The 13 Triple Crown winners will match up on Saturday in a computer simulated race dubbed “The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown”. Here is my take on each runner in the hypothetical field:

Secretariat wins the 1973 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs
Secretariat wins the 1973 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. (Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs)

Secretariat — Deserving race favorite seems like a cinch to reach the top-three, even in a field of this stature. “Big Red” established track records in each Triple Crown race in 1973 that still stand today, and his 31-length Belmont tour-de-force remains the gold standard of all classic races in history.

Verdict: Win bet, and Key in first and second in all exotics plays

Citation wins the 1948 Kentucky Derby
Citation wins the 1948 Kentucky Derby. (Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs)

Citation — Any horse that is compared to Man o’War is good in my book. The 1948 Triple Crown romper went an impossible 19-20 during his sophomore season, and according to jockey Eddie Arcaro, he was never really asked for his best during his historic campaign. He is the main danger to the favorite.

Verdict: Win bet, and Key in first, second, and third in all gimmicks

Whirlaway wins the 1941 Kentucky Derby
Whirlaway wins the 1941 Kentucky Derby (Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs)

Whirlaway — “Mr. Longtail” was both electric and durable, and the 1941 Triple Crown hero might get a great set-up in the virtual Derby with the abundance of pace in the cast. The stout late runner looms an upset chance with clear sailing in the lane.

Verdict: Small win wager, and inclusion in all exotics

Count Fleet after winning the 1943 Kentucky Derby.
Count Fleet after winning the 1943 Kentucky Derby. (Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs)

Count Fleet — 1943 star blitzed his rivals by a combined 36 lengths in the Triple Crown, capping an unbeaten 6-for-6 sophomore season that was cut short due to injury. He is the wildcard in the cast due to his abbreviated career with Johnny Longden riding.

Verdict: Small win wager, and inclusion in the vertical exotics.

Affirmed wins the 1978 Kentucky Derby
Affirmed wins the 1978 Kentucky Derby. (Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs)

Affirmed — Courageous son of Exclusive Native was pushed hard in each leg of the 1978 Triple Crown and never wavered under riding sensation Steve Cauthen. Florida-bred was equally good at 4, concluding his career on a seven-race win streak.

Verdict: Include underneath in all vertical plays

American Pharoah became America’s 12th Triple Crown winner when capturing the 2015 Belmont Stakes (c) Dave Alcosser/Coglianese Photography

American Pharoah — Flashy Baffert charge ended a 37-year drought with his fantastic run through the classics in 2015. Pioneerof the Nile colt was poetry in motion, and he capped his career by crushing his elders in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). I just wish we got another year of racing out of the superstar.

Verdict: Top-three player has to be used in trifecta and superfecta wagers

Seattle Slew wins the 1977 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs
Seattle Slew wins the 1977 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. (Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs)

Seattle Slew — The first undefeated Triple Crown winner in 1977, this son of Bold Reasoning had a stellar career and might have been even better as a 4-year-old. Speedy colt drew inside the majority of the pace in the cast and will face pressure throughout, which will hurt his chances at a better result though.

Verdict: A sure inclusion in trifecta and superfecta plays

Gallant Fox wins the 1930 Kentucky Derby
Gallant Fox wins the 1930 Kentucky Derby (Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs)

Gallant Fox — 1930 dynamo represents great exotics value in the field at a 20-1 morning-line price. He was an exceptional 9-for-10 as a 3-year-old, and while the colt never set the teletimer on fire, “The Fox” had flair and won geared down on many occasions.

Verdict: Include in trifecta and superfecta wagers

War Admiral in the winners circle at Churchill Downs after winning the 1937 Kentucky Derby
War Admiral in the winners circle at Churchill Downs after winning the 1937 Kentucky Derby. (Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs)

War Admiral — Son of Man o’War was perfect from eight races in 1937, and he followed that up with a 9-for-11 campaign as a 4-year-old. The Hall of Famer has two strikes against him in the field, though. War Admiral was not overly dominant in the Triple Crown series, and he also figures to get pressured every step of the way in the virtual Derby.

Verdict: Use on the bottom for the superfecta

Assault wins the 1946 Kentucky Derby
Assault wins the 1946 Kentucky Derby. (Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs)

Assault — One of four Triple Crown winners in the 1940’s, Assault was voted Horse of the Year in 1946. The classy son of Bold Venture proved his critics wrong on more than one occasion, but he lacked the domination of many of his peers in the virtual field.

Verdict: Omit

Omaha in the winners circle at Churchill Downs following his 1935 Kentucky Derby win
Omaha in the winners circle at Churchill Downs following his 1935 Kentucky Derby win. (Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs)

Omaha — Son of Gallant Fox surged through the 1935 Triple Crown series victorious for conditioner Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons. The colt suffered a trio of defeats that season, however. And the fact that he raced in England the following year clouds his picture even more. 

Verdict: Omit

Justify wins the 2018 Kentucky Derby (G1) under Mike Smith (c) Coady Photography/Churchill Downs

Justify — The second Baffert pupil on the list, Justify took racing by storm in his lone season of action. Scat Daddy colt never lost a race, going 6-for-6 in 2018 to give his conditioner an historic second Triple Crown winner. His lack of domination, combined with a short sample of racing, hurt his chances in the field.

Verdict: Omit

Sir Barton wins the 1919 Kentucky Derby
Sir Barton wins the 1919 Kentucky Derby (Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs)

Sir Barton — Colt was the first Triple Crown winner with a three-race sweep in 1919. Son of Star Shoot was a maiden entering the Kentucky Derby, and while his accomplishments are fully respected, he can’t stack up to the big guns on Saturday.

Verdict: Omit

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