Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, American Pharoah—and now, as of June 9, Justify.
In the world of thoroughbred horse racing, those 13 horses stand hands above the rest as winners of the Triple Crown—the three-race series for three-year-old horses made up of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
The Belmont Stakes dates to 1867, with the Preakness Stakes first run in 1873 and the Kentucky Derby started in 1875. In all, more than 4,200 horses have participated in at least one of the Triple Crown races. The first Triple Crown winning horse was Sir Barton in 1919. There was a 37-year drought between Affirmed’s win in 1978 and American Pharoah’s Triple Crown win in 2015. Then just three years later, Justify won this year, finishing 1-3/4 lengths ahead of place finisher Gronkowski.
Along with the crowd of 90,000 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., cheering on Justify, there was an equally enthusiastic crowd gathered at NOSH, an upscale bar in New Orleans’ Warehouse District. NOSH stands for "New Orleans Social House.” Those gathered at NOSH, while definitely fans of thoroughbred racing, had another motivation for cheering on the 13th Triple Crown winner in history.
With a win, Justify made naming the group’s next towboat an easy task.
The crowd hailed from Turn Services, the New Orleans-based maritime company that provides fleeting, inspection, cleaning, repair, pumping, cover handling and shifting services for barge lines. Founded in 1990, Turn Services set out to name its towboats after Triple Crown winners. But with only 11 Triple Crown winners in existence in the company’s first 25 years in business, Turn Services quickly exhausted that pool of names and began including other noteworthy racing champions who carried great names and had interesting stories.
The company’s newest towboat, the mv. Barbaro, for instance, is named for the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner who led a field of 20 horses, winning dominantly by 6-1/2 lengths. It was the largest margin of victory at the Derby in 60 years. Barbaro was injured in a false start at the Preakness Stakes, which ended his racing career.
Whenever a horse wins the first two legs of the Triple Crown, Turn Services hosts a watch party for the Belmont Stakes in hopes of celebrating the emergence of a new potential namesake.
Turn Services currently has two towboats under construction at Eymard Marine Construction & Repair in Harvey, La. Those vessels are due out late this year or early 2019. While the name of one of those vessels is to be determined, one is set—mv. Justify.
And judging from the high fives, embraces and rapid text messages seen at NOSH following Justify’s win, the Turn Services team and many in the maritime industry are excited to see yet another Triple Crown winning name at work on the Lower Mississippi River very soon.