Sir Barton

In 1919, the stallion Sir Barton (1916-1937) won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. This was the first time ever all three races were won by the same horse.

Back then, the concept of a United States Triple Crown for thoroughbreds hadn´t really emerged, but Sir Barton is today considered the very first title holder and he also been retroactively honoured as the 1919 Horse of the Year. In 1950, all horses who had previously won all three races (Kentucky, Preakness, Belmont) were retroactively given the Triple Crown title by the Thoroughbred Racing Associations.

Sir Barton won the Kentucky Derby by five lengths and the Preakness Stakes by four lengths. When winning the Belmont Stakes, he set a new United States record for the mile and three-eighths distance (the distance for the Belmont at the time).

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sir Barton´s Triple Crown win, the University Press of Kentucky published the book “Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown” about Sir Barton´s life and career.

Sir Barton

Short facts

Lifespan: 1916-1937

Sex: Stallion

Color: Chestnut

Breeder: John E. Madden

Trainer: First Billy Walker, later H. Guy Bedwell

Racing record: 31: 13-6-5

Racing earnings: $116,857

Major wins

Triple Crown race wins
Kentucky Derby (1919)
Preakness Stakes (1919)
Belmont Stakes (1919)

Other wins
Potomac Handicap (1919)
Withers Stakes (1919)
Maryland Handicap (1919)
Climax Handicap (1920)
Saratoga Handicap (1920)
Dominion Handicap (1920)
Merchants and Citizens Handicap (1920)
Rennert Handicap (1920)

Awards & Honors

  • 1st U.S. Triple Crown Champion (1919)
    1919 United States Champion 3-Yr-Old Colt
    1919 United States Horse of the Year
  • U.S. Racing Hall of Fame (inducted in 1957)
    Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame (inducted in 1976)
  • In the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, Sir Barton is no. 49.
  • A street has been named after him in Lexington, Kentucky. Sir Barton Way runs from Winchester Road to Man O´ War Boulevard, in the Hamburg Pavilion area.


Sir Barton was born on April 26, 1916, to the mare Lady Sterling, by Hanover. The sire was the British stallion Star Shoot.

Sir Barton was bred at Hamburg Place Farm near Lexington, Kentucky, by John E. Madden.

Sir Barton´s pedigree

Star Shoot
Isinglass Isonomy Sterling
Isola Bella
Deadlock Wenlock
Astrology Hermit Newminster
Stella Brother To Strafford
Toxophilite Mare
Lady Sterling
Hanover Hindoo Virgil
Bourbon Belle Bonnie Scotland
Ella D.
Aquila Sterling Oxford
Eagle Phoenix
Au Revoir

As you can see, the stallion Sterling appears in both the third and fourth generations of Sir Barton´s pedigree. Sir Barton was thus inbred 3 x 4 to Sterling.

Another notable ancestor was Isinglass, the 1893 English Triple Crown champion.

Racing career

Two-year-old season

Racing for John E. Madden´s stable

Sir Barton was initially trained by William Walker (1860-1933), a former jockey who had been born a slave in Kentucky, and who – after his succesfull jockey career – became a horse racing trainer and adviser to Madden. Sir Barton raced for Madden´s stable four times during his two-year-old season, but didn´t perform as well during competitions as during training. In late 1918, Madden sold Sir Barton to the Canadian businessman J.K.L Ross. Reportedly, the purchase prize was $10,000.

Racing for J.K.L Ross´ stable

Ross assigned Sir Barton to the trainer H. Guy Bedwell, a fellow Canadian (from Oregon) who had been a cowboy and raced horses in Colorado before moving to the East Coast. For Ross, Sir Barton participated in two races during his two-year-old season. His last start of the season was the 1918 Belmont Futurity, where he finnished runner-up.

A kick from a stablemate caused a significant wound on Sir Barton´s left hind leg, and an infection led to sepsis. Bedwell nursed him through it, but there would be no more racing for the colt during his two-year-old season.

Three-year-old season

Kentucky Derby

Sir Barton won his season debut as a maiden in the Kentucky Derby, ridden by Johnny Loftus and competing against eleven other horses. Sir Barton led the race from start to finnish, and won the derby with a five lenght margin.

Preakness Stakes

The day after winning the Kentucky Derby, Sir Barton was shipped from Kentucky to Baltimore, Maryland.

Just as with the Kentucky Derby, Sir Barton led the Preakness Stakes from start to finnish. He won the race with a four length margin.

Withers Stakes

Instead of being allowed to rest between Preakness and Belmont, Sir Barton was taken to New York to compete in the Withers Stakes on May 24. He won this race as well.

Belmont Stakes

Sir Barton won the Belmont Stakes on June 11, setting a new United States speed record for a mile and three-eighths race on dirt. (Back then, the Belmont Stakes was a 1 3/8 mile race.)

Sir Barton had now won four races in just 32 days.

Dwyer Stakes

His next race after Belmont was the Dwyer Stakes. On the race´s final furlong, the three-year-old stallion Purchase cought up with and surpased Sir Barton, who had to contend with finnishing second.

Remainder of the 1919 season

After Dwyer Stakes, Sir Barton had to take a break from racing until mid-September because of a bruised hoof.

The rest of the 1919 season included spectacular wins as well as a few surprising losses. Among other things, he won the Maryland Handicap.

For the complete 1919 season, Sir Barton brought in $88,250 in prizes, second only to Man o´ War.

Four-year-old season

Sir Barton participated in twelve races during the 1920 season and won five of them.

Among his victories was the Merchants and Citizens Handicap on August 28, where he set a world speed record for ​13⁄16 miles on dirt. For this race, he was carrying 133 lbs.

He also won races such as the Saratoga Handicap and the six furlong Climax Handicap at Havre de Grace Racetrack.

On October 12, he competed against the famous Man o´ War at Kenilworth Park in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The hard surface of this racetrack was not favourable for Sir Barton – who had delicate hoofs – and Man o´ War won by seven lenghts.

Stud career

In early 1921, controversy over H.G. Bedwell´s support of discraced jockey Carroll Hugh “Cal” Shilling led to Ross replacing Bedwell with Henry McDaniel. McDaniel started preparing Sir Barton for his five-year-old season, but was concerned that the required training would be dangerous to the horse. As a result, Ross decided to retire Sir Barton from racing.

In August 1921, Ross sold Sir Barton to Montfort and B.B. Jones, who moved him to their farm (Audley Farm) in Berryville, Virginia. One of the most notable racehorses sired by Sir Barton was Easter Stocking, a filly who won the 1928 Kentucky Oaks and became the 1928 Champion Three Year Old Filly.

After Montfort Jones´s death in 1927, B.B. Jones gradually left the racing world. In 1932, Sir Barton left Audley Farm and became a part of the U.S. Army Remount Service. After a brief stay at Front Royal, Virginia, he moved to Fort Robinson, Nebraska in late 1932.

J.R. Hylton – a horse breeder and rancher – recieved Sir Barton from the Remount Service and brought him to his ranch near Douglas, Wyoming, in the foothills of the Laramie Mountains.

Death and aftermath

Sir Barton died of colic on October 30, 1937.

The remains were initially buried on Hylton´s ranch, before being moved to Washington Park in Douglas, where a memorial was erected to commemorate the first Triple Crown winner.

Since 2008, there has been a statue of Sir Barton in front of Audely Farm´s stallion barn.