How Justify ranks against other Triple Crown winning horses

Justify is the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown. That alone puts him in exclusive company. His dominance rating for the three Triple Crown races, however, ranks Justify at the bottom of the list of those 13.

The reason is the horse’s relatively small margins of victory in the races, particularly the Preakness. Justify won the three Triple Crown races by a total of 4.75 lengths. With the exception of 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed, that equals the smallest cumulative margin of victory of any Triple Crown horse. And the 1978 Triple Crown series is unique because in all three races Affirmed staged tight duels with another exceptional horse, Alydar, who finished second by 1.5 lengths, a neck and a head respectively. The shared dominance of those two horses is demonstrated by the margins separating Affirmed and Alydar from the third place finisher, 33.5 lengths and 30.75 lengths respectively.

The largest cumulative margin of victory by any Triple Crown winner was the 36 lengths, both by 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat and by 1943 champion Count Fleet. Famously, 31 of Secretariat’s 36-length margin was provided in the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont. Count Fleet won his Belmont by 25 lengths.

When American Pharoah won the 2015 Triple Crown, his victory margins were 1 length in the Kentucky Derby, 7 lengths in the Preakness and 5.5 lengths in the Belmont.

Justify’s -0.74 dominance rating in the Preakness matches the weakest dominance rating by any Triple Crown winner in a single race. Gallant Fox posted a -0.74 dominance rating in the 1930 Belmont to wrap up the Triple Crown. In thoroughbred racing negative Z Scores are good.

Here is the ranking of the 13 Triple Crown winners based on the cumulative total of the Z Scores of their performances in the three Triple Crown races:

Rank      Horse                                    Year       Derby    Pr’ness Bel’nt    Total

1              Secretariat                          1973       -2.15      -1.13      -2.26      -5.54

2              War Admiral                       1937       -2.19      -1.45      -1.41      -5.05

3              Assault                                 1946       -2.19      -1.26      -1.48      -4.93

4              Omaha                                 1935       -1.55      -2.08      -0.93      -4.56

5              Whirlaway                           1941       -2.14      -1.34      -1.01      -4.49

6              Sir Barton                            1919       -1.52      -1.96      -0.97      -4.45

7              American Pharoah           2015       -1.67      -1.13      -1.49      -4.29

8              Gallant Fox                         1930       -1.66      -1.87      -0.74      -4.27

9              Citation                                                1948       -1.27      -1.38      -1.62      -4.27

10           Affirmed                              1978       -1.26      -1.85      -1.04      -4.15

11           Seattle Slew                       1977       -1.67      -1.01      -1.44      -4.12

12           Count Fleet                        1943       -1.79      -1.07      -1.25      -4.11

13           Justify                                   2018       -1.72      -0.74      -1.40      -3.87

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