Sir Barton was a chestnut thoroughbred colt who in 1919 became the first winner of the American Triple Crown.
He was sired by leading stud Star Shoot out of the Hanover mare Lady Sterling. His grandsire was the 1893 English Triple Crown champion, Isinglass.
Sir Barton was bred in Kentucky by John E. Madden and Vivian A. Gooch at Hamburg Place Farm near Lexington. Madden raced him in his two-year-old season. He was entered in six races, winning none. Madden sold the horse in 1918 for $10,000 to Canadian businessman J. K. L. Ross.
Ross placed Sir Barton in the hands of trainer H. Guy Bedwell and jockey Johnny Loftus. At three, he made his season debut as a maiden in the Kentucky Derby. He was supposed to be the rabbit for his highly regarded stablemate, a horse named Billy Kelly. (A rabbit is a speed horse set up to wear out the rest of the field, thereby allowing another horse to win.) However, it was Sir Barton who led the field of 12 horses from start to finish, winning the race by five lengths. Just four days later, the horse was in Baltimore and won the Preakness Stakes, beating Eternal. Again he led all the way. He then won the Withers Stakes in New York and shortly thereafter completed the first Triple Crown in U.S. history by easily winning the Belmont Stakes, setting an American record for the mile and three-eighths race, the distance for the Belmont at the time. Amazingly, Sir Barton's four wins were accomplished in a space of just 32 days. He was voted the 1919 Horse of the Year, American racing's highest honor.
At Age Four
As a four-year-old, Sir Barton won five of the 12 races he entered during the 1920 season. In one of these races, the Saratoga Handicap, he beat the great Exterminator. While carrying 133 pounds, Sir Barton set a world record for 1 3/16 miles on dirt in winning the August 28, 1920 edition of the Merchants and Citizens Handicap. However, it was his match race on October 12th that year against the great Man o' War at Kenilworth Park in Windsor, Ontario, Canada that is most remembered. Sir Barton, bothered by sore hooves on Kenilworth's hard surface, was beaten by seven lengths. He retired to stud that year, virtually forgotten by the public. In 1922 Ross sold Sir Barton to B. B. Jones who stood him at his Audley Farm in Berryville, Virginia, where he remained until 1933. In December of 2008, a statue was unveiled of Sir Barton in front of Audley Farm's stallion barn. The statue, by American sculptor, Jan Woods, was a gift from Erich von Baumbach, Jr., whose family has had an association with the farm for thirty years.
As a sire, Sir Barton enjoyed only moderate success and spent the better part of the rest of his life as a working horse with the U.S. Army Remount service in Fort Robinson, Nebraska until being sold to rancher J.R. Hylton in Douglas, Wyoming.
Sir Barton died of colic on October 30, 1937 and was buried on a ranch in the foothills of the Laramie Mountains. Later though, his remains were moved to Washington Park in Douglas, Wyoming where a memorial was erected to honor America's first Triple Crown winner.
Sir Barton was officially recognized by the governing body as the first triple crown winner in 1948.
Sir Barton and Star Shoot both have a street named in their honor in Lexington, Kentucky, in the Hamburg Shopping Center. Sir Barton Way runs from Winchester Road To Man O' War Blvd; Star Shot runs out on to Sir Barton. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1957. In the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, he is no. 49.