The most famous American races are the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. These stakes are restricted to 3-year-olds, meaning every horse only gets one shot to run in and win these prestigious springtime events.
The Derby, Preakness and Belmont comprise what is known as the Triple Crown. Sweeping the Triple Crown by winning all three races is one of the most difficult feats in sports, having been accomplished only 13 times, most recently by Justify in 2018 after American Pharoah accomplished the feat in 2015 after a 37-year drought.
The Kentucky Derby, widely acknowledged as the world’s most famous horse race, kicks off the Triple Crown every year on the first Saturday in May in Louisville, Ky. To make the Derby, a 3-year-old horses must earn qualifying points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of races that rewards top finishers in important events across the country. A maximum of 20 horses can start in the Kentucky Derby, also known as the run for the roses.
The “middle jewel” of the Triple Crown is the Preakness Stakes, held two weeks after the Derby at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Several of the top finishers from the Derby go on to compete in the Preakness and are typically joined by other promising 3-year-olds that did not make the Derby.
The final Triple Crown contest, held at Belmont Park outside of New York City, is the Belmont Stakes, also known as the “Test of the Champion.” The Belmont is run three weeks after the Preakness and, in recent years, has been the site of numerous heartbreaking losses by horses on the threshold of Triple Crown immortality, like Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Big Brown and California Chrome, before American Pharoah ended the Triple Crown drought.