Winning the English Triple Crown used to be one of the greatest achievements in horse racing but nowadays few even attempt it. With more than 50 years passed since the last horse triumphed in all three races, there are some experts who feel the challenge no longer appeals to the modern racehorse trainer.
What is the Triple Crown?
The Triple Crown consists of the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, run over 1m (1,609 meters) at Newmarket; the Epsom Derby, run over 1m 4f and 10y (2,423 meters) at Epsom Downs; and the St Leger Stakes, run over 1m 6f and 132y (2,937 meters) at Doncaster.
The St Leger is the longest and oldest of the three races. The 2021 edition takes place on September 11 and the latest horse racing betting websites rank Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris winner Hurricane Lane as the early favorite. His biggest challenge will come from Derby winner Adayar according to the horse racing predictions.
Only 15 horses have ever won all three races and only Nijinsky (1970) has achieved the feat in the last 85 years. The last attempt since then came in 2012 when Camelot was victorious in the 2000 Guineas and Derby but was disappointed in the St Leger when Encke took over.
Camelot’s effort was one of the most anticipated racing events in modern history. The 32,000 fans packed into Town Moor created an atmosphere that has rarely been matched, even by the monster crowds of Cheltenham and Ascot. This was an once-in-a-lifetime race that ultimately ended in disappointment for the crowd, the jockey and all those connected with the horse.
Why are Attempts so Rare?
Today, any horse that wins the Guineas and Derby double will benefit more by heading to Paris to contest the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The St Leger has a top prize of $500,000 while the big race in France will hand out over $3,000,000 to the winner in 2021 where Snowfall is the favorite.
What’s more, the horse gets a few extra weeks to prepare which can make a huge difference to their performance. Horse racing is a commercial enterprise and even the romantic lure of achieving such a rare feat is vastly outweighed by the financial pressures coming from backers, sponsors and race organizers.
There is also an argument that the longer distance of the St Leger is off-putting to owners who do not wish to diminish the future stud value of the horse. Both Nashwan (1989) and Sea the Stars (2009) completed the first two legs of the series in recent years but neither were entered into the St Leger.
Such obstacles do not exist in the USA where their own Triple Crown has been won five times in the period since Nijinsky’s 1970 triumph. There have been another 14 unsuccessful attempts in that time, making a total of 19 Triple Crown shots in 50 years. The latest triumph came in 2018 when Justify became the 13th US Triple Crown winner.
With that in mind, it would take an exceptional set of circumstance for another horse to make an English Triple Crown attempt and that might not happen again for decades. Some argue that it’s this level of exclusiveness that makes the achievement so great. But in reality it is not the size of the challenge that makes it rare but the external factors associated with modern racing.