The Triple Crown in American Thoroughbred Racing is a series of three races: wthe Kentucky Derby (Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY); the Preakness Stakes (run at Pimlico in Baltimore, MD); and the Belmont Stakes (run at the Belmont, outside New York City). Only 12 horses over the past 98 years have won the three races, so it’s a very, very very rare accomplishment.
The Kentucky Derby is the first race in the series every year. So every year the horse and jockey who win the Derby are the only ones on the planet eligible to win that year’s Triple Crown. This year, Always Dreaming won the Kentucky Derby on May 6. This Saturday, May 20, Always Dreaming and approximately nine other horses will compete in the Preakness.
The Derby is also called the Run for the Roses, because the winner receives, among other things, a garland of roses. At the Preakness, the winner wins a garland of Black-eyed Susans, the Maryland state flower.
In the last 50 years, only four horses have won the Triple Crown. Many readers might remember when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown in 2015, but before that happened, the last time a horse won the Triple Crown was 37 years earlier, in 1978. That’s long enough ago that many racing fans were not alive, or at least not old enough to remember the event.
So in 2009, when Calvin Borel, Rachel Alexandra’s jockey, won the Kentucky Derby on Mine That Bird, and then had to choose between riding Mine That Bird or Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, the second race in the Triple Crown, this was a huge decision. In order to ride the horse he loved the most in the world, he had to give up his shot at making history by possibly winning the Triple Crown.
For Calvin, amazingly, it was an easy choice, and he rode Rachel Alexandra to victory at the Preakness eight years ago this Saturday. Rachel Alexandra was the first filly to win that race in 85 years and the first horse ever to win from the 13th post.
You can relive her victory here: