Your guide to all 12 Triple Crown winners

06 JUN 2015: American Pharoah with jockey Victor Espinoza aboard races to the finish line to win the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes and with it, Thoroughbred Racing's Triple Crown at Belmont Park in Hempstead, NY. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
06 JUN 2015: American Pharoah with jockey Victor Espinoza aboard races to the finish line to win the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes and with it, Thoroughbred Racing's Triple Crown at Belmont Park in Hempstead, NY. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images) /

Only 12 horses have swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes to win the Triple Crown. American Pharoah was the most recent in 2015.

One of the hardest challenges in American sports — one only 12 winners have accomplished — is the quest for the Triple Crown. Over the course of five weeks, the top two-year-old horses in the country and from around the globe will compete in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. They will seek individual glory at each race.

The winner of the Derby, though, will also set itself up for a shot at immortality. Everyone on the line at Churchill Downs will hope to stay alive for a shot at becoming the 13th Triple Crown winner in horse racing history.

From 1891 through 1893, the Preakness Stakes was not held. In 1911 and 1912, the Belmont Stakes fell victim to the Hart-Agnew Law. Even so, there have been 138 previous opportunities where a horse could win all three Triple Crown races in the same spring campaign. Only a dozen times has a horse actually managed to successfully pull off the feat.

Here are some interesting facts about the legends that have pulled off the Triple Crown feat.

Sir Barton (1919)

The first Triple Crown winner remains one of the most impressive winners of the trilogy. Sir Barton, piloted by Johnny Loftus, wasn’t even supposed to run for victory at Churchill Downs. Instead, the stallion was supposed to play rabbit for his gelded stablemate Billy Kelly.

Instead, he ran away with victory by five lengths, then took the Preakness two weeks later by four lengths. Heading to New York, Sir Barton won the Withers Stakes prior to the Belmont to cap a streak of four wins in 32 days.

Gallant Fox (1930)

Gallant Fox is the only Triple Crown winner to begin his campaign by winning the Preakness Stakes. In 1930, Pimlico hosted its leg of the Triple Crown prior to the Kentucky Derby. With Earl Sande in the saddle, Gallant Fox won by three-quarters of a length in the Preakness.

Then the horse followed up with a two-length win in the mud at Churchill Downs, giving Sande a then-record third win by a jockey in the Kentucky Derby. Gallant Fox then completed the sweep with a definitive victory at Belmont Park over co-favorite Whichone.

Omaha (1935)

Omaha, the son of Gallant Fox, followed in his sire’s footsteps by winning the Triple Crown five years later. Like his father, Omaha was trained by Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, who remains the only trainer to develop two Triple Crown winners.

Omaha won the Kentucky Derby without feeling the whip once, breezing by a length and a half. He won the Preakness by six lengths, and then capped his Triple Crown run with a comeback down the homestretch in the muck at Belmont Park to win by a length and a half over Firethorn.

War Admiral (1937)

The second Triple Crown winner in three years, War Admiral needed a bit of luck to etch his name in horse racing legend. The son of Man o’ War got the chance his sire never did, as owner Samuel Riddle made a rare excursion west to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby.

At Churchill Downs, War Admiral won by nearly two lengths over Pompoon. He needed more luck on the second leg of the Triple Crown at Pimlico, again challenged by Pompoon before winning by a head. War Admiral left nothing to chance in the final leg, bolting away for a winning time that broke his father’s Belmont Park track record.

Whirlaway (1941)

Whirlaway holds the honor of being the only horse in history to win the Triple Crown as well as the prestigious Travers Stakes in the same racing season. In the final year before the United States entered World War II, Whirlaway gave legendary and controversial jockey Eddie Arcaro his first Triple Crown mount.

The horse won the Kentucky Derby by eight lengths, still tied for the record winning margin in the race. Throughout the year he got the better of rival Alsab, thanks in large part to blinders that prevented Whirlaway from drifting outward on the track. The victories continued at the Preakness and Belmont Stakes to seal history’s fifth Triple Crown.

Count Fleet (1943)

While war raged on the other side of the Atlantic and the other side of the Pacific, Count Fleet made became the fourth Triple Crown winner in less than a decade. The Kentucky Derby was nearly cancelled, but instead Count Fleet went off as the favorite with the lowest odds ever at 2/5.

Count Fleet made the bookmakers look smart. The horse played yo-yo with the field before winning by three lengths. An eight-length victory followed at the Preakness in Baltimore. Then, setting what was then a record winning margin for a Triple Crown race, Count Fleet took the Belmont Stakes by 25 lengths over only two competitors.

Assault (1946)

In 1946, Assault was viewed skeptically entering the Kentucky Derby. Instead of withering, though, Assault instead ran away with an eight-length victory at Churchill Downs to match Whirlaway’s record margin in the race.

At the Preakness a week later, though, Assault nearly lost a shot at the Triple Crown. With jockey Warren Mehrtens pushing the horse early, Assault faded a bit and won by just a neck over Lord Boswell. Unfavored at Belmont Park, Assault repaid the skeptics by running away with a three-length victory to cap the fifth Triple Crown in 12 years.

Citation (1948)

On the back of Citation, Eddie Arcaro became the only jockey ever to win the Triple Crown on two different horses. Arcaro first completed the trifecta on Whirlaway in 1941. Riding another Calumet Farms steed, Arcaro guided Citation to the trio of victories seven years later.

Citation won the Kentucky Derby by 3.5 lengths. The horse then followed that up with a 5.5-length victory at Pimlico in the Preakness Stakes. Heading to New York, Citation completed the sweep with a record-tying 2:28.2 performance.

Secretariat (1973)

Secretariat is perhaps the most legendary Triple Crown winner, and for good reason. The horse still holds the Kentucky Derby record after accelerating through each quarter-mile, winning by 2.5 lengths in a runaway victory over Sham. Following that up with a last-to-first run that ended in an easy victory.

That set Secretariat up for a legendary finish to break a 25-year Triple Crown drought. The horse finished emphatically, winning the Belmont Stakes by a ridiculous 31 lengths. The winning margin broke Count Fleet’s 30-year-old race record and remains the largest margin in any Triple Crown race.

Seattle Slew (1977)

Four years after Secretariat, Seattle Slew replicated the Triple Crown feat. Prior to racing in the Kentucky Derby, Seattle Slew had never previously lost a race as either a two-year-old or three-year-old. The trend continued at Churchill Downs as Seattle Slew recovered from a shaky start to win by just under two lengths.

Seattle Slew went on to win the Preakness by a length and a half and the Belmont Stakes by four lengths. The horse lost for the first time in his follow-up race, but recovered to beat Affirmed the following year in the first-ever meeting of Triple Crown winners. After his death in 2002, there was no living Triple Crown winner for more than a decade for the first time since Sir Barton became the first Triple Crown winner.

Affirmed (1978)

A year after Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown, Affirmed matched the feat with a series of victories over rival Alydar. At the Kentucky Derby, Affirmed gained the lead on the far turn and held off a late charge by Alydar to win by 1.5 lengths.

In the Preakness, Affirmed held off an attempt by Alydar to make a similar winning move. The horses dueled a third time at Belmont Park, with Affirmed once again getting the better of his rival. Alydar looked ready to snatch victory and a spot in the record books from his rival, but a late whipping spurred Affirmed to win by a nose at the finish.

American Pharoah (2015)

After over three decades without a Triple Crown winner, it seemed that horse racing might never see another horse pull off the feat. Finally, American Pharoah broke the 37-year drought in 2015. His jockey, Victor Espinoza, came under scrutiny for going to his whip frequently at the Kentucky Derby in a narrow one-length victory.

Next: Triple Crown 2018 schedule

There was no such controversy two weeks later at Pimlico. There, American Pharoah took advantage of experience in the slop to win the Preakness from the inside post. Entering the Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah was the 14th horse since Affirmed to enter the race with a shot at breaking the Triple Crown drought. He proved to be the lucky one, as American Pharoah pulled away by 5.5 lengths.

Stay tuned for more horse racing coverage all throughout Triple Crown season here at FanSided.