Looking back over the storied history of the Triple Crown, it is not unusual to find instances of where a winner of the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness or the Belmont sired a winner of one or more of the 3-year-old classics, such as Bubbling Over (Burgoo King), Determine (Decidely), Swaps (Chateaugay) and Unbridled (Grindstone).
Triple Crown race winners have sometimes spanned three generations. Reigh Count sired Count Fleet who in turn sired Count Turf, Counterpoint, and One Count. Pensive sired Ponder who sired Needles. Seattle Slew sired Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Swale and Belmont-winning A. P. Indy, who sired Preakness winner Bernardini and the Belmont-winning filly Rags to Riches.
The English Triple Crown winner Nijinksy II sired 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand and Man o’ War’s dam was by the English Triple Crown winner Rock Sand.
Only one father-son equine combination has won the American Triple Crown, Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935. Both were owned by the famous Belair Stud in Maryland and conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons.
Here are several what-might-have-beens in terms of father/son Triple Crown winning combinations:
Five Out of Six Triple Crown Wins
In 1919, the Kentucky Derby was won by Paul Jones. The best 3-year-old of that year and maybe any year was Man o’ War. Big Red’s owner, Samuel Riddle, did not believe in running young horses so early in the year at 1 ¼ miles, so he passed on the Derby. Man o’ War won the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes and every race he ran in thereafter. What might have transpired is always arguable, but it is difficult to fathom Paul Jones winning the Kentucky Derby had Man o’ War been in the field. By 1937 Samuel Riddle had a change of mind and he entered Man o’ War’s son War Admiral in the Kentucky Derby. War Admiral won the Derby and went on to sweep the Triple Crown. (Another son of Man o’ War, Clyde Van Dusen, won the 1929 Kentucky Derby.)
Secretariat handily took the Triple Crown in 1973. In 1988, his son Risen Star ran third in the Kentucky Derby and then won both the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.
In 1974, Seattle Slew swept the Triple Crown. Ten years later, his son Swale won two-thirds of the Triple Crown, winning the 1984 Kentucky Derby, finishing seventh in the Preakness, and winning the Belmont Stakes. Eight days after the Belmont Stakes, Claiborne Farm’s Swale died of cardiac arrest.
Interesting to Speculate On
Bold Venture won the 1936 Kentucky Derby Derby and Preakness but did not start in the Belmont. He was sold to the famous King Ranch of Texas, where he sired Middleground, winner of the 1950 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes and second to Hill Prince in the Preakness.
Native Dancer, like Man o’ War, lost one race in his career and is one of the greats of the American turf. Native Dancer’s loss happened to be in the 1953 Kentucky Derby. After having a rough trip and getting a questionable ride, the “grey ghost” came thundering down the stretch at Churchill Downs but fell just short of catching the winner Dark Star. Native Dancer easily won the Preakness and the Belmont. In 1966, Native Dancer’s son Kauai King won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but faltered in the Belmont. In 1967, another son of Native, Dancer’s Image, won the Kentucky Derby but was disqualified for testing positive for the then-banned medication phenylbutazone.
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