West Australian, the first winner of the English Triple Crown in 1853. (Photo: 1853 Painting by Harry Hall)
The names of the American Triple Crown winners are fairly common to most of us - Secretariat, Affirmed, Citation, Seattle Slew, Gallant Fox, etc. While we might not know the intimate details of the career of every winner, most racing fans are familar with the horses themselves.
Across the Atlantic our friends in Great Britain are on the cusp of their first Triple Crown winner (Camelot (GB)) since the great Nijinsky (or Nijinky II in the U.S.) in 1970. And while most of us are familiar with Nijinsky, the other English champions are a bit more obscure. To help get you up to speed, I've cultivated and summarized a summary of the winners of the English Triple Crown, from West Australian to Nijinsky.
1853 - West Australian (GB)
by Melbourne (GB) out of a (Touchstone (GB) mare (Mowerina (GB))
West Australian began his racing career by running in two races within a week in October of his juvenile season. He lost his debut but came back to win the Glasgow Stakes just days later. He began his three-year-old campaign in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, winning by a half-length over Sittingbourne. In the Epsom Derby, West Australian faced a field of 28 horses winning by a neck over Sittingbourne.
1865 - Gladiateur (FR)
by Monarque (FR) out of a Gladiator (GB) mare (Miss Gladiator (FR))
Gladiateur is the only French-bred winner of the English Triple Crown, and one of only three horses to sweep the series that weren't bred in Great Britain. Sporting a career record of 19-16-0-1, Gladiateur is considered one of the best throgoubreds of his time. In addition to the English Triple Crown, Gladiateur also won the Grand Prix de Paris and the Ascot Gold Cup.
1866 - Lord Lyon (GB)
by Stockwell (GB) out of a Paragone (GB) mare (Paradigm (GB))
I don't have anything particularly interesting to add about Lord Lyon, but check out the newspaper summary of the 1866 Epsom Derby entitled The Race For "The Derby".
1886 - Ormonde (GB)
by Bend Or (GB) out of a Macaroni (GB) mare (Lily Agnes (GB))
One of the great champions in thoroughbred racing history, Ormonde never tasted defeat in 16 career races. So feared was Ormonde that only two opponents entered to run against him in the St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and he was sent to post as the 3/100 favorite. 3/100. I wonder if there were any bridge-jumpers that day?
Ormonde was devastating over any distance, winning races from six to 16 furlongs during his career. In addition to the English Triple Crown, Ormonde won the Champion Stakes, the St. James's Palace and the Dewhurst.
1891 - Common (GB)
by Isonomy (GB) out of a Scottish Chief (GB) mare (Thistle (GB))
1893 - Isinglass (GB)
by Isonomy (GB) out of a Wenlock (GB) mare (Dead Lock (GB))
I'm putting Common and Isinglass back-to-back because... well, how many times do you see two Triple Crown winners in three years sired by the same horse? Not a bad run for Isonomy by producing two horses to sweep the honors.
Common was one of the more obscure winners of the Triple Crown in that he only raced five times in his career, winning four races and finishing third in the other. Unraced as a two-year-old, the 2,000 Guineas was the first race of his career, followed by the Derby. After sweeping the first two legs of the Triple Crown, Common went to Royal Ascot and won the St. James's Palace Stakes but tasted his first defeat in his next start, the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. Common would finish his career by winning the St. Leger and was retired shortly after the race.
Isinglass sported a sparkling 12-11-1-0 record in his career and won the Princess of Wales's Stakes, Eclipse Stakes and Ascot Gold Cup, in addition to the Triple Crown.
1897 - Galtee More (IRE)
by Kendal (GB) out of a Springfield (GB) mare (Morganette (GB))
The first Irish-bred winner of the English Triple Crown.
An obscure footnote to the career of Galtee More: a man named Marcus Daly, an American sportsman known as the "Montana Copper King" at that time, offered the owner of Galtte More $125,000 for the horse, roughly $3.2 million in current dollars.
1899 - Flying Fox (GB)
by Orme (GB) out of a Galopin (GB) mare (Vampire (GB)
The sire of Flying Fox, Orme, was sired by prior Triple Crown winner Ormonde.
Following his racing career, Flying Fox was a three-time leading sire in France (1904, 1905 and 1913).
1900 - Diamond Jubilee (GB)
by St Simon (GB) out of a Hampton (GB) mare (Perdita (GB))
Unlike many of his counterparts, Diamond Jubilee had one of the more uneven records of any Triple Crown winner at 16-6-4-1. Diamond Jubilee was bred and owned by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII).
1903 - Rock Sand (GB)
by Sainfoin (GB) out of a St Simon (GB) mare (Roquebrune (GB))
Rock Sand sports one of the more distinguished careers of any English Triple Crown winner. In addition to his victories in the 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and St Leger Stakes, Rock Sand won the Dewhurst, the St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Princess of Wales's Stakes and the Jockey Club Stakes.
1915 - Pommern (GB)
by Polymelus (GB) out of a St. Hilaire (GB) mare (Merry Agnes (GB))
1917 - Gay Crusader (GB)
by Bayardo (GB) out of a Beppo (GB) mare (Gay Laura (GB))
1918 - Gainsborough (GB)
by Bayardo (GB) out of a St Frusquin (GB) mare (Rosedrop (GB))
Pommern, Gay Crusader and Gainsborough are the three winners of the English Triple Crown during World War I, when the series was altered significantly due to the ongoing hostilities in Europe. All the races were run at Newmarket and the conditions for the Derby and St. Leger differed from their historical norms. As a result, these three winners are generally not considered "true" winners of the Triple Crown.
1935 - Bahram (IRE)
by Blandrod (IRE) out of a Friar Marcus mare (Friar's Daughter (GB))
One of three non-Great Britain-bred horses to win the English Triple Crown; Bahram was bred by HH Aga Khan III at The Curragh in Ireland.
In addition to the Triple Crown, Bahram won the St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
1970 - Nijinsky (CAN) (or "Nijinsky II" in U.S.)
by Northern Dancer (CAN) out of a Bull Page mare (Flaming Page (CAN))
Nijinsky was one of the great race horses in the 20th Century and one of the most important stallions in the last 50 years. In addition to the Triple Crown, Nijinsky won the Irish Derby, the Dewhurst and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Nijinsky sired 1986 Kentucky Derby and 1987 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Ferdinand, along with 1982 Epsom Derby winner Golden Fleece, 1986 Epsom Derby winner Shahrastani, Breeders' Cup Mile winner Royal Academy, 2,000 Guineas winner Shadeed, and French Derby winner Caerleon. THAT is one impressive resume.