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Triple Crown Productions

Triple Crown Productions was an ad hoc production company that produced the series of Triple Crown races for thoroughbred horses.




In 1985, a group of people wanted to increase the stature of the Triple Crown on television. Other than the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes were considered the two "other" races. ABC Sports, which had broadcast the Derby since 1975, wanted to televise all the races as a three race package. CBS Sports, which showed the other two races, had much lower ratings for them, with the possible exceptions of years in which the Crown was at stake like 1973, 1977, and 1978.

In 1977, ABC was awarded the contract to televise the Preakness. TCP was formed in 1985 after CBS terminated its contract with NYRA. ABC Sports won the rights to broadcast all three races, as well as many prep races. Ratings went up after the package was centralized.

Unified Triple Crown Nominations

Triple Crown Publications was charged with marketing the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes as a single entity. Incorporated in September 1985, Triple Crown Productions opened it's offices at Churchill Downs in January 1986 and inaugurated a common nomination form and fees for all three races. Early nominations were set at a fee of $600 for each horse nominated at the closing of mid-January and late nominations for $3,000 (now $6,000) closing six weeks prior to the Derby. Supplemental entries were also set at $150,000 for the Derby and $100,000 for the Preakness and Belmont if nominating a horse after the second nomination close.

Chrysler Triple Crown Bonus

In 1986 Triple Crown Productions in an effort to get more publicity for the three race series sought a sponsor. The very next year, beginning in 1987, Chrysler Motors agreed to offer a three tiered bonus called the "Chrysler Triple Crown Challenge" and a "Triple Crown Bonus." The first two phases of the bonus would have two distinct payouts to the owners of horses running in the Triple Crown series.

The first part of the bonus would be paid out to any horse that could sweep all three legs of the Triple Crown. That bonus brought the combined purse winnings of all three race purses and the extra series bonus to equal $5,000,000 to the winner along with the special Triple Crown Trophy commissioned by the Thoroughbred Racing Association. A second phase of the bonus was to be paid out as a flat $1,000,000. to any horse that started in all three races and had the highest combined total finish.

Chrysler also offered a third phase to the "Triple Crown Challenge." The automobile company offered a bonus and showcased its vehicles in track infields and on network television, and gave away a new Chrysler vehicle to the winning jockey of every Triple Crown race. If the same jockey won a second race during the same annual series than the Chrysler vehicle would be given to the winning trainer. The $5,000,000 Triple Crown bonus was never paid; the last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978.

Triple Crown Challenge Points

An enduring feature of the Challenge was the establishment of a point system to determine which horse had the highest combined Triple Crown total finish. Points were awarded equally in all three Triple Crown races. Ten points were earned by a win. Five points were earned by a place finish, three points were earned for a show finish and one point was awarded to a fourth place finish[1]. The horse that earned the highest number of points and started in all three races was awarded the million dollars. See table below for Highest combined Triple Crown finish in each year since 1987. The $1,000,000 bonus was discontinued after seven years.

Highest combined Triple Crown finish

This is a listing of the horses that finished in either first, second, third or fourth in the Triple Crown Challege, based on finishes in all three legs of the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.


First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Fourth Place

Bonus Sponsored by

1987 Bet Twice +20 points Alysheba +20 points Cryptoclearance +9 points Gulch +4 points Triple Crown Productions
1988 Risen Star +25 points Winning Colors +13 points Brian's Time +8 points Forty Niner +5 points Chrysler Corporation
1989 Sunday Silence +25 points Easy Goer +20 points Rock Point +3 points Awe Inspiring +3 points Chrysler Corporation
1990 Summer Squall +15 points Unbridled +15 points Go and Go +10 points Thirty Six Red +5 points Chrysler Corporation
1991 Hansel +20 points Strike the Gold +15 points Mane Minister +9 points Corporate Report +6 points Chrysler Corporation
1992 Pine Bluff +13 points A. P. Indy +10 points Lil E. Tee +10 points Casual Lies +9 points Chrysler Corporation
1993 Prairie Bayou +15 points Sea Hero +10 points Colonial Affair +10 points Wild Gale +6 points Chrysler Corporation
1994 Tabasco Cat +20 points Go for Gin +20 points Strodes Creek +8 points Concern +3 points Chrysler Corporation
1995 Thunder Gulch +23 points Timber Country +13 points Colonial Affair +10 points Star Standard +6 points Chrysler Corporation
1996 Editor's Note +13 points Louis Quatorze +11 points Skip Away +10 points Grindstone +10 points Visa USA
1997 Silver Charm +25 points Free House +11 points Touch Gold +11 points Captain Bodgit +8 points Visa USA
1998 Real Quiet +25 points Victory Gallop +20 points Classic Cat +4 points Indian Charlie +3 points Visa USA
1999 Charismatic +23 points Lemon Drop Kid +10 points Menifee +10 points 3 way tie +3 points Visa USA
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus +15 points Red Bullet +10 points Commendable +10 points Aptitude +10 points Visa USA
2001 Point Given +20 points Monarchos +13 points A P Valentine +10 points Congaree +6 points Visa USA
2002 War Emblem +20 points Sarava +10 points Proud Citizen +8 points Magic Weisner +6 points Visa USA
2003 Funny Cide +23 points Empire Maker +13 points Midway Road +5 points Ten Most Wanted +5 points Visa USA
2004 Smarty Jones +25 points Birdstone +10 points Rock Hard Ten +5 points Lion Heart +5 points Visa USA
2005 Afleet Alex +23 points Giacomo +13 points Scrappy T +5 points Closing Argument +5 points Visa USA
2006 Bernardini +10 points Barbaro +10 points Jazil +10 points Bluegrass Cat +10 points no bonus offered
2007 Curlin +18 points Street Sense +15 points Rags to Riches +10 points Hard Spun +5 points no bonus offered
2008 Big Brown +20 points Da'Tara +10 points Denis of Cork +8 points Macho Again +5 points no bonus offered
2009 Mine That Bird +18 points Rachel Alexandra +10 points Summer Bird +10 points Musket Man +6 points no bonus offered
2010 Lookin at Lucky +10 points Super Saver +10 points Drosselmeyer +10 points First Dude +8 points no bonus offered

Visa Triple Crown Bonus

In 1996, as Chrysler ended its association as sponsor of the Triple Crown, Visa stepped in. Carl Pascarella, president of Visa, a horse owner himself, took the relationship far beyond where it was during the Chrysler era. Visa looked upon the sponsorship as a true partnership. In the winter and spring, Visa produced and aired television commercials focusing on its sponsorship of the three grade I races comprising the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, and then increased the marketing budget dramatically following the Preakness if a horse was eligible to win the Visa Triple Crown Challenge. Visa helped market racing in ways that racing could not afford to do on its own.

In addition to the mass marketing campaign, Visa changed the bonus dramatically. The second and third phases of the bonus were discontinued. The first phase of the bonus was changed from supplementing the purses to equal five million dollars to a flat payment of $5,000,000. in addition to the race purses. That would mean that the winning connections would earn between $1,800,000 to $2,460,000 for the race purses and add an additional $5,000,000. to that to bring a combined purse up to a $7,000,000. range. Pascarella dearly wanted to hand out the $5-million bonus that goes with a sweep of the Triple Crown, and in six of Visa's nine years there was that possibility.

On May 21, 2005, the Visa credit card company withdrew its sponsorship of the Triple Crown, effective in 2006. It relieved Visa of paying the $5 million bonus to the owner of a horse that wons the Triple Crown. Triple Crown Productions has sponsored the races since 2006.

Many believe Visa withdrew its sponsorship as a result of the New York Racing Association's decision to break with the other two tracks on a television contract. On October 4, 2004, NYRA announced that the American Broadcasting Company and ESPN would hold television rights to the Belmont Stakes, breaking from Triple Crown Productions' deal with NBC Sports.[1] NBC Sports holds the broadcasting rights to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes until 2010. During the entire bonus period no bonus had been paid out since there still has been no Triple Crown winner since 1978.

Later years

Combined broadcast arrangements with ABC continued until 2001, when NBC Sports took over. Under NBC, ratings continued to go up, by as much as 20 percent in some years. It did not hurt that many horses, like Funny Cide and Smarty Jones, were making Triple Crown runs during those years (although all of them failed). From 2002 to 2004, the Belmont had the highest ratings of any horse race on television.

After the 2004 race, the New York Racing Association ended its deal with NBC, citing a conflict over profit-sharing arrangements. ABC won the rights to the Belmont, and TCP was effectively dissolved related to bonuses and broadcast rights. The only function that Triple Crown Production still oversees is joint nomination fees and a small joint marketing effort.



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