How 11 Triple Crown Winners Spent Their Retirement Years

JOHN ANGELILLO/UPI/Landov

The decision to scratch and retire I’ll Have Another with swelling in his left front leg on the day before the Belmont Stakes cost him a shot to become the 12th Triple Crown winner, but owner J. Paul Reddam still stands to make millions in stud fees. While the three-year-old colt would likely have commanded an even greater fee had he raced and won Saturday, most bloodstock agents and other experts expect him to garner $5 million to $10 million as a sire. Here’s a look at the post-Belmont careers – both on and off the track – of the 11 Triple Crown winners.

1. Sir Barton, 1919

One year after winning the Triple Crown and Horse of the Year honors, Sir Barton faced off against Man o’ War in a match race at Canada’s Kenilworth Park. Man o’ War, a legend in his own right, won by seven lengths and Sir Barton was retired to stud in Berryville, Va., shortly thereafter. After 11 mostly unimpressive years as a sire, Sir Barton’s owners turned him over to the U.S. Remount Service, which bred and supplied horses to the Army. Sir Barton’s stud fee dropped to around $10, and in 1933 the Army sold him to Dr. J.R. Hylton. Sir Barton died of colic at Dr. Hylton’s Wyoming ranch on October 30, 1937.

2. Gallant Fox, 1930

Gallant Fox raced six more times after winning the Triple Crown and scored wins in five of those races. He was retired to stud at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky at the end of the 1930 season and produced a three-year old champion in each of his first two crops as a sire. The first, Omaha, remains the only Triple Crown winner who was sired by a Triple Crown winner. Gallant Fox died on Nov. 13, 1954, one year after retiring from stud service. He was buried alongside Sir Gallahad III, who sired three Triple Crown champions, and Marguerite, his dam.

3. Omaha, 1935

Omaha was shipped to England on the RMS Aquitania in January 1936 and, according to newspaper accounts, “stood the sea trip very well.” Omaha made four starts across the pond, winning twice and placing twice. The son of Gallant Fox was retired to stud at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky, where he was a disappointment as a sire. The Jockey Club’s Breeding Bureau sent Omaha to a stud farm in New York in 1943. Seven years later, he was transferred to a farm in Nebraska, where he spent the final years of his life about 50 miles south of the city with which he shared a name.

4. War Admiral, 1937

War Admiral continued his racing career after winning the Triple Crown and edging Seabiscuit for Horse of the Year honors in 1937. The two thoroughbred legends met for the only time on November 1, 1938, in the Pimlico Special match race in Baltimore, with Seabiscuit winning by four lengths. War Admiral retired to stud in July 1939 with earnings totaling $273,240 and 21 wins in 26 starts, and was the leading sire in North America in 1945. He died in 1959 at the age of 25.

5. Whirlaway, 1941

Whirlaway, who was also known as Mr. Longtail, was a must-see attraction after winning the Triple Crown. He ran an incredible 22 races in 1942 at racetracks across the country to help raise money for the War Emergency Relief Fund. A bowed tendon as a five-year old sent Whirlaway into retirement at Kentucky’s Calumet Farm in 1946. In 1950, he was leased to breeder Marcel Boussac, who moved the two-time Horse of the Year to his stud farm in France. Boussac purchased full ownership of Whirlaway in 1952, only to have the two-time Horse of the Year die of a heart attack the following year.

6. Count Fleet, 1943

Count Fleet scored an unprecedented quintuple triumph and was named the unanimous Horse of the Year in 1943. After winning the Wood Memorial, Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Withers, he captured the Belmont with a then-record 25-length victory. Count Fleet injured his ankle during the race, which led to an early end to a promising racing career. He sired one Kentucky Derby winner and two Belmont Stakes winners after retiring to stud and died on Dec. 3, 1973 at the age of 33.

7. Assault, 1946

Assault was retired to King Ranch in Texas in February 1948 after winning five of seven starts as a four-year-old. The 1946 Horse of the Year’s stud career was brief, as it was determined that he was sterile. Assault returned to the racing circuit and won three more races over the next three years before hanging up his saddle for good in 1950. He earned $672,470 in his career, with 18 wins in 42 starts. Assault died on Sept. 1, 1971 at the age of 28.

8. Citation, 1948

Citation developed arthritis in his fetlock joint toward the end of his Triple Crown-winning year and missed all of the 1949 season as a result. Still, trainer Jimmy Jones was determined to get him back out on the track. “We have a definite goal,” Jones said in 1950. “We want Citation to be the first horse to win a million dollars. When he does that, he’ll be retired to the stud.” Jones kept his promise. Citation eclipsed the $1 million mark at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., on July 14, 1951, and was immediately retired to Calumet Farm in Lexington, Ky. Citation died on August 8, 1970 at the age of 25.

9. Secretariat, 1973

Super Red, as fans knew him, ran his final race at the Canadian Championship in Toronto in October 1973. He went to stud under the terms of a then-record $6.08 million syndication deal, which helped pay off the estate taxes of his owner’s father. (Syndication deals spread the inherent gamble associated with high-stakes breeding across multiple buyers, who purchase shares in the horse. Each share grants the owner the right to breed a mare of his or her choosing with the syndicated horse once a year for as long as the horse lives.) Secretariat retired as the sixth-leading money winner of all-time, but had mixed success as a stallion. He was put down on Oct. 5, 1989, after suffering from laminitis, an incurable hoof condition.

10. Seattle Slew, 1977

Seattle Slew was syndicated for a then-record $12 million in February 1978. He was retired to stud at Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky at the end of the season and sired several champion foals. Seattle Slew died in his stall on May 7, 2002, 25 years to the day after he won the Kentucky Derby. His progeny included Swale, who won the 1984 Kentucky Derby.

11. Affirmed, 1978

One of the highlights of Affirmed’s post-Triple Crown career was the 1978 Marlboro Cup Invitational Handicap at Belmont Park. While he lost to Seattle Slew, it marked the first time that two Triple Crown Winners raced against each other. The $66,000 that Affirmed won for finishing second pushed him past Secretariat as the top earner in a single year with $901,541. He was named Horse of the Year, an honor he retained in 1979 by winning seven of nine starts. Affirmed was syndicated for a then-record $14.4 million and retired to stud in October 1979, finishing his career as the first horse to surpass $2 million in winnings. His 700-plus foals earned roughly $40 million. Affirmed was euthanized in 2001 after developing laminitis.

What’s in Store for I’ll Have Another?

Evan Hammonds, executive editor of the thoroughbred industry magazine BloodHorse, told CNN that he expects I’ll Have Another to fetch $20,000 to $25,000 every time he breeds. That could add up to $10 million over his lifetime. While it’s significantly less than what he likely would have garnered 10 years ago – 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus was syndicated for a record $70 million and began his stallion career with a stud fee of $150,000 – that’s a decent return for Reddam, who purchased the colt for $35,000.

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Bo Knows Everything: Remembering Nike's Legendary Bo Jackson Ad Campaign

Bo Jackson and the "Bo Knows" campaign helped Nike finally overtake Reebook in the early 1990s.
Bo Jackson and the "Bo Knows" campaign helped Nike finally overtake Reebook in the early 1990s.
Mike Powell, Allsport/Getty Images

It may have been difficult for Nike to conceive of any athlete being able to do more for its company than Michael Jordan. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the Chicago Bulls star was omnipresent, helping turn their Air Jordan line of sneakers into a squeaky chorus in school hallways and gyms around the country. Even better, the company had scored big with “Just Do It,” an advertising slogan introduced in 1988 that became part of the public lexicon.

There was just one issue. In spite of Jordan’s growing popularity and their innovative advertising, Nike was still in second place behind Reebok. No other athlete on their roster could seemingly bridge the gap. Not even their new cross-training shoe endorsed by tennis pro John McEnroe was igniting excitement in the way the company had hoped.

In 1989, two major events changed all of that: An advertising copywriter was struck with inspiration, and two-sport athlete Bo Jackson slammed a first-inning home run during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The ad man’s idea was to portray Jackson as being able to do just about anything. Jackson went ahead and proved him right.

 

Bo Jackson was an ideal spokesperson for Nike's new line of cross-training sneakers. The Auburn University graduate was making waves as a rare two-sport pro athlete; he was playing baseball for the Kansas City Royals and football for the Los Angeles Raiders. Early commercials featured Jackson sampling other sporting activities like riding a bike. “Now, when’s that Tour de France?” he asked. In another, he dunked a basketball and pondered the potential of “Air Bo.”

At a Portland bar near Nike’s headquarters one evening, Nike vice president of marketing Tom Clarke and Jim Riswold of ad agency Wieden + Kennedy were pondering how best to use Jackson going forward. Clarke wanted to devote the majority of their budget for the cross-trainers to an ad campaign featuring the athlete. The two started lobbing ideas about other people named Bo—Bo Derek, Beau Brummell, Little Bo Peep, and Bo Diddley, among others.

The last one stuck with Riswold. He thought of a phrase—“Bo, you don’t know Diddley”—and went home to sleep on it. When he woke up the next morning, he was able to sketch out an entire commercial premise in minutes. Riswold envisioned a spot in which Jackson would try his hand at other sports, punctuating each with a “Bo Knows” proclamation. Jackson soon realizes the one thing he can’t do is play guitar with Bo Diddley, the legendary musician.

It took longer to shoot the commercial than to conceive of it. The spot was shot over the course of a month, with the crew going to California, Florida, and Kansas to film cameos with other athletes including Jordan, McEnroe, and Wayne Gretzky—all of whom Nike had under personal appearance contracts.

Fearing Jackson might hurt himself trying to skate, the production filmed him from the knees up sliding around in socks at a University of Kansas gymnasium rather than on ice. But not all attempts at caution were successful. When director Joe Pytka grew frustrated that Jackson kept running off-camera and implored him to move in a straight line, Jackson steamrolled both the equipment and Pytka, who had to tend to a bloody nose before continuing.

In portraying any other athlete this way, the campaign may have come off as stretching credulity. But Jackson had already been improving his game in all areas, hitting a 515-foot home run during a spring training win over the Boston Red Sox. In April, he hit .282 and tallied eight home runs. Even when he struck out, he still stood out: Jackson was prone to breaking his bat over his knee in frustration.

 

After Jackson was voted into the 1989 MLB All-Star Game in July, Nike decided the telecast would be the ideal place to debut their Bo Knows campaign. They handed out Bo Knows pennants for fans and even flew Bo Knows signs overhead. Bo Knows appeared in a full-page spot for USA Today. Even by Nike standards, this was big.

There was, of course, a chance Jackson would be in a bat-breaking mood, which might diminish the commercial’s impact. But in the very first inning, Jackson sent one into the stands off pitcher Rick Reuschel. With a little scrambling, Nike was able to get their ad moved up from the fourth inning, where it was originally scheduled to run. In the broadcast booth, announcer Vin Scully and special guest, former president Ronald Reagan, marveled at Jackson’s prowess. Scully reminded viewers that his pro football career was something Jackson once described as a “hobby.”

A Bo Jackson fan is pictured holding up a 'Bo Knows Baseball!' sign at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, California on July 11, 1989
A Bo Jackson fan shows his support at the MLB All-Star Game in Anaheim, California on July 11, 1989.
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Jackson was named the Most Valuable Player of the game. That summer and into the fall, Bo Knows was quickly moving up the ranks of the most pervasive commercial spots in memory, second only to Jordan’s memorable ads for Nike and McDonald’s. Jackson turned up in sequels, trying his hand at everything from surfing to soccer to cricket. Special effects artists created multiple Bo Jacksons, a seemingly supernatural explanation for why he excelled at everything.

It was a myth, but one rooted in reality. After 92 wins with the Royals as a left-fielder in 1989, Jackson reported for the NFL season that fall as a running back for the Raiders. In one three-game stretch, he ran for over 100 yards each. Against the Cincinnati Bengals in November, Jackson ran 92 yards for a touchdown. He finished the season with 950 rushing yards. That winter, he was named to the Pro Bowl, making him the only athlete to appear in two all-star games for two major North American sports in consecutive seasons.

Nike was staggered by the results of Bo Knows, which helped them leap over Reebok to become the top athletic shoe company. They eventually secured 80 percent of the cross-training shoe market, going from $40 million in sales to $400 million, a feat that executives attributed in large part to Jackson. Bo Knows, bolstered by Jackson’s demonstrated versatility, was the perfect marriage of concept and talent. His stature as a spokesperson rose, and he appeared in spots for AT&T and Mountain Dew Sport, earning a reported $2 million a year for endorsements. A viewer survey named him the most persuasive athlete in advertising. If that weren’t enough, Jackson also appeared in the popular Nintendo Entertainment System game Tecmo Bowl and on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1989.

 

In 1991, Jackson suffered a serious hip injury during a Raiders game, one that permanently derailed his football career. He played three more seasons of baseball with the Chicago White Sox and California Angels before retiring from sports in 1994.

Jackson's relationship with Nike was dissolved soon after, though the company never totally abandoned the concept of athletes wading into new territory. In 2004, a campaign depicted big names sampling other activities. Tennis great Andre Agassi suited up for the Boston Red Sox; cyclist Lance Armstrong was seen boxing; Serena Williams played beach volleyball. The Bo Knows DNA ran throughout.

Jackson still makes periodic references to the campaign, including in advertisements for his Bo Jackson Signature Foods. (“Bo Knows Meat,” the website proclaims.) In 2019, Jackson also appeared in a Sprint commercial that aimed for surrealism, with Jackson holding a mermaid playing a keytar and having a robot intone that “Bo does know” something about cell phone carriers.

The other key Bo—Diddley—never quite understood why the campaign worked. After seeing the commercial, he reportedly said that he was confused because it had nothing to do with shoes.