The other day, I had someone ask me where I put Sir Barton in the pantheon of Triple Crown winners. Where did the first Triple Crown winner rank amongst the thirteen that have won the honor of being the most elite of this sport? In order to answer this question, I sat down with a notebook and my trusty copy of Champions and contemplated exactly how I was going to rank all thirteen.
When I started researching Sir Barton’s career, I knew I had to start with the individual races themselves before I worked to connect the dots between them. The best place to find all of the details of his starts was the Daily Racing Form, the source of form charts and articles about the previous day’s races and other news going back to 1894. The only problem? The Keeneland Library is five hours away! Yikes! How was I going to do this research? Cue the Daily Racing Form archive.
Recently, I had the joy of reading and writing about Phil Dandrea’s book Sham: Great Was Second Best here on the blog. Sham had a great career of his own, winning races like the Santa Anita Derby, but happened to be born in the same year as the second-best horse of the 20th century. Now, let’s hear from the author himself and find out a little bit more about writing this book on the horse that pushed Secretariat during his 1973 Triple Crown run.
Finally, 100 years after his Triple Crown triumph, the full story of Sir Barton, America’s first Triple Crown winner, comes to you from myself and the University Press of Kentucky. You can pre-order Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown now ahead of the book’s official publication in early May.
Stay tuned to the blog and my Twitter feed for information on promotions, appearances, and more as we count down to the 100th anniversary of America’s first Triple Crown and celebrate the life of Sir Barton, the champion who brought us the ultimate chase for greatness in American horse racing.
Want to pre-order Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown? Order your copy today from any of these retailers!
The 20th century had two Big Reds: Man o’ War and Secretariat, both horses so dominant that they topped the list of the century’s greatest horses at numbers one and two. Both red chestnuts captured the hearts and imaginations of the people who watched them. Both inspired writers and verse to encapsulate their equine greatness, with multiple books devoted to their stories. These Big Reds stood at the top, their brilliant performances their legacy to the sport of horse racing. Behind those thrilling moments, though, lie their catalysts, the horses who might have finished second but drove those Big Reds to bigger and better. Among those were horses like Sir Barton and Sham.
Three weeks ago, I featured Duel for the Crown by Linda Carroll and Dave Rosner as the blog’s Book of Note for December. Their thrilling profile of the rivalry between Affirmed and Alydar recounted both their epic battles on the track and the people and moments that brought those two great horses to that thrilling Belmont finish in 1978, where Affirmed bested Alydar by a scant nose to win the Triple Crown. This month’s Author Answers features Linda Carroll, award-winning author of Duel for the Crown and Out of the Clouds and reporter for many prestigious publications, including Reuters, the New York Times, and NBC News.
In 1978, as Affirmed and Alydar sizzled down the stretch of the Belmont Stakes, I was a one-year-old toddler oblivious to the drama playing out between these two colts. It would be a decade before I would learn of their legendary battles amid the backdrop of racing’s most elite pursuit, the Triple Crown. To this day, I imagine that, like any rivalry, I would find fans who would be firmly on one side or the other. Affirmed or Alydar? The golden chestnut of Harbor View Farm & his owners Lou & Patricia Wolfson or the reddish-gold son of Raise a Native, the last great hope of the Markeys and the legendary Calumet Farm?
By early 1989, horse racing had dug itself deep into my heart, the sport destined to define my life in one way or another. At the tender age of twelve, I had been writing letters to institutions like the National Museum of Racing, seeking the information that my local libraries were woefully bereft of, and creating my own cast of characters that were pursuing the sport’s greatest heights in a handwritten novel housed in one of my old school notebooks. I was hooked and bereft of opportunities to share the enthusiasm for the upcoming Triple Crown campaign, but I didn’t let that stop me from being parked in front of the television each Saturday.
If you ask any horse racing fan, they can tell you the moment that solidified their love of the sport. Perhaps it’s Secretariat “moving like a tremendous machine” in the 1973 Belmont Stakes. Maybe it’s catching a day of racing with a relative when they were kids. It could even be a book or a movie that captured their imagination. For me, that moment was the 1988 Kentucky Derby and the beautiful roan filly that brought home the roses that day.