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How Does the Triple Crown Differ when You Cross the Pond?

Horse racing is a sport we share with our friends across the pond. It would be no surprise to hear that the UK has their own Triple Crown. As a quick history note, the American Triple Crown had its roots in on Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr who attempted to promote an American Triple Crown in 1875. Long after West Australians three wins in 1853 that started this prestigious reward.

It wasn't until the 1930s that our own American racing clubs and groups decided to adopt our own version of the Triple Crown which leads into the topic of today's article. What are the differences between the American and British Triple Crowns? 

The Races

The first thing we'll need to look at when examining how does the Triple Crown differ when you cross the pond, we'll need to look at the actual races themselves. 

American Races 

For a thoroughbred to be considered eligible for the American Triple Crown, the colt or filly once again needs to be three years of age and compete in and win the following races all within the same season.

  • The Kentucky Derby, held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The horse must be able to run over 1 1/4 miles, or 2011 metres.
  • The Preakness Stakes, held in Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland. The horse must be able to run 1 3/16 miles, or 1911 metres.
  • The Belmont Stakes, held in Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. The horse must be able to run 1 1/2 mile, or 2414 metres.

Unlike the British Triple Crown there is not a special race held just for fillies.

British Races

For a thoroughbred to be considered eligible for the British Triple Crown, the colt or filly must be three years of age and compete in and win these following races all within the same season

  • The 2,000 Guineas Stakes, held at the Newmarket Racecourse in Newmarket, Suffolk. The horse must be able to run over 1 mile, or 1,609 metres.
  • The Derby, held at the Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey. The horse needs to run over one mile and ten yards, or around 2,423 metres. 
  • The St. Leger Stakes, held at Town Moor in Doncaster, Yorkshire. The horse will need to run one mile and 132 yards, or 2,937 metres.

If the horse is a filly instead of a colt, then they need to win the 1,000 Guineas instead of the 2,000 Guineas Stakes. This is a fillies-only race, while the other two races are for both colts and fillies.


Now that we've covered the three major races for both the British and American Triple Crown, you may notice the major difference is that the race lengths are drastically different. For American races, which are held on flat dirt tracks, the goal is never more than a mile-and-a-half. The British races, which are turf flat races, have drastically different lengths.

The longest race for any American horse is The Belmont Stakes, while the British is The St. Leger Stakes. There is also quite the drastic jump in length when you compare The St. Leger Stakes with the famous Derby. A distance gap of 514 metres. For us Americans, the largest jump in distance would be the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes; 403 metres in difference.

There are more winners of the British Triple Crown, fifteen horses, than the American Triple Crown which is only thirteen horses.

The last winning racehorse of the American Triple Crown was one Justify in 2018. Nijinsky was the last British Triple Crown Winner, and this was back in 1970! This said, the prize for a British Triple Crown is much higher than an American one. 2.8 million pounds, or 3.5 million USD for the British Triple Crown compared to only 1.5 million pounds or 2 million USD for the American Triple Crown. The Epsom Derby is the highest pay-out in this regard.

For those with a keen eye on horse races across the pond, the major conclusion is that British Triple Crown Winners are raised more for their vitality in mind than stamina. The British Triple Crown circuit involves four-to-five months to complete, and during busy spring and summer seasons, where the American Triple Crown is only over a matter of weeks, from May to June. 

So, we can conclude that the Triple Crown is a different criterion all together depending if the horse is racing in America or Britain. After all, thousands will go to the racetracks to enjoy the races and millions more will watch from the comfort of home. American racehorses value speed, and British racehorses value vitality as we explained above.

The Triple Crown circuit is one of the more exciting circuits to watch, and indeed most people will know of the Kentucky Derby and Epsom Derby. While these are the more famous races, this is also the perfect time for jockeys and their horses to enjoy the spotlight both at home and across the pond. There are new competitors every year, and each year everyone watches with bated breath to see who'll be the next Triple Crown winner.