Tuesday, May 1, 2012


This is Kentucky Derby week. On Wednesday the post positions will be picked and on Saturday, the Run for the Roses will go off. Is there a triple crown winner in this bunch? Is there going to be a horse for the ages? But my big question is, will there be another Secretariat.

Watching Secretariat in 1973 was one of the main reasons I became such a big horse racing fan. He was the greatest athlete for that year.

On July 4, 1972, Secretariat finished fourth, beaten 11⁄4 lengths, in his first race at Aqueduct Racetrack.  After that loss, Secretariat then won five races in a row. Secretariat won the Eclipse Award for American Champion Two Year-Old Male Horse.

Secretariat started off his three-year-old year with a win in the Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct. In his next start, the Gotham Stakes, Secretariat led wire-to-wire for the first time in his career. He ran the first 3/4 of a mile in 1:083⁄5 and finished the one mile race in 1:332⁄5, equalling the track record. However, in his next start, he finished third in the Wood Memorial to his stablemate Angle Light and Santa Anita Derby winner Sham, in their final preparatory race for the Kentucky Derby.

Churchill Downs bettors made the entry of Secretariat and Angle Light the 3–2 favorite in the 1973 Kentucky Derby. (Sham was next at 5—2.) Secretariat broke last, but gradually moved up on the field in the backstretch, then overtook Sham at the top of the stretch, pulling away to win the Derby by 21⁄2 lengths. Our Native finished third.

On his way to a still-standing track record (1:592⁄5), Secretariat ran each quarter-mile segment faster than the one before it. The successive quarter-mile times were 251⁄5, 24, 234⁄5, 232⁄5, and 23. This means he was still accelerating as of the final quarter-mile of the race. No other horse won the Derby in less than 2 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 reaching the lead with 51⁄2 furlongs to go and won by 2½ lengths. Secretariat broke the record for the Preakness that day but there has been a controversy over that due to the on track clock malfunctioning. A handheld clocker showed that Secretariat did not break the record. I believe he broke the record but what do I know.

Only four horses competed against Secretariat for the June 9, 1973, running of the Belmont Stakes. With so few horses in the race, and with Secretariat expected to win, no "show" bets were taken. Secretariat was sent off as a 1–10 favorite. Before a crowd of 67,605, Secretariat and Sham set a fast early pace, opening ten lengths on the rest of the field.  Secretariat astonished spectators by continuing the fast pace and opening up a larger and larger margin on the field. Viewers heard the wonder in CBS Television announcer Chic Anderson's voice as he described the horse's pace: "Secretariat is widening now! He is moving like a tremendous machine!"

In the stretch, Secretariat opened a 1/16 mile lead on the rest of the field. At the finish, he won by 31 lengths (breaking the margin-of-victory record set by Triple Crown winner Count Fleet in 1943, which won by 25 lengths), and ran the fastest 1½ miles on dirt in history, 2:24 flat, which broke the stakes' record by more than two seconds.  Secretariat's world record still stands, and in fact, no other horse has ever broken 2:25 for 1½ miles on dirt.

Secretariat raced throughout 1973. He retired after he won the Canadian International Stakes at Woodbine  Racetrack in Toronto on October 28, 1973. He retired after this race.

Altogether, Secretariat won 16 of his 21 career races, with three seconds and one third, for in-the-money finishes in 20 of 21 starts, and total earnings of $1,316,808.

At age three, Secretariat was again named Horse of the Year, and won Eclipse Awards as the American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse and the American Champion Male Turf Horse.

There has never been a horse like Secretariat and I am not to sure there ever will be.

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