On Saturday at the Belmont Stakes, California Chrome becomes the latest in a short line of great horses to try to accomplish something that’s been done fewer than a dozen times since the 19th century. Put it this way: If collecting Triple Crown winners memorabilia intrigues you, it won’t take long to gather the list.
Nineteen horses have slipped on the third leg after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Some horses look so dominant or come tantalizingly close, you think a Triple Crown is bound to happen but the feat is so remarkable that a winner hasn’t surfaced in nearly half a century. Affirmed was the last horse to grab all three race back in 1978, surviving memorable duels with Alydar.
Finding Triple Crown-related collectibles isn’t always an easy task, especially when it comes to horses that won all three races long ago. Much of it was simply never saved by those close to the horses or by fans who were more interested in whether they won or lost a bet. Some race day tickets, programs, photos and other related items have survived the years, though. Others have been produced in recent times. A closer look reveals you can salvage a portion of history for any number of Triple Crown winners for a relatively decent price.
Here are some of the items to be found for the winners of horse racing’s greatest prize.
1919 Sir Barton
The first Triple Crown winner didn’t get much rest. Just four days after winning the Kentucky Derby, he was in Baltimore and won the Preakness. The chestnut colt completed the sweep in just 32 days.
Triple Crown winners memorabilia starts with Sir Barton and despite the years that have passed, there are some original items associated with this horse in the market. One might fetch a Saratoga program from 1920 that featured the Triple Crown winner’s final win and a track record. There’s even a ticket from the famous match race with Man O’ War.
If you’re on a budget, photos are often cheap and Panini’s Golden Age sets issued recently have a Sir Barton card in the ‘Headlines’ subset that’ll set you back all of a buck.
1930 Gallant Fox
Gallant Fox was the first horse to sire a second Triple Crown champion when Omaha won five years later. Fox raced at a time when wire service new photos were available and they offer a nice option for collecting Triple Crown winner memorabilia. Check these out–all at less than $120. Original newspapers reporting on his exploits won’t set you back more than $30 or $40. There’s also a program from his Derby win and offers are being accepted lower than the $1200 price tag.
Omaha raced in some rough weather and had to come from behind to win the Belmont. Fans of Omaha will be delighted to find a 1935 Kentucky Derby program that celebrates his most famous win. Newspapers, photos and collector cards highlight some of the other memorabilia for this Triple Crown champ. It’s a reprint, but there’s a great photo of Omaha crossing the finish line for $5.
1937 War Admiral
War Admiral is one of the more well-known Triple Crown winners. After all, how many horses have made the cover of TIME Magazine? You can own that issue for around $100. The recent movie certainly added to the allure of one of the greatest horses to ever run in the sport. Additional photos, Triple Crown race ticket stubs, newspapers and figurines also depict War Admiral in the deserving glory.
Whirlaway was around long enough so that color postcards and photos of his post-racing life exist and usually cost only a few dollars.
The final champion of the pre-War era, Whirlaway was immensely popular and his exploits were covered extensively in newspapers around North America. For around 50 bucks you can own a complete May 4, 1941 edition of the Boston Herald with a photo showing Whirlaway’s dominance at the Derby
1943 Count Fleet
Count Fleet was named fifth on a list of the top thoroughbreds of the 20th century.
The 1940’s was sort of the ‘golden era’ of the Triple Crown with four winners emerging. Sometimes the horses raced each other in other years. You can find programs from 1942 races featuring Count Fleet and Whirlaway. There’s also an original news wire photo above from his Kentucky Derby win that’ll run you around $100.
One of the most affordable Triple Crown winners in terms of building a collection is 1946 winner Assault. This horse overcame injuries and came from behind in thrilling fashion to complete the third leg at Belmont. Programs and pictures are relatively inexpensive these days. See them here.
The 1948 Triple Crown champ, Citation was the first horse to earn $1 million.
Kentucky-bred and ridden by the famed jockey Eddie Arcaro, he is represented well these days with programs, Derby admission tickets and fabulous workout photos. There are even Christmas ornaments dedicated to the winner of all three legs back in 1948. Arcaro lived a long life and his autographs are part of the Citation memorabilia mix. Click here to see it all.
After a 25 year drought, America finally had its next super horse and it was worth the wait. Simply the greatest horse of all time, Secretariat won the Belmont by 31 lengths, breaking Count Fleet’s 25-length record.
Secretariat memorabilia is everywhere and very popular as many fans still remember that glorious spring when a horse helped the country forget about its troubles. Secretariat’s jockey, Ron Turcotte, still makes a few bucks at autograph shows and you can find plenty of Turcotte-signed photos from the Triple Crown races for under $50. On eBay, there is a ticket and program from his historic Belmont win.
1977 Seattle Slew
Slew arrived when sports memorabilia began to earn a little more respect and many of the items associated with his 1977 Triple Crown run have been well-preserved. The halter worn during his days as a stallion at Three Chimneys Farm is perhaps the grand prize. Seattle Slew is also represented by un-cashed betting tickets, programs from all three races and some exceptional framed memorabilia.
Click here to see what’s available.
The last Triple Crown winner? Many fans weren’t even alive then. Affirmed, with the great young Steve Cauthen aboard, held off the great challenger Alydar in all three races, with the final win at Belmont coming by a nose. It was a thrilling series.
Some of the best memorabilia for this Triple Crown king are the amazing photos showing how close the two horses were. Numerous items associated with the most recent Triple Crown winners, including Cauthen, include signed magazines, photos, art prints and cards that are available online.