by Bob Heyden
No state has been better represented in the Triple Crown — in both breeds — than the Empire State, New York.
There have been 436 thoroughbred Triple Crown events in history, with all three legs originating in the 19th century. The Belmont Stakes has been contested 149 times, the Preakness 143 times and the Kentucky Derby 144 times.
Every Belmont has been contested in New York, but at different tracks. Aqueduct played host for five years (1963-1967) while Belmont was being renovated. Belmont Park started playing host in 1905. (Two years it was cancelled 1911-1912). Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx had the Belmont from the first edition in 1867 to 1890 when it switched to Morris Park Racecourse from 1891-1904.
The Preakness has been contested 16 times in the state of New York — in the Bronx in 1890 and then to Coney Island from 1894-1908.
That means 165 of 436 times (37.6 per cent), Triple Crown races have been held in New York.
On the standardbred side, it’s a touch more!
Sixty-one of the 63 editions of the Yonkers Trot have been contested at Yonkers Raceway, with the lone exceptions being 2004 (Hawthorne) and 2005 (Freehold).
The Kentucky Futurity and the Little Brown Jug have been held at the same site for the duration-in Kentucky and Ohio, but the other four Triple Crown tests have all been in New York at some point.
The Cane Pace was held at Yonkers for 43 years from 1955-1997 and then at Tioga from 2012-2014. Forty-six times, total, this leg was held in NY.
The Messenger was held at Roosevelt from 1956-1987, then at Yonkers for 1988 and again in 2006 to present. In total, 45 times it has been contested in the Empire State.
The Hambletonian has been held in New York 29 times. It was held at Syracuse in 1926 and 1928, Good Time Park at Goshen from 1930-1942 and then to Empire City (Yonkers) for 1943, then back to Good Time Park from 1944-1956. Three different tracks in New York have played host to the Hambletonian.
In total, 182 of the 473 standardbred Triple Crown events have been held in New York State (38.4 per cent) — more than any other state.
Combining both breeds, there have been 909 Triple Crown races and 347 (38 per cent) have been held in New York.
Billy Haughton was alive for the first 30 editions of the Triple Crown and won the very first Messenger (Belle Acton in 1956) and Cane Pace (Quick Chief in 1955). Then, didn’t win either again until 1967, when he again won both — the Cane with Meadow Paige and the Messenger with Romulus Hanover. Then, he repeated both in 1968, capturing his only Triple Crown ever, winning both these stakes (along with the Jug) with Rum Customer. (Just for good measure, Billy threw up a Messenger “threepeat” in 74-75-76.)
In all, he drove seven winners of the Messenger and trained another (Pershing Square, 1985).
Windsongs’ Crowning Legacy
Windsongs Legacy, who died on March 1, 2008 at age 7, has some unusual Triple Crown history on his bio.
1. He is the only Triple Crown winner who won all three legs on a mile track — Meadowlands, Hawthorne and Lexington in 2004. That was the first of two straight years that the Yonkers Trot was not held in New York on the half-miler at Yonkers.
2. Trond Smedshammer twice won the Yonkers Trot and they were the only two (of 63) the Yonkers Trots was not held at Yonkers Raceway. In 2005, Strong Yankee followed Triple Crown winner Windsongs Legacy.
3. Windsongs Legacy was the first Trotting Triple Crown winner to do so without winning a race in New York. He won his legs in Illinois, New Jersey and Kentucky.
Q. Who was the first of the pacing Triple Crown winners to not win all three Triple Crown events on a half-mile track?
A. In 1997, Western Dreamer — the eighth Triple Crown winner — won the Messenger at The Meadows.
There have been 12 thoroughbred Triple Crown winners, 10 pacing Triple Crown winners and nine trotting Triple Crown winners.
The waiting game
The 15-year gap (to date) from 2003 until at least 2018 is the longest that we’ve ever gone without a pacing Triple Crown winner. Previously, 14 years was the high water mark set by Ralph Hanover in 1983 and Western Dreamer in 1997. On the trotting side, it was an eternity. It was a 32-year gap from Super Bowl in 1972 to Windsongs Legacy in 2004.
The only harness racing Triple Crown event to span three different centuries is the Kentucky Futurity (1893).
Deweycheatumnhowe remains the only Hambletonian winner to enter and emerge from the race undefeated lifetime.
Seattle Slew remains the only thoroughbred Triple Crown winner (1977) to enter and emerge from the series unblemished. Justify will try and join him on June 9, 2018.