It’s a horseracing feat that has been achieved just twice since the end of the First World War.
The sport’s ‘Triple Crown’ goes to a horse that wins the three British 'Classics', the 2000 Guineas, The Derby and the St Leger. Classics are only open to three-year-olds so a colt or filly has just a single season to try and win the three races. Because this is a unique opportunity in a lifetime, to win all three races is very rare. (Read more about the Classics here.)
This year, the first two legs have been won by the three-year-old colt Camelot. On Saturday 15 September at Doncaster Racecourse, he bids to become the first horse since Nijinsky (pictured right) in 1970 to complete the trio.
Camelot, like Nijinsky was, is trained in Ireland. He is unbeaten in five races, and is ridden by his trainer Aidan O’Brien’s son Joseph. So far he has won the QIPCO 2000 Guineas over one mile on 5 May at Newmarket Racecourse as the 15/8 favourite; won the Investec Derby over one and a half miles on 2 June at Epsom Downs Racecourse as the 8/13 odds-on favourite; and now he is the 1/3 odds-on favourite for the Ladbrokes St Leger which is raced over one and three quarter miles.
To win the three Classic races over varying distances is considered the greatest accomplishment by a racehorse. He has to prove he has speed and stamina as well as class.
Although born more than 40 years apart, the tales of Nijinsky and Camelot have similarities. Foaled in Canada, Nijinsky was bought by Charles W Englehard jnr and stabled with the late and legendary trainer Vincent O’Brien in Ireland – at Ballydoyle, the same establishment where Aidan O’Brien (no relation) now trains Camelot.
|Lester Piggott||Jockey||Joseph O’Brien|
|Vincent O’Brien||Trainer||Aidan O’Brien|
|Charles W Englehard jnr||Owner||Derrick Smith (Coolmore)|
|21 February 1967||Date of birth||5 March 2009|
|Ontario, Canada||Birthplace||Berkshire, England|
|2 minutes 34.68 seconds||Derby winning time||2 minutes 33.90 seconds|
|15 miles||Distance raced||5.5 miles|
|2.5 lengths||Average winning distance||2.3 lengths|
|10||Wins before the St Leger||5|
|6||Group 1 race wins||4|
|“On his day Nijinsky was probably the most brilliant horse I’ve ever ridden”||Jockey quotes||“He is a very special horse and I am just very fortunate to be able to be on his back”|
|“I would have to rate him first or second, him or Sir Ivor. For brilliance: Nijinsky”||Trainer quotes||“He’s just magical this horse”|
The history of horseracing’s ‘Triple Crown’
- Just 12 horses, and only one since the Second World War, have won ‘The Triple Crown’ of 2000 Guineas (one mile), The Derby (one and a half miles) and St Leger (one and three quarter miles).
- The term was coined in 1853 when the trio of races was won for the first time by West Australian.
- Sir Tatton Sykes should have achieved it in 1846. The colt won the 2000 Guineas and later the St Leger, but his jockey Bill Scott arrived at the start of The Derby hopelessly drunk on brandy. He lost several lengths after arguing with the starter, but his horse eventually lost by only a neck.
- In the 19th Century, there were seven more Triple Crown winners after West Australian: Gladiateur (1865); Lord Lyon (1866) who was odds-on for all three races; Ormonde (1886), which was 1-7 on for the St Leger and ridden by the legendary Fred Archer who would commit suicide later the same year; Common (1891); Isinglass (1893); Galtee More (1897); and Flying Fox (1899).
- There were two more Triple Crown winners before the First World War: Diamond Jubilee (1900), owned by the Prince of Wales who would become King Edward VII, and Rock Sand (1903). All the Classics were run at Newmarket during the war and although three horses completed ‘The Triple Crown’ most judges discount them.
- Since then, there have been just two ‘Triple Crown’ winners: Bahram, owned by the Aga Khan, in 1935, and Nijinsky, ridden by Lester Piggott, in 1970. The former is the only ‘Triple Crown’ winner to have been ridden by two jockeys – Freddie Fox and Charlie Smirke – in the three races.
- Blue Peter was denied the chance of achieving the ‘Triple Crown’ in 1939. He had won the 2000 Guineas and The Derby, but the St Leger was cancelled due to the outbreak of the Second World War the weekend before.
- The ‘Fillies’ Triple Crown’, of 1000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger, has been achieved eight times, most recently by Oh So Sharp in 1985.
- ‘The Triple Crown’ in United States racing is made up of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Eleven horses have won it, most recently by Affirmed in 1978.