Secretariat – 1973 Triple Crown Winner
The ninth winner of the U.S. Triple Crown was born on March 30, 1970. He was sired by Bold River and his dam was Somethingroyal. He was foaled at Meadow Farm in Caroline County, Virginia. Secretariat’s nickname, Big Red, was because he was a large chestnut colt. His owner was Penny Cherney and was trained by Lucien Laurin. He was mainly ridden by Canadian jockey Ron Turncotte. But occasionally apprentice jockey Paul Feliciano and veteran Eddie Maple rode him. At Secretariat’s racing prime he stood about 16.2 hands (66 inches, 168 cm) tall, weighed 1,175 lbs (533 kg) with a 75 inch girth.
On July 4, 1972 which would be his two year old season he finished fourth, beaten by 1 ¼ lengths at Aqueduct Racetrack. Then he won five times in a row including three important two year old stakes races, the Sanford Stakes, Hopeful Stakes, and the Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park. Then he ran in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont where he finished first but was disqualified and placed second for bearing in and interfering with Stop the Music who was declared the winner. He then avenged that loss in the Laurel Futurity winning by eight lengths over Stop the Music. He completed his season with a win in the Garden Futurity Stakes.
Secretariat started off his three year old season with an easy win in the Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct. In the Gotham Stakes he led wire to wire for the first time in his career. His next start he finished third in the Wood Memorial.
In the Kentucky Derby Secretariat broke last, but gradually moved up the field on the backstretch and won by two and a half lengths. His track record of 1:59 2/5 is still standing even today. To accomplish this he ran each quarter mile segment faster than the one before it. No other horse won the Derby in less than two minutes until Monarchos in 2001.
In the Preakness Stakes Secretariat broke last but then made a huge last to first move on the first turn. After he reached the lead with five and a half furlongs to go her was never challenged and won by two and a half lengths. But the time of the race was controversial, the infield timer displayed 1:55, the tracks electronic timer had malfunctioned, the Pimlico Race Course Clocker announced a hand time of 1:54 2/5, however two “Daily Racing Form” clockers claimed the time was 1:53 2/5 which would have broken the track record of 1:54 set by Canonero II. The Maryland Jockey Club which managed the Pimlico racetrack and is responsible for maintaining Preakness records recognized 1:54 2/5 as the official time. But for the first time in history the “Daily Racing Form” printed its own clocking of 1:53 2/5 next to the official time in the chart of the race.
As Secretariat prepared for the Belmont Stakes he appeared on the covers of three national magazines: Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated. He was a national celebrity. Only four horses competed against Secretariat for the June 9, 1973 Belmont Stakes. He was sent off as a 1-10 favorite to win. The crowd of about 67,605 watched Secretariat and Sham set an early pace, opening about ten lengths on the rest of the field. After the six furlong mark Sham began to tire and ultimately finished last. Secretariat astonished spectators by continuing his fast pace. He won by 31 lengths, breaking the margin-of-victory record set by Count Fleet in 1943 who won by 25 lengths. He had just ran the fastest 1 ½ miles on dirt in history, his time being 2:24 flat, which broke the record by more than two seconds. His speed had been 37.5 mph for the whole performance. And his record still stands, in fact, no other horse has ever broken 2:25 for 1 ½ miles on dirt. He had just become the ninth winner of the U.S. Triple Crown, the first in 25 years.
Just three weeks later he was shipped to Chicago and easily won the Arlington Invitational. Then he lost in Saratoga by a length. After that he won the Marlboro Cup. Then he lost in the Woodward Stakes by 4 ½ lengths. In the Man O’ War Stakes he set the still standing track record time of 2:24 4/5. He won the Canadian International Stakes which was the last race of his career. After that he was brought to Aqueduct Racetrack for his last public appearance. Again he was named Horse of the Year and his winnings totaled $1,316,808. In his career he won 16 out of 21 races.
As a sire he sired more than 600 foals. In the fall of 1989 he was afflicted with laminitis, and was euthanized on October 4th at age nineteen. He was buried whole, which was a rare honor for a horse, at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky.
On October 16, 1999 the US Postal Service honored Secretariat, unveiling a 33-cent postage stamp with his image. ESPN listed him 35 th of the 100 greatest North American athletes of the 20th century. In 1974 he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. A Disney live action film written by Mike Rich was released on October 8, 2010 called Secretariat.