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Personalities of the 13 Triple Crown Winners

Gallant Fox, the second American Triple Crown winner. Photo from the Keeneland Library Cook Collection. This image is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in print or electronically without written permission of the Keeneland Library.

Like humans, horses have their own distinct personalities. The thirteen Triple Crown winners are a diverse group of horses. Some were considered mean, some are fondly remembered for being loving, and others were curious beings. I have compiled brief descriptions of each of the thirteen Triple Crown winners' personalities for you all below.

Sir Barton (1919): The son of Sir Barton’s owner described Sir Barton as an evil horse who despised all human beings aside from his groom. He was also described as having no interest in other horses. Margaret Phipps Leonard did not think the horse was evil, but rather played roughly. Jennifer Kelly, author of Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown, wrote an entire blog post on Sir Barton’s personality for Champions of the Track. Gallant Fox (1930): Gallant Fox was extremely curious. He would sometimes pause on his walk to the track just to look around. He was left in the gate in second start of his career because he was distracted by an airplane passing by. Gallant Fox hated working out unless it was in company. Having another horse to catch kept him interested in his work, so his workouts were conducted like a relay race. He was simply a friendly horse who was interested in the world around him.

Omaha (1935):

Unlike his sire Gallant Fox, Omaha is described as being a nasty individual during his racing career. However, he was described as “kindly” during his (unsuccessful) stud career. Late in his life, Omaha was regularly taken to Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack in Omaha, Nebraska where children would be allowed to sit on his back for a picture with him.

War Admiral (1937): War Admiral was known to be high strung on race days and would act up just before the start of a race. His antics were so bad that he delayed the start of the Belmont Stakes by eight minutes and even tore a chunk out of his right forefoot when he finally did take off. However, he was said to be much more relaxed and when back at the barn. Like most racehorses, he was very sweet towards his groom.

Whirlaway (1941): Ben A. Jones famously called Whirlaway “the dumbest horse I’ve ever trained” because of his tendency to bear out (veer towards the outside rail) during his races. He was a horse that just couldn’t quite be figured out. Sometimes he would be nervous and antsy. Other times, he would be so relaxed that you could play a game of cards in his stall and he’d never even know you were there. He would like some jockeys and dislike others. The horse was so unpredictable that Ben A. Jones would visit the barn at odd hours of the night to check on his steed.

[Video: A short video that describes some of Whirlaway's quirks.]