After watching the English getting excited over the English Triple Crown for 68 years, the Irish decided they needed their own version of the spectacular series. Irish horse racing was a flourishing industry and Irish jockeys were rising to fame not only in England and Ireland but internationally. It was high time that Ireland got its own Triple Crown. Also following the English model, the races making up the Triple Crown are part of the nation's Classics Series.
The Irish Derby, which was to take the place of the Epsom Derby as the second leg of the series of three races, had been run since 1866 at Curragh Racecourse and enjoyed a great following. The racing distance for the Irish Derby in one mile and four furlongs - after being cut from one mile and six furlongs in 1872 -, and the race takes place in late June or early July. As it is held three weeks after the English version, many trainers chose to run their charges in both events. Since the inauguration of the Irish Derby 14 horses have recorded double victories at both Epsom Downs and Curragh, the so-called Double Derby, most recently High Chaparral in 2002.
The Irish 2000 Guineas, which is the first race in the Irish Triple Crown series, was the last of the three races to be inaugurated in 1921. It is run at Curragh Racecourse every year in May. It is open to three-year-old colts and fillies and runs over a distance of one mile. As it is with the Irish Derby, the Irish 2000 Guineas often include runners from the 2000 Guineas Stakes of the English series; and seven horses have thus far achieved a double win, including, most recently, Henrythenavigator in 2008.
The Irish St. Leger Stakes in the last race of the Irish Triple Crown series. It is also run at Curragh, completing the riveting series in September. The race was first introduced in 1915 and is open to thoroughbreds aged three or over. It runs over a distance on one mile and six furlongs. In 1922 Royal Lancer became the first horse to win both the St. Leger Stakes of the English Triple Crown series and the Irish St Leger Stakes.
The Irish Triple Crown Series was introduced to the racing world in 1921, the year the Irish 2000 Guineas Stakes began, and has to date only produced two Triple Crown Champions. Museum, the winner of the 1935 Irish Triple Crown, and Windsor Slipper, who won the Triple Crown in 1942, are the only two horses to have cracked this notoriously difficult series of races. In 1997 Desert King came close to becoming the third Irish Triple Crown winner in history, winning the Irish 2000 Guineas and the Irish Derby. However, he was deemed to lack the stamina required for a win in the Irish St. Leger Stakes and did not start in the third race of the series. As if to prove his doubters wrong, Desert King later sired the legendary Makybe Diva, one of the greatest long distance runners of our time, who won the Australian Melbourne Cup, a two mile race, three times.