 starts at age 2.

Still a maiden on Derby Day in his first start as a 3-year-old, Sir Barton was supposed
to function as a rabbit in the Run for the Roses for his more famous stablemate, Billy Kelly. The plan was for Sir Barton to wear out the favored Eternal, and set the race up for Billy Kelly. However, no one told Sir Barton, and under jockey Johnny Loftus he won by five widening lengths. Just four days later, on May 14, he won the Preakness at Pimlico, and, 10 days later, just to keep sharp, took the one-mile Withers at Belmont Park.

Well-rested by the time the Belmont Stakes came around on June 11, Sir Barton had but two opponents in the race, which was then contested at a mile and three-eighths. According to the chart, “Sir Barton, after beating the gate, indulged Natural Bridge with the lead over the Belmont course, then easily took the lead after entering the main course and, drawing away, was easing up at the end.”