Understanding How the Triple Crown Works

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A horse running at the front of a group of racehorses on a grass track.
BetMGM @BETMGM Jan 21, 2022, 11:53 AM

Horse racing is one of the most popular online sports betting options around the world and particularly in the USA. The Triple Crown is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated achievements in the horse racing industry. However, if you’re just learning how to bet on horse racing, you might not be 100% sure of what this achievement entails.

In this blog, we’re going to take a closer look at the Triple Crown, the horse racing tournaments that are included, and how you can bet on it.

What is the Triple Crown?

Simply put, the Triple Crown is one of the most significant titles in horse racing. It is a series of three Thoroughbred races that take place in the USA each spring. 

The Triple Crown title was formalized, and the first official trophy was given out in December 1950. It was well recognized prior to that, however, and pre-1950s winners of the titles were given recognition for their achievements too.

What series make up the Triple Crown?

As mentioned, there are three separate horse racing events that make up the Triple Crown. They are the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.

The Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is arguably the most famous American horse race. It was established in 1875 and takes place on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs Racetrack, Louisville, Kentucky. This is the first of the Triple Crown series, and the dirt track is 1 1/4 miles long. Twenty horses compete in the Derby; colts and geldings must carry 126 pounds, while fillies must carry 121 pounds.

The most famous win at the Kentucky Derby is undoubtedly that of Secretariat, who won the race as part of his Triple Crown title in 1973.

The Preakness Stakes

What is often referred to as the “second jewel of the Triple Crown,” the Preakness Stakes takes place every third Saturday in May – two weeks after The Kentucky Derby. The race originated in 1873 and is run at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The event is named after the colt who won the first Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico. 

At 1 3/16 mile (1,900 meters), it is the shortest of the Triple Crown tracks. Fourteen is the maximum number of horses allowed to race at the Preakness Stakes. Colts and geldings must carry 126 pounds, and fillies must carry 121 pounds.

The Belmont Stakes

Last but certainly not least in the Triple Crown series, we have The Belmont Stakes. This is the penultimate race to win the Triple Crown, and it is organized by NYRA racing (New York Racing Association). Originating in 1867, it is the oldest of the three races and is named after August Belmont, who was a financier, sportsman and diplomat. 

The race has been run over various distances and on different tracks since its inception. However, Belmont Park, near New York City, has held the event since 1905. It has also been set at 1.5 miles (around 2,400 meters) since 1926, which makes it the longest track in the series too. 

Taking place in early June, three weeks after the Preakness Stakes and five weeks after the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes has been coined “The Test of the Champion” by professionals in the horse racing industry. It’s at this stage that the young horses have matured, the weaker competitors have been weeded out, and only the very best horses and jockeys are left to compete for the ultimate title. 

The Belmont Stakes is undoubtedly one of the most exciting NYRA bets that you can make throughout the horse racing calendar.

What horses can race in the Triple Crown?

The thing that makes the Triple Crown so prestigious is that horses only have one shot at winning the title in their lifetime. The races are only open to 3-year-old Thoroughbreds, and it is open to both male and female horses, although filly winners in the series are rare, and a filly has never won the Triple Crown. 

Every horse has to be nominated to compete, and a fee must be paid before running. 

Why is it so hard to win the Triple Crown title?

Most of the top racehorses are only expected to run one race a month at their local racetrack or a track close to their home. What makes the Triple Crown a significant achievement is that these horses have to run three times in five weeks. They run on different tracks of different distances in varying locations across the eastern half of the US. There is no do-over in the Triple Crown, and every one of the grueling races must be won in order to take the title.

How many horses have won the title?

There have only been 13 horses that have claimed the Triple Crown title: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat(1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015), and Justify (2018).

Triple Crown series 2022

  • The Kentucky Derby: Churchill Downs – May 7, 2022
  • The Preakness Stakes: Pimlico – May 21, 2022
  • The Belmont Stakes: Pimlico – June 11, 2022

How do you bet on horse racing?

Horse racing is an excellent sport to bet on, and learning how to place the best bets isn’t difficult. Have a look at our Beginner’s Guide to Horse Racing and FAQs for in-depth information on understanding how odds work, how to do your research, and the different types of bets that you can place on horse racing betting websites.

Place your bets with BetMGM

At BetMGM, we have a wide array of horse racing betting options available and up-to-the-minute horse racing odds that will keep you in the thick of the action with terrific horse-racing tournaments, from NYRA tracks to Triple Crown events such as the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Register with BetMGM to bet on horse racing.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.