Three races. Three different surfaces and distances. 42 days.
MIGHTY HEART will attempt the most difficult accomplishment in Canadian horse racing on Saturday when he tries to sweep the OLG Canadian Triple Crown in the Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine. He could face 10 or 11 rivals; the post position draw is at 12 noon Wednesday, streamed at Woodbine.com.
Any Triple Crown series in racing is made to be a test of a champion. Thirteen have won the American Triple Crown since Sir Barton did it in 1919.
Just 15 have won the English Triple Crown and none since Nijinsky II in 1970.
Incidentally, this coming Sunday, CONTRAIL attempts to be the 8th winner of the Japanese Triple Crown [1 1/4-mile Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) (G1), Japanese Derby (G1) and Japanese St Leger] in Tokyo.
Twelve horses have won the Canadian Triple Crown. The past 7 winners of the series had been regularly noted as the Triple Crown winners since the series was officially called a series in 1959.
However, in 2014, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David Onley, announced at Queen’s Park that Woodbine Entertainment Group, in conjunction with the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, were grandfathering in five winners of the Triple Crown of Canadian Thoroughbred racing before the 1959 official Crown status. Queensway (1932), Archworth (1939), Uttermost (1945), Ace Marine (1955) and Canadian Champ (1956) joined the seven Triple Crown winners of the modern era.
Each Triple Crown winner had to master a tricky schedule, different surfaces and tracks to some extent.
The filly QUEENSWAY won the 1932 Plate, Prince of Wales and Breeders’ in a two-week period.
The Prince of Wales Stakes, now run at Fort Erie racetrack, was moved to that race and the turf in 1959. Like the Breeders’ the ‘Wales was 1 1/2 miles on grass in its last few years before it was moved back to the dirt in 1988. Huge longshots would regularly win the ‘Wales on the Fort Erie grass.
Modern time Triple Crown winners, through 2003, won the three races on: Woodbine dirt, Fort Erie dirt or grass and Woodbine grass.
No horse has won the Triple Crown since 2003 when the mighty WANDO did it in front of a delirious crowd at Woodbine.
No horse has even gone into the Breeders’ Stakes having won the first two legs since Wando.
And Mighty Heart is the first horse who will attempt the three-race sweep having run on 3 different surfaces: Tapeta (Plate), dirt (Wales), turf (Breeders’).
The Breeders’ not only is the longest race of the Crown at 1 1/2 miles but being on the turf, any rain makes the task all that much tougher.
Over the years we have seen soggy turf courses crumpling the chances of many a favourite.
I remember the 1985 version when Brian Cullen’s CROWNING HONOURS won the Breeders’ in an absolute bog and the horse was so tired past the wire (1 1/2 miles in 2:50!) that he stumbled and jockey Brian Swatuk tumbled to the wet turf.
ARCHWORTH – 1939
CANADIAN TRIPLE CROWN WINNERS – 12
Year Horse Jockey – Plate Jockey – Prince of Wales Jockey Breeders’ Trainer Owner
1932 Queensway Frankie Mann, Frankie Mann, Frankie Mann, Harry Giddings, Jr., Robert W. R. Cowie
1939 Archworth Steven Denny Birley, Steven Denny Birley, Sterling Young, Mark Cowell, C. George McCullagh
1945 Uttermost Robert B. Watson, Robert B. Watson, Robert B. Watson, Cecil Howard, Harry C. Hatch
1955 Ace Marine George Walker, George Walker, George Walker, Yonnie Starr, Larkin Maloney
1956 Canadian Champ David Stevenson, David Stevenson, Eugene Rodriguez, John Passero, William R. Beasley
1959 New Providence Bobby Ussery, Avelino Gomez, Avelino Gomez, Pete McCann, Windfields Farm
1963 Canebora Manuel Ycaza, Hugo Dittfach, Manuel Ycaza, Pete McCann, Windfields Farm
1989 With Approval Don Seymour, Don Seymour, Don Seymour, Roger Attfield, Kinghaven Farms
1990 Izvestia Don Seymour, Don Seymour, Don Seymour, Roger Attfield, Kinghaven Farms
1991 Dance Smartly Pat Day, Pat Day, Pat Day, James E. Day, Sam-Son Farm
1993 Peteski Craig Perret, Dave Penna, Craig Perret, Roger Attfield, Earle I. Mack
2003 Wando Patrick Husbands, Patrick Husbands, Patrick Husbands, Mike Keogh, Gus Schickedanz
*The Bank of Montreal, in 1989, stepped up and offered a $1 million bonus for any horse that could win the Triple Crown. Incredibly, it was swept three straight years before the bonus was cancelled. In 1993, Peteski was awarded a small bonus.