Coming Back After a Triple Crown

The term ‘Triple Crown’ was coined in the decade after Sir Barton’s springtime domination of the classics, which, at the time, had yet to solidify their reputation as such. Though War Cloud completed the triple first, showing that making the trip from Louisville to Baltimore to New York was worth the trouble, the money that Sir Barton amassed in purses in his pursuit of the first Triple Crown is really what set the stage for the classics and the Triple Crown to become the gold standard for thoroughbreds. The chestnut son of Star Shoot* completed the triple in only 32 days — throwing in the Withers in between — a schedule that no trainer today would dream of following. By the time he got to the one-mile Dwyer in early July, Sir Barton was sore and tired and his performance in that race showed it. He earned a much-deserved long layoff, until September 11th, 1919, when he ran in the Hip Hip Hooray Purse.


When American Pharoah came back from his Triple Crown triumph in 2015, his owners chose the Haskell Invitational, another mile-and-a-quarter race, for his return after eight weeks off. In all honesty, American Pharoah could have retired the moment he crossed the finish line at Belmont and no one would have batted an eye, such is the rarity of the accomplishment. AP had two more starts after the Haskell in 2015, the Travers Stakes and then Breeders Cup Classic, where he completed the first-ever Grand Slam. After he walked out of the winner’s circle at Keeneland, American Pharoah took his place at Coolmore Ashford Stud and hasn’t been under saddle since. For Sir Barton, though, it was a different time, where the Triple Crown wasn’t a thing yet and horses ran well into their fourth and fifth years and even beyond. He would run eight more times after the Dwyer in 1919, the first of those being the Hip Hip Hooray purse.

His performance showed that he needed a race to round him back into shape. Sir Barton took the lead at the race’s start, but faded by the end of the six-furlong dash, holding on to finish second behind his stablemate Billy Kelly. Both of them gave weight to their competition, 15 to 18 pounds, and both outlasted the others, but the eight-week layoff showed in Sir Barton’s performance. Two days later, though, he would be back on the track for the Potomac Handicap, also at Havre de Grace.


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