Since 1919, the recognized beginning of the American Triple Crown, there have been 98 Kentucky Derby winners with the opportunity to complete the sweep by winning the Preakness and the Belmont. Not all the Kentucky Derby winners went on to contest the Triple Crown—Swaps and Spend A Buck, for example–but most did. Of those, 12 came away victorious.
Two trainers—James “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons and Ben A. Jones—account for a third of the Triple Crown champions, as each man trained two winners.
Fitzsimmons won the Triple Crown with Belair Stud’s (owned by William Woodward Sr.) Gallant Fox in 1930 and Gallant Fox’s son Omaha in 1935. Fitzsimmons-trained colts won two-thirds of the Triple Crown races in 1939 (Johnstown, Derby/Belmont) and 1955 (Nashua, Preakness/Belmont).
Jones won his Triple Crowns with Calumet Farm (owned by Warren Wright) colts Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948, both ridden by Eddie Arcaro.
The current active trainer who has come closest to equaling Fitzsimmons and Jones as two-time Triple-Crown-winners is Bob Baffert, of American Pharoah fame in 2015. He has sent three other colts to the Belmont with a chance to become Triple Crown champs—Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, and War Emblem in 2002. In the Belmont, Silver Charm was second, beaten three-quarters of a length, and Real Quiet was nipped by a nose. With Baffert still training top-level colts, he has a “puncher’s” chance to join the rare company of Fitzsimmons and Jones.
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The series on Kentucky Derby history began on February 20 and ends on May 1.