Beginning with the first American Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton in 1919, through 2015, there were 97 runnings each of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.

Approximately ninety one of the Kentucky Derby winners contested the Preakness, while six did not owing to injury or bypassing the Preakness for other reasons.  For example, in 1985 the owners of Spend-a-Buck ran the colt in the Jersey Derby rather than the Preakness and in 1996 Grindstone was injured in the Kentucky Derby and never ran another race.

Thirty five Kentucky Derby winners since 1919 also won the Preakness, which equates to a 38.5% win percentage (35/91) for colts that actually ran.  Including the “no shows” from the Kentucky Derby the win percentage is 36.5% (35/96).

Twelve of the 35 colts that won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness went on to win the Belmont and achieve the Triple Crown.  Of the 23 colts that won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but not the Belmont, three did not contest the Belmont due to injury.  I’ll Have Another, for instance, in 2012 was scratched the day before the Belmont for lameness.  Therefore, the win percentage since 1919 in the Belmont for colts that have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness is 37.5% (12/32) or 34.3% (12/35) if the injured and scratched colts are included.

These historical metrics indicate that a Kentucky Derby winner has about a 14.4% chance of subsequently winning both the Preakness and Belmont and thereby completing the Triple Crown.  Once a Kentucky Derby winner follows up by taking the Preakness, his chance to win the Belmont rises to the aforementioned 37.5%.

Historical win percentages are merely guides to what might occur in the future, but they do show to what extent the odds are stacked against a Kentucky Derby winner to sweep the Preakness and Belmont.

None of the forgoing percentages, of course, take into account a horse’s inherent capabilities and the amount and quality of the competition he will face.

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