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Your guide to the British Triple Crown

The Triple Crown in British horse racing, is the championship attributed to a filly or mare winner of the Two Thousand Guineas, the Derby, and the Saint Leger in one season.

It’s widely debated that winning the British Triple Crown is even harder to win than winning the American Triple Crown. Even though the British Triple Crown takes place over a longer period of time (4 months vs. 4-5 weeks), the distance difference (1 mile instead of the Two Thousand Guineas, 1.5 miles for the Derby and 1.75 miles for the Saint Leger), the animals’ versatility is tested.

In all, there are five famous British races for 3-year-olds: the Saint Leger (first held in 1776),  the Oaks Stakes (1779),  the Derby (1780), the Two Thousand Guineas (1809) and the One Thousand Guineas (1814). Only fillies are allowed to run at the Oaks and the One Thousand Guineas, making the other three races a major test for all thoroughbreds in the UK, and eventually, the winners of all three races were classified as Triple Crown Champion. In 1853, West Australian became the first Triple Crown winner in Britain. 

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Winners chart
Year Horse
1853 West Australian
1865 Gladiateur
1866 Lord Lyon
1886 Ormonde
1891 Common
1893 Isinglass
1897 Galtee More
1899 Flying Fox
1900 Diamond Jubilee
1903 Rock Sand
1915 Pommern
1917 Gay Crusader
1918 Gainsborough
1935 Bahram
1970 Nijinsky

Races forming the UK Triple Crown

Let’s take a look in more detail at the races that make up the UK Tripple Crown

The Two Thousand Guineas

The Two Thousand Guineas also spelled 2,000 Guineas, first run in 1809, is one of the British Classic horse races (along with the Derby, the Saint Leger, the One Thousand Guineas and the Oaks). Scheduled to take place each year in late April or early May (April 30th, 2022), the one-mile event takes place in Newmarket, Suffolk, opened to three-year-old stallions (carrying 57 kg) and fillies (carrying 55 kg).

European variations include the Irish 2000 Guineas, the Mehl-Mülhens-Rennen, the Poule d`Essai des Poulains, and the Premio Parioli.  Elsewhere, variations include the Australian Guineas and  Satsuki Shoo.

The 2,000 Guineas carry’s prize money of £500,000 and Irish Trainer Aiden O’Brien has the winning record with ten first places at the Guineas.

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The Derby

Also known as the Epsom Derby and the Derby Stakes, it is one of the five classic British horse races. Being a field limited to 3-year-old stallions and mares, it takes place on the grass on the first Saturday of June on a 2,400 meter course at Epsom Downs in Surrey, England.

Like other elite horse races, the Derby has evolved into a multi-day festival featuring musical performances and events along with the race itself.  The Oaks is also held during the Derby festival, run on the Friday before the Derby Saturday.  Derby Day is more formal than most modern sporting events: Epsom Downs maintains a dress code for male spectators in certain areas of the stand, and women often wear luxurious hats to attend events.

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Since then, many other horse races have been named after the derby (special mention to the Kentucky Derby), and the term itself has come to signify any kind of race or competition.  The Irish Derby is also another major European race, it’s held every year 3 weeks after the English Derby at end of June or early July.

The prize money for the 2022 Epsom Derby is £1.125 with the winner netting £648k.  Spanning two decades since his first victory with Galileo in 2001, Aidan O’Brien has the record for the most successful trainer with a total of eight victories.

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The Saint Leger

The Saint Leger, the third of the Triple Crown races and the last of the Classic horse races -whose distance is the longest of the five.  It was started by Colonel Barry Saint Leger in 1776 letting the race being named after him in 1778. This is an event for 3-year-old colts and fillies held every September in Doncaster, Yorkshire. The Saint Leger was originally a two-mile (3,200 m) race, until 1813, the year when it was shortened to its current length of about 1.75 miles (2,800 m).

The prize pot for the Leger is £700k and yes it’s Aiden O’Brien again who has the trainer record for wins at 6.  Frankie Dettori has the jockey record at 6 wins.

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