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Kentucky Derby 2020 at Home: Every Triple Crown winner faces off in Triple Crown Showdown

Eddie Olczyk explains what a later Kentucky Derby means for a racehorse's maturity, previews Saturday's Arkansas Derby and shares his picks for NBC's Triple Crown Showdown (May 2, NBC, 3-6 p.m. ET).

Stay healthy at home on May 2 for a virtual Kentucky Derby at Home Party with NBC Sports’ Derby Party Pack, featuring recipes for traditional Kentucky Derby foods and cocktails, printable decorations, at-home fashion tips, kids crafts and more.

Click here to download NBC Sports’ Derby Party Pack

NBC Sports will also air a special broadcast, which includes The First Saturday In May: American Pharoah’s Run to the Triple Crown, a look back at American Pharoah’s 2015 Derby win en route to his historic Triple Crown, and The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown, a socially distant, computer-simulated edition of the Run for the Roses that pits all 13 Triple Crown winners against each other.

The Triple Crown is one of horse racing’s biggest events. Traditionally, the Kentucky Derby is the first Triple Crown race run on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, followed by the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course two weeks later. Three weeks after that, the Belmont Stakes concludes the series. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Kentucky Derby has been postponed to September 5, and the Preakness and Belmont will be moved to dates that have yet to be announced.

While thousands of Thoroughbred horses are born each year, few make it to the track, even fewer make it to the Kentucky Derby and only 13 horses ever have won the Triple Crown.

For NBC’s Triple Crown Showdown, Secretariat is the favorite at 7/2, with Citation (4-1), Affirmed (5-1) and Seattle Slew (5-1) nipping at his hooves. American Pharoah leads the Bob Baffert duo with 6-1 odds, and Justify sits toward the back of the field at 15-1.

NBC Sports handicapper Eddie Olczyk sees Secretariat as the most promising bet but also says not to count out Assault (20-1). Affirmed (5-1) is the pick of NBC Sports and TVG reporter Britney Eurton. NBC Sports analysts Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss are split: Bailey’s pick is Citation and Moss favors Secretariat. NBC Sports essayist Tim Layden and anchor Ahmed Fareed follow Bailey with Citation.

Meet all of the competitors:



Sir Barton (1919) won the Triple Crown before the series was officially recognized. He entered the Kentucky Derby having never won a race before and went wire-to-wire for the win. He easily swept the Preakness, won the Withers Stakes and made a quick turnaround to win the Belmont, setting the U.S. record for a mile and three-eighths.

His entire Triple Crown campaign, plus the Withers Stakes, was completed in a mere 32 days, and he was retroactively named Horse of the Year for 1919. Sir Barton would go to have an unimpressive stud career before finding himself in the U.S. Remount Service, the U.S.’ military horse breeding program. Sir Barton breaks from the 4 at 20-1 odds.

Gallant Fox (1930) was the first horse to win a recognized Triple Crown. His victory came in an unconventional order by today’s standards: first, he went almost wire-to-wire in the Preakness Stakes on May 9, then he took a muddy Kentucky Derby on May 17 and finally, he claimed his Triple Crown three weeks later in the Belmont. Trained by Jim Fitzsimmons, Gallant Fox won nine of 10 starts as a 3-year-old before retiring to stud. He became the first Triple Crown winner to sire another Triple Crown winner with his son Omaha. Gallant Fox breaks from the 7 at 20-1 odds.

Omaha (1935) had big shoes to fill as the son of Gallant Fox. Trained by Jim Fitzsimmons just like his sire, Omaha won the Kentucky Derby handily before winning the Preakness one week later. He ran second in the Withers before bouncing back to take the Belmont and become the third Triple Crown winner. As a 4-year-old, Omaha raced in England on the turf under a new trainer, winning two races at Kempton and settling for second in both the Ascot Gold Cup and the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket. He returned to Claiborne Farm, where he was born, to stand at stud, but had an extremely underwhelming career as a sire. Omaha breaks from the 13 at 20-1 odds.

War Admiral (1937) went wire-to-wire in his Kentucky Derby win. Bred and owned by Samuel D. Riddle, he was a son of the famed Man o’ War, who is still considered one of the world’s greatest racehorses. A week after the Derby, War Admiral battled down the homestretch to win the Preakness by a head. Despite stumbling out of the gate in the Belmont, he broke his sire’s track record en route to winning the race and the Triple Crown.

He is also known for his 1938 match race against Seabiscuit, which he lost. The next year, he was retired to stud, where he became the leading U.S. sire in 1945. War Admiral can be found in the pedigrees of generations of champions, including Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Zenyatta and American Pharoah. War Admiral breaks from the 9 at 8-1 odds.

Whirlaway (1941) is the only horse in history to win the Triple Crown as well as the Travers Stakes. Bred and owned by Calumet Farm and ridden by Hall of Famer Eddie Arcaro, he won the Derby and Preakness with spectacular closing form before taking the Belmont and becoming Calumet’s first Triple Crown winner. Whirlaway had an extensive racing career, racking up 32 wins in 60 starts. Known for his long tail and lopsided blinkers that kept him from drifting during races, he was retired to stud at the age of 6 and was bred in America and France. Whirlaway breaks from the 10 at 6-1 odds.

Count Fleet (1943) entered the Kentucky Derby on a 6-race winning streak, going off as the favorite. He easily won, despite injuring himself just weeks earlier during the Wood Memorial. He cruised through a wartime Preakness with only four entries and won the Withers Stakes before dominating a three-horse Belmont with a 25-length (sometimes historically noted as 30) win, setting a track record. He was retired the next year due to his frequent injuries and went on to become a successful sire. Count Fleet breaks from the 11 at 6-1 odds.

Assault (1946) was known as the “Club-Footed Comet” for racing with a special shoe after injuring his hoof as a foal. Even with his special shoe, he limped at the walk and trot, but galloped with ease. Assault stormed through the Derby for an 8-length win and narrowly won the Preakness one week later. Despite stumbling at the beginning of the Belmont, Assault came out on top to become the seventh Triple Crown winner and the first bred in Texas. He was supposed to retire to stud after a successful 4-year-old season but was sterile and returned to the track until he was seven (though without any major wins). Assault breaks from the 2 at 20-1 odds.

Citation (1948) was the second Triple Crown winner for jockey Eddie Arcaro and breeder/owner Calumet Farm. After finishing his first year on the track as Champion Two-Year-Old, Citation easily won the Kentucky Derby by 3 1/2 lengths and the Preakness by 5 1/2 lengths. His Belmont Stakes win tied Count Fleet’s track record. He amassed a 16-race winning streak and became the first horse to win over $1 million in race earnings. He was retired to stud at Calumet after the 1951 Hollywood Gold Cup. Citation breaks from the 8 at 4-1 odds.

Secretariat (1973) was unquestionably one of the greatest American racehorses ever. Penny Chenery’s “Big Red” not only dominated each leg of the Triple Crown, but set records for all three races. Decades later, his Derby run still holds Churchill Downs’ 1 1/4 mile track record and his Belmont performance is still the fastest 1 1/2 mile dirt race in U.S. history.

He set more records than he lost races and earned over $1.3 million in 21 starts. He was retired to stud after his 3-year-old season and became a successful broodmare sire. Famous enough to garner his own movie, festival, postage stamp and collection of over 200 U.S. streets named after him, Secretariat was listed at No. 35 in ESPN’s list of the 100 greatest North American athletes of the 20th century. Secretariat breaks from the 3 at 7/2 odds.

Seattle Slew (1977) was the first undefeated horse to win the Triple Crown. Despite getting stuck in the back of the pack at the beginning of the Kentucky Derby, he pulled out a 1 3/4-length win. He faced a number of intimidating competitors in the Preakness but won with one of the fastest times in the race’s history. Seattle Slew kept the Belmont tight until surging down the homestretch for a four-length win. He went on to grab five more wins in eight starts, closing out his career with a victory in the 1978 Stuyvesant Handicap. He sired over 500 winners and over 100 stakes winners, including Belmont and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner A.P. Indy. Seattle Slew breaks from the 5 at 5-1 odds.

Affirmed (1978) held a strong rivalry with the horse Alydar, winning seven of their 10 meetings. Affirmed narrowly survived late challenges from Alydar in all three legs of the Triple Crown, with the gap between the two horses narrowing with each race. He won several other races afterwards and raced against Seattle Slew twice (but lost both times). He retired to stud after his 4-year-old season and sired a handful of winners, both dirt and turf. Affirmed breaks from the 1 at 5-1 odds.

American Pharoah (2015) gave the world its first Triple Crown winner after a 37-year drought. He won a close Kentucky Derby, widened his winning gap in the Preakness to seven lengths and went wire-to-wire in the Belmont. After giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his first Triple Crown, American Pharoah won the Haskell and placed second in the Travers. He concluded his racing career with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, making him the first horse to win the Triple Crown and the Classic, known as the “Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing.” He now stands at Coolmore in Kentucky. His first crop of foals sold well and went on to become successful enough as 2-year-olds that American Pharoah became the leading freshman sire for 2019. American Pharoah breaks from the 6 at 6-1 odds.

Justify (2018) began his Triple Crown campaign by breaking the “Curse of Apollo” to become the first horse unraced as a 2-year-old to win the Kentucky Derby since Apollo in 1882. His 3-year-old success elevated Bob Baffert to two Triple Crown wins, tying Jim Fitzsimmons. Justify was campaigned by jockey Mike Smith and now resides at Coolmore with American Pharoah after retiring following his Belmont win. The racing world has been welcoming his first crop of foals this spring. Justify breaks from the 12 at 15-1 odds.

Take the party online using #KYDerbyAtHome on social media, making your virtual Kentucky Derby pick and joining Churchill Downs in donating to COVID-19 relief efforts. Everyone who correctly picks the winner will be entered to win the ultimate Kentucky Derby 146 VIP experience. In addition, follow @NBCSports on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for live looks around Churchill Downs and content from at-home parties across the country.

After NBC’s special broadcast, tune into NBCSN at 6 p.m. for the Arkansas Derby, one of the major Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying races. This year, the race will be split between two divisions, with 170 qualifying points on the line in each division. Bob Baffert, American Pharoah’s Hall of Fame trainer, fields Charlatan in the first division and Nadal in the second. Storm the Court, who stormed his way to a 45-1 upset in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall, will also race in the second division.
Watch ‘The First Saturday In May’ on Saturday, May 2 from 3-6 p.m. ET on NBC, and the NBC Sports app.