Winning the coveted “Triple Crown” of horse racing consists of finishing first in all three of the sport’s most prestigious events in the same year: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.
Triple Crown winners are considered the most dominant horses of all-time. You’ve probably heard most of their names at one time or another. If you ask someone to name the top race horse in history, you’re likely to hear names like Secretariat or Seattle Slew – both Triple Crown winners.
What about the horses that do not quite make the cut? Below we explore those unfortunate equines who managed to win only two of the three Triple Crown races, narrowly missing having their names added to the history books among past great champions.
It is important to remember that prior to the 1930s, the “Triple Crown” as it is known now did not really exist. The Kentucky Derby had yet to gain much notoriety up to that point and many owners simply chose to not enter their best horses there. With that said, we have still included a comprehensive list of two-event winners.
Horse Racing’s Triple Crown Close Calls
Winners of Both the Kentucky Derby & Preakness Stakes
The most harrowing combination has to be winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but failing to win the Belmont Stakes. This is the most heart-breaking because these races are now always run in the same order – Kentucky Derby, Preakness, then Belmont. That being said, the Preakness was ran before the Derby eleven times prior to 1931, and the Belmont ran eleven times before the Preakness. Both 1923 and 1931 happened to be two of the years the Preakness ran before the Derby, so there were not quite the same stakes for Zev and Twenty Grand than the other horses on this list.
23 horses in all have won these two legs of the Triple Crown and, amazingly, 8 of those horses finished in second place at the Belmont, coming just one spot short of history.
|2012||I’ll Have Another||Scratched|
|2008||Big Brown||Did Not Finish|
|1932||Burgoo King||Did Not Enter|
Horses to Win Only the Preakness & Belmont Stakes
A total of 18 horses have won both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Out of that number, seven horses did not even participate in the Kentucky Derby due to a conflict with the Preakness or simply not wishing to run the race. That leaves 11 horses on this list that tried and failed to win the Triple Crown. Four of those remaining participants managed to finish in second place in the Kentucky Derby before going on to win the next two legs.
|1922||Pillory||Did Not Enter|
|1920||Man o’ War||Did Not Enter|
|1895||Belmar||Did Not Enter|
|1881||Saunterer||Did Not Enter|
|1880||Grenada||Did Not Enter|
|1878||Duke of Magenta||Did Not Enter|
|1877||Cloverbrook||Did Not Enter|
List of Who has Won the Kentucky Derby & Belmont Stakes
Just 11 horses have won only the first and last leg of the Triple Crown, making it more rare than actual Triple Crown wins. Four horses from this group very narrowly missed the crown by finishing 2nd at the Preakness in addition to Derby and Belmont wins.
Complete List of Triple Crown Winners
For good measure, here is the full list of 12 horses that managed to complete the Triple Crown by winning all three races.