While scintillating, Orb's victory (page 44) last Saturday in the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby is unlikely to go down in history as one for the ages. Here are eight Triple Crown races that were far more memorable:
It was an even more brilliant performance than his record-setting Derby victory. Secretariat broke dead last, but instead of waiting more than a mile to pass his rivals, as he had in Louisville, he charged to the lead around the first turn, galloping home under a hand ride from jockey Ron Turcotte in the still-record time of 1:53.
After finishing 30 lengths back in one of his prep races, the big bay went off at 91--1. Jockey Roscoe Goose held Donerail back through the first mile before turning him loose in the stretch, where he ran down tiring favorite Ten Point to win by half a length, paying $184.90, the most ever.
6 Silver Charm
Trainer Bob Baffert's first Derby winner prevailed by a head in a classic stretch duel, gamely fending off furious challenges from Free House, Captain Bodgit and eventual Belmont winner Touch Gold.
5 Dark Star
The front-running 25--1 shot was an afterthought to undefeated Native Dancer. But the favorite was roughed up around the first turn and came up just a head short in the Derby's biggest upset—and the only loss of his brilliant 22-race career.
4 Sunday Silence
The surprise victor in Louisville went off as the second choice in Baltimore to Easy Goer, who seized the lead with a half mile to go—only to have Sunday Silence take it back coming out of the clubhouse turn. The two colts stared each other in the eye for more than a quarter mile before the gutsy bay won by a nose.
3 Winning Colors
In the most acclaimed victory of trainer D. Wayne Lukas's Hall of Fame career, the third and last filly to win the Run for the Roses stole the race on the lead, holding off Forty Niner by a neck.
The front-running little chestnut had already narrowly beaten his adversary, Alydar, in both the Derby and the Preakness before going hammer and tongs with him again. Alydar let Affirmed get away with soft early fractions (the half mile went in a plodding :50) but still got a head in front in mid-stretch. Undaunted, Affirmed battled back to win by a head in the final act of the series's most famous rivalry.
The big red colt's unearthly 31-length victory not only clinched the Triple Crown, but it also stands as the greatest accomplishment in the history of the sport. Secretariat led from the first call, ran the first 10 furlongs in 1:59—two fifths of a second faster than his Derby—and finished in a world-record 2:24 for the 1½ miles. In 40 years no horse has come close to that mark.
In the 59 years after Sir Barton won the first Triple Crown, in 1919, 10 of 18 horses who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness also took the Belmont. But since '79, when Spectacular Bid (left) lost the Crown in New York, none of the 12 who won the first two legs of the series have been able to win the third.
Which race should be on the list? Join the debate.
HEINZ KLUETMEIER FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (SPECTACULAR BID)