Thirty horses have, like California Chrome, taken the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but just 11 managed to also win the third and most grueling leg of the Triple Crown–the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes.
The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978. The 36-year-long drought is the longest since the convention was first recognized in the 1920s.
Affirmed’s victories in 1978 remain some of the most exciting in horse racing history in large part because the Florida-bred stallion had to outrace Alydar, in three closely-contested races.
Alydar and Affirmed raced against each other six times as 2-year-olds, with Affirmed winning four races and Alydar winning two.
Despite Affirmed’s record, Alydar entered the ’78 Kentucky Derby as the clear favorite and was considered by many experts to be one of the strongest Triple Crown contenders ever.
The experts were only wrong by a few inches–as Affirmed bested Alydar in the Triple Crown races in three close races.
The 1978 Belmont went down in history as most exciting Triple Crown events ever. After it looked like the late-charging Alydar would take command down the stretch, Affirmed surged across the finish line just a nose ahead of his long-time rival.
The 1978 Triple Crown is the only time in history that the same two horse won and placed in the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont.
The unique strength of rival Alydar arguably makes Affirmed’s Triple Crown one of the most impressive achievements in sports history.
We’ll see if California Chrome can join Affirmed in the rare club of Triple Crown winners today on Local 4. Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m.