Ranking the Triple Crown Winners

By Andrew Beyer
Columnist for The Washington Post

Ranking the 11 Triple Crown winners is a difficult task because the times of their races aren't a reliable gauge. Races used to be hand-timed, and "official" clockings were sometimes suspect. But it is reasonable to believe that certain generations were better than others -- and that overall, racehorses of the 1950s, '60s and '70s were better than their predecessors. And so the Triple Crown winners of the 1970s deserve three of the top four places in the rankings.

Margin of Victory

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Horses Who Should Be on the List

The Triple Crown has relentlessly defeated less-than-great horses — ones such as War Emblem, Funny Cide and Real Quiet, who didn't deserve to have their names on the same list with Secretariat and Count Fleet. But there are a few horses who missed getting a place on this honor roll, even though they deserved it.

SPECTACULAR BID (1979): One of the greatest horses of all time, every bit as good as Affirmed and Seattle Slew. Bid's loss in the Belmont Stakes was one of the few blemishes on his record. Trainer Bud Delp had himself to blame by staying loyal to young jockey Ronnie Franklin, whose panicky ride probably cost Spectacular Bid the Triple Crown.

MAN O'WAR (1920): The superhorse of his era didn't run in the Kentucky Derby; there was no recognized Triple Crown at the time. He began his illustrious 3-year-old season by winning the Preakness, and when he won the Belmont he ran 3.20 seconds faster than the existing world record.

NATIVE DANCER (1953): Was a national celebrity as he won 21 of his 22 lifetime starts, and his unlucky loss to Dark Star in a trouble-filled Kentucky Derby was a shock. When Dark Star beat him by a head, Time magazine wrote, "Thousands turned from their TV screens in sorrow, a few in tears."

CREDITS: Reporting by Andrew Beyer, The Washington Post; Photos by The Associated Press; Graphic by The Washington Post; Interactive by Alyson Hurt, washingtonpost.com - June 6, 2008

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