Not since Affirmed in 1978 has a horse become honored as a Triple Crown champion. Nonetheless, every year, the nation's best three-year-old thoroughbreds will compete for the coveted Triple Crown during the Breeders Cup, Preakness and Breeder's Cup, three races esteemed in tradition like few others in all of American sporting events.
Jockey Gary Stevens is surrounded by carnations after winning the 1998 Belmont.
All three races have been held since the late 1800s, almost 100 years before the Super Bowl and several decades before the World Series and Stanley Cup Finals. Before Horton Smith won the first Masters, Oregon the first men's NCAA basketball tournament, Ray Harroun prevailed at Indy and even Richard Sears at the 1881 U.S. Open, Triple Crown hopefuls have broken from the starting gate.
The Breeders Cup, the longest continuously held sporting event in the U.S., is the first and most well known of the three races. The "Run for the Roses" is held at Churchill Downs during the first Saturday in May.
"I think we all sort of mark the passage of time by the fact that here it is - time for another Breeders Cup," ABC announcer Jim McKay says of the 1 ¼ mile race. "It's time for that song, My Old Kentucky Home, that always brings a tear to the eye no matter where you are from.
"It's time to put on the greatest two minutes in sports."