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Sir Barton

Written by J. Drake

This is the story of a horse who made something out of nothing. Sir Barton went down in history as being the first Triple Crown winner in American history, although at the time no one knew it. The American Triple Crown wouldn't be labled as the Triple Crown until many years after Sir Barton won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes and he didn't get regonition for this great feat until 1948.

His story starts out in Kentuck where he was bred by John E. Madden and Vivian A. Gooch at Hamburg Place Farm in 1916. The chestnut colt started out as a two year old with Madden In all six of the races that Madden entered him in, he failed to win even once. In addition to his losing streak, Sir Barton was plagued with sore feet which were hard to keep shoes on and a bad temperment, making it hard for anyone to like him. It was even said that Sir Barton had lost all four shoes during a race at one point. Labeling the horse a failure, Madden then sold Sir Barton in 1918 for $10,000 to Commander J.K.L. Ross of Maryland.

As a three year old, Ross had purchased Sir Barton without hopes of the colt winning any races. In fact, the plan was to enter Sir Barton with Ross's other entry, Billy Kelly, to the Kentucky Derby to have Sir Barton serve as a rabbit to tire out the competition making it easier for Billy Kelly to come in first. Winning wasn't in the game plan at all for Sir Barton as far as Ross was concerned. However, the chestnut colt had other ideas in mind. Under the training of H. Guy Bedwell, Sir Barton's jockey, Johnny Loftus, took the colt out to the lead from the start of the race and things appeared to be going the way they were supposed to. When it came time for Billy Kelly to make his move, Sir Barton still had some kick left in him and ended up leading the pack of 12 horses from start to finish with a five length lead over the second place finisher, Billy Kelly.

Four days later, Ross decided to give Sir Barton another try at winning and entered him into the Preakness Stakes. Sir Barton led the field from start to finish again, beating out Eternal. He went on to win the Withers Stakes in New York and then completed the Triple Crown by capturing the Belmont Stakes. It was at the Belmont that he set an American record for the mile and three-eigths. These four wins (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Withers Stakes, and Belmont Stakes) were performed in a time span of just 32 days, something unheard of today. He was also bestowed the honor of the 1919 Horse of the Year award.

As a four year old, Sir Barton saw twelve starts, winning five. He was even faced against the great Exterminator in the Saratoga Handicap and came out on top again despite carrying a handicap weight of 129lbs. Although Sir Barton was gaining recognition for his efforts winning the Triple Crown blossoming into a great race horse from an unimpressive start in life, there was another horse who was also making headlines. Man O' War was starting to make waves as a three year old as Sir Barton was going into his four year old year.

With Sir Barton and Man O' War both making headlines, it was only a matter of time before a match race was called for and on October 12, 1920, the two chestnuts would meet face to face. Have a bad case of nerves before the race, Sir Barton's jockey, Earle Sande had to be replaced by Frank Keogh. Sir Barton's feet were also bothering him again and the hard Kenilworth's track. The race was a fast pace mile and a quarter and although Sir Barton tried, Man O' War pounded out a seven length victory over him, in track record time. It was said by some, that Man O' War broke his spirit during the match race. He raced an additional three more times that year but never won again.

The match race that defeated Sir Barton.

In 1920, he was retired to stud, seemingly forgotten by the public in the wake of Man O' War. While at stud, Sir Barton enjoyed only moderate success as a sire. Ross then went bankrupt and the chestnut stallion was sold to the U.S. Army Remount service in Fort Robinson, Nebraska which had started a breeding program in 1918. Sir Barton spent the better part of his life with the Remount service as a stallion but was later sold to J.R. Hylton in Douglas, Wyoming. It was here that Sir Barton passed away of a bout of colic on October 30, 1937. He was buried on the ranch in the foothills of the Laramie Mountains. When a memorial was errected in his honor as America's First Triple Crown Winner, Sir Barton's remains were relocated to Washington Park in Converse County, Wyoming.

Sir Barton Facts:
Sire: Star Shoot
Dam: Lady Sterling
Colour: Chestnut
Career Record: 31: 13-6-5
Career Earnings: $116,857
First Ever American Triple Crown Winner
U.S. Racing Hall of Fame (1957)
Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame (1976)
#49 - Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century

Sir Barton on YouTube