The Derby is the middle leg of the English Triple Crown, preceded by the 2,000 Guineas and followed by the St Leger. Only 15 colts have managed to win all three, and three of them (Pommern, Gay Crusader and Gainsborough) won wartime substitute races held at Newmarket during World War One.
West Australian, in 1853, became the first horse to win the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger. The French-bred Gladiateur, nicknamed ‘The Avenger of Waterloo’ was the second to do so in 1865. The third, Lord Lyon, in 1866, won 17 races in all yet remains largely forgotten, due perhaps to the moderate quality of his opponents.
Ormonde, in 1886, was arguably the first Triple Crown winner to be recognised by that title. Trained by John Porter at Kingsclere, Ormonde was one of the greatest racehorses of all time, uneaten in 14 races over three seasons.
The 1890s saw four colts land the Triple Crown: Common (1891), Isinglass (1893), Galtee More (1897), and Flying Fox (1899). Of that quartet, Isinglass was the best. He won 11 of his 12 starts, worth a total of £57,455, an amount that remained a British record until surpassed by Tulyar in 1952.