Secretariat (horse)
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Secretariat (horse)

August 17, 2019


Secretariat was an American Thoroughbred racehorse
that in 1973 became the first U.S. Triple Crown winner in 25 years. He set race records
in all three events in the series – the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and
the Belmont Stakes – records that still stand today. He is considered to be one of
the greatest Thoroughbreds of all time. In 1999, ESPN ranked Secretariat the 35th-best
athlete of the 20th century, the highest-ranking racehorse on the list. He ranked second behind
Man o’ War in The Blood-Horse’s List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century.
He was also ranked second behind Man o’ War by a six-member panel of experts assembled
by the Associated Press. He was also ranked second behind Man o’ War by a Sports Illustrated
panel of seven experts. Secretariat was sired by Bold Ruler out of
Somethingroyal, by Princequillo. He was foaled at The Meadow in Caroline County, Virginia.
Like his famous predecessor Man o’ War, Secretariat was a large chestnut colt, and was given the
same nickname, “Big Red”. Secretariat’s grandsire, Nasrullah, is also the great-great-grandsire
of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Owned by Penny Chenery, also known as Penny
Tweedy, he was trained by Lucien Laurin, and mainly ridden by Canadian jockey Ron Turcotte,
along with apprentice jockey Paul Feliciano and veteran Eddie Maple. He raced in Chenery’s
Meadow Farm Stable’s blue-and-white-checkered colors. His groom was Eddie Sweat, and his
exercise riders were Charlie Davis and Jim Gaffney, who died on June 3, 2010.
Secretariat stood about 16.2 hands tall and weighed 1,175 lb, with a 75-inch girth, in
his racing prime. Background
The story of Secretariat began with the toss of a coin in 1969 between Penny Chenery of
Meadow Stable and Ogden Phipps of Wheatley Stable. The coin toss was the idea of Phipps,
owner of Bold Ruler, and “Bull” Hancock of Claiborne Farms as a way to get the very best
mares for Bold Ruler, and when the toss went their way, to add well-bred fillies to their
own broodmare band. Bold Ruler was considered one of the important
stallions of his time. He had a fine balance between speed and stamina, and though he finished
fourth in the 1957 Kentucky Derby at a mile and a quarter, he won the Preakness two weeks
later at a mile and three sixteenths, and went on to win three major stakes at the Derby’s
10-furlong distance. After his racing career, Bold Ruler was retired to Claiborne Farms,
but was still controlled by the Phipps family. This meant that he would be bred mainly to
Phipps’s mares and that few of his offspring would find their way to the auction ring.
Phipps and Hancock agreed to forgo stud fees for Bold Ruler; instead, they would claim
one of two foals produced by the mare he bred in successive seasons or two mares he bred
in the same season. Who obtained which foal or even received first pick would be decided
by a flip of a coin. In 1968, Chenery sent two mares named Hasty
Matelda and Somethingroyal to Bold Ruler, and in 1969, a colt and filly were the result.
Chenery and Phipps’s coin toss was held in the fall of 1969, in the office of New York
Racing Association Chairman Alfred G. Vanderbilt II, with Hancock as witness. As stated in
the original agreement, the winner of the coin toss would get first foal pick in 1969,
and second foal pick in 1970. Phipps won the toss and took the weanling filly out of Hasty
Matelda. This resulted in Chenery getting the colt out of Somethingroyal. In 1969, Hasty
Matelda was replaced by Cicada, but she did not conceive. Both parties assumed Somethingroyal
would deliver a healthy foal in the spring of 1970. This left Chenery with the unborn
foal of Somethingroyal. On March 30, at 12:10 a.m., Somethingroyal
foaled a bright-red chestnut colt with three white socks and a star with a narrow blaze.
By the time the colt was a yearling, he was still unnamed. Meadow Stable’s secretary,
Elizabeth Ham, had submitted five names to the Jockey Club, all of which were denied
for various reasons. Approval finally came with the sixth submission, a name Ham herself
picked from a previous career association, “Secretariat”.
Two-year-old season On July 4, 1972, Secretariat finished fourth,
beaten by 1¼ lengths, in his first race at Aqueduct Racetrack when he was impeded at
the start, forced to take up on the backstretch and then could not make up the ground. After
that loss, Secretariat then won five races in a row, including three important two-year-old
stakes races, the Sanford Stakes and Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, and the Futurity
Stakes at Belmont Park. In the Hopeful, he made a huge move, passing eight horses in
1/4 mile to take the lead and then drawing off to win by five lengths. He then ran in
the Champagne Stakes at Belmont, for which he ran as the favorite and won by two lengths.
Following an inquiry by the racecourse stewards, Secretariat was disqualified and placed second
for bearing in and interfering with Stop the Music, which was declared the winner.
Secretariat then took the Laurel Futurity, winning by eight lengths over Stop the Music,
and completed his season with a win in the Garden State Futurity. Secretariat won the
Eclipse Award for American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse and, in a rare occurrence, two
two-year-olds topped the balloting for 1972 American Horse of the Year honors with Secretariat
edging out the filly, La Prevoyante. Secretariat received the votes of the Thoroughbred Racing
Associations of North America and the “Daily Racing Form”, while La Prevoyante was chosen
by the National Turf Writers Association. Only one horse since then, Favorite Trick
in 1997, has won that award as a two-year-old. Preparing for the Kentucky Derby
Secretariat began his three-year-old year with an easy 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 mile in 1:083⁄5 and finished the one-mile race
in 1:332⁄5, matching the track record. However, in his next start, he finished third in the
Wood Memorial to stablemate Angle Light and Santa Anita Derby winner Sham, in their final
preparatory race for the Kentucky Derby. His loss was due to a large abscess in his mouth.
Because of the Wood Memorial results, some were considering Sham the top pick for the
Kentucky Derby. Sham was at the top of the list in the Louisville Courier-Journal and
Times Derby Ratings on April 22, 1973. The Triple Crown
The Kentucky Derby Churchill Downs bettors made the entry of
Secretariat and Angle Light the 3–2 favorite in the 1973 Kentucky Derby. 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
eight lengths further back in third. On his way to a still-standing track record,
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 had won the Derby in less than
2 minutes before, and it would not be accomplished again until Monarchos in 2001.
Sportswriter Mike Sullivan said, in admiration: I was at Secretariat’s Derby, in ’73. . . That
was…just beauty, you know? He started in last place, which he tended to do. I was covering
the second-place horse, which wound up being Sham. It looked like Sham’s race going into
the last turn, I think. The thing you have to understand is that Sham was fast, a beautiful
horse. He would have had the Triple Crown in another year. And it just didn’t seem like
there could be anything faster than that. Everybody was watching him. It was over, more
or less. And all of a sudden there was this, like, just a disruption in the corner of your
eye, in your peripheral vision. And then before you could make out what it was, here Secretariat
came. And then Secretariat had passed him. No one had ever seen anything run like that
– a lot of the old guys said the same thing. It was like he was some other animal out there. The Preakness Stakes
In the 1973 Preakness Stakes on May 19, 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, he was never
challenged, and won by 2½ lengths, again with Sham finishing second and Our Native
third. The time of the race was controversial. The
infield teletimer displayed a time of 1:55. The track’s electronic timer had malfunctioned
because of damage caused by members of the crowd crossing the track to reach the infield.
The Pimlico Race Course clocker, E.T. McLean Jr., announced a hand time of 1:542⁄5. However,
two Daily Racing Form clockers claimed the time was 1:532⁄5, which would have broken
the track record. Tapes of Secretariat and Cañonero II were played side by side by CBS,
and Secretariat got to the finish line first on tape, though this was not a reliable method
of timing a horse race at the time. The Maryland Jockey Club, which managed the Pimlico racetrack
and is responsible for maintaining Preakness records, discarded both the electronic and
Daily Racing Form times and recognized 1:542⁄5 as the official time. However, Daily Racing
Form, for the first time in history, printed its own clocking of 1:532⁄5 next to the
official time in the chart of the race. On June 19, 2012, a special meeting of the
Maryland Racing Commission was convened at Laurel Park at the request of Penny Chenery,
who hired companies to conduct a forensic review of the videotapes of the race. After
over two hours of testimony, the commission unanimously voted to change the time of Secretariat’s
win from 1:542⁄5 to 1:53, establishing a new stakes record. The Daily Racing Form then
announced that it would honor the commission’s ruling with regard to the running time.
As Secretariat prepared for the Belmont Stakes, he appeared on the covers of three national
magazines: Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated. He had become a national celebrity.
The Belmont Stakes Only four horses competed against Secretariat
for the June 9, 1973, running of the 105th Belmont Stakes, including Sham, who had finished
second in both the Derby and Preakness, along with three other horses thought to have little
chance by the bettors: Twice A Prince, My Gallant, and Private Smiles. 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 to win as a $2.20 payout on a $2 ticket and paid at
20 cents more – $2.40 – to place. Before a crowd of 67,605, Secretariat and Sham set
a fast early pace, opening ten lengths on the rest of the field. After the six-furlong
mark, Sham began to tire, ultimately finishing last. Secretariat continued the fast pace
and opened up a larger and larger margin on the field. CBS Television announcer Chic Anderson
described the horse’s pace in a famous commentary: “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, and ran the
fastest 1½ miles on dirt in history, 2:24 flat, which broke the stakes record by more
than two seconds. This works out to a speed of 37.5 mph for his entire performance. Secretariat’s
record still stands; no other horse has ever broken 2:24 for 1½ miles on dirt. If the
Beyer Speed Figure calculation had been developed during that time, Andrew Beyer calculated
that Secretariat would have earned a figure of 139, the highest he has ever assigned.
Bettors holding 5,617 winning parimutuel tickets on Secretariat never redeemed them, presumably
keeping them as souvenirs. Secretariat became the ninth Triple Crown
winner in history, and the first in 25 years. After the Triple Crown
Three weeks after his win at Belmont, Secretariat shipped to Chicago and easily won the Arlington
Invitational at Arlington Park. He went to Saratoga, popularly nicknamed “the graveyard
of favorites,” for the Whitney Stakes. Racing against older horses for the first time, he
was beaten by the Allen Jerkens-trained Onion, a four-year-old gelding. Onion led from the
start and led Secretariat by a head on the final turn before pulling ahead in the straight
to win by a length. A record crowd of more than 30,000 witnessed what was described as
an “astonishing” upset. Despite Jerkens’s reputation as the “Giant Killer,” Secretariat’s
stunning loss can possibly be attributed to a viral infection, which caused a low-grade
fever and diarrhea. Secretariat then won the inaugural Marlboro
Cup against a field that included his stablemate, the 1972 Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Riva
Ridge; top California stakes winner Cougar II, Canadian champion Kennedy Road, Onion,
Travers winner Annihilate ‘Em, and the 1972 American champion three-year-old male horse
Key to the Mint. Secretariat ran 1:452⁄5 for 11⁄8 miles, then a world record for
the distance. Stablemate Riva Ridge ran second. In September, Secretariat returned to Belmont
for the 11⁄2 mile Woodward Stakes in which he was matched against the Allen Jerkens-trained,
four-year-old Prove Out. Racing on a sloppy track, Secretariat led into the straight but
was overtaken by Prove Out, who pulled clear to win by 41⁄2 lengths. Following his defeat
by Prove Out Secretariat was moved to turf for the Man O’ War Stakes over. He won by
five lengths from Tentam, with Big Spruce seven and a half lengths further back in third.
Secretariat set a track record time of 2:244⁄5. After the race, Ron Turcotte explained that
“when Tentam came up to him in the backstretch I just chirped to him and he pulled away”.
Secretariat’s owner entered into a syndication deal that precluded the horse racing past
age three. Accordingly, Secretariat’s last race was against older horses in the Canadian
International Stakes over one and five-eighths miles at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Canada
on October 28, 1973. With Ron Turcotte out with a five-day suspension, Eddie Maple rode
Secretariat to victory by 61⁄2 lengths. After the race, Secretariat was brought to
Aqueduct Racetrack where he was paraded before fans in his final public appearance.
Altogether, Secretariat won 16 of his 21 career races, with three seconds and one third, with
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.
Honors and retirement Breeding rights were sold for Secretariat
before he won the Triple Crown. As part of his first crop at stud, Secretariat sired
Canadian Bound, who was the first Thoroughbred yearling racehorse ever sold for more than
US$1 million. At the 1976 Keeneland July sale, the auction bidding for Canadian Bound broke
the $1 million barrier, selling for $1.5 million, equal to $6.2 million today. Canadian Bound
was a complete failure in racing, and for several years, the value of Secretariat’s
offspring declined considerably. However, he eventually sired a number of major stakes
winners, including 1986 Horse of the Year Lady’s Secret, 1988 Preakness and Belmont
Stakes winner Risen Star, 1990 Melbourne Cup winner Kingston Rule, which broke the course
record in Australia’s richest race, and the 1994, 1995 winner of the G1 Pacific Classic,
Tinners Way, born in 1990 to Secretariat’s last crop.
He also sired General Assembly, which won the 1979 Travers Stakes at Saratoga while
setting a still-standing race record of 2:00 flat. Andrew Beyer has said General Assembly’s
speed figure in that race was one of the highest in history. Like Secretariat in the Belmont,
General Assembly never duplicated that performance in the races that remained on his schedule.
Secretariat was retired at three years old and General Assembly at four.
Ultimately, Secretariat sired as many as 600 foals. There has been some criticism of Secretariat
as a stallion, due in part to his perceived inability to produce male offspring of his
same caliber. However, he turned out to be a noted broodmare sire, being the maternal
grandsire of 1992 Horse of the Year and successful sire A.P. Indy, Secretariat’s grandson through
his daughter Weekend Surprise, and sired by another Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew.
AP Indy is the sire of 2007 Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches, the first filly to
win at Belmont since 1905. Secretariat is also the damsire of the great stallions Storm
Cat, through his daughter Terlingua, herself an excellent racemare, and of Gone West, through
his daughter Secrettame. Secretariat is also the great-grandsire of Giant’s Causeway through
his grandson Storm Cat and daughter Terlingua. Secretariat’s genetic legacy may be linked
in part to the likelihood that he carried the “x-factor” and thus, a trait Secretariat
could only pass on via his daughters. However, it is yet to be proven whether the x-factor
increases athletic ability. Death
In the fall of 1989, Secretariat was afflicted with laminitis—a painful and often incurable
hoof condition. When his condition failed to improve after a month of treatment, he
was euthanized on October 4 at the age of 19. Secretariat was buried at Claiborne Farm
in Paris, Kentucky, given the rare honor of being buried whole.
A necropsy revealed his heart was significantly larger than that of an ordinary horse. An
extremely large heart is a trait that occasionally occurs in Thoroughbreds, linked to a genetic
condition passed down via the dam line, known as the “x-factor”. The x-factor can be traced
to the historic racehorse Eclipse, which was necropsied after his death in 1789. Because
Eclipse’s heart appeared to be much larger than other horses, it was weighed, and found
to be 14 pounds, almost twice the normal weight. Eclipse is believed to have passed the trait
on via his daughters, and pedigree research verified that Secretariat traces in his dam
line to a daughter of Eclipse. In the 20th century, the heart of Phar Lap was weighed
and also documented to be 6.35 kilograms, or essentially the same size as that of Eclipse.
At the time of Secretariat’s death, the veterinarian who performed the necropsy, Dr. Thomas Swerczek,
head pathologist at the University of Kentucky, did not weigh Secretariat’s heart, but stated,
“We just stood there in stunned silence. We couldn’t believe it. The heart was perfect.
There were no problems with it. It was just this huge engine.” Later, Swerczek also performed
a necropsy on Sham, who died in 1993. Swerczek did weigh Sham’s heart, and it was 18 pounds.
Based on Sham’s measurement, and having necropsied both horses, he estimated Secretariat’s heart
probably weighed 22 pounds, or about two-and-three-quarters times as large as that of the average horse.
Posthumous recognition On October 16, 1999, in the winner’s circle
at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, the U.S. Postal Service honored Secretariat, unveiling
a 33-cent postage stamp with his image. ESPN listed him 35th of the 100 greatest North
American athletes of the 20th century, the highest of three non-humans on the list. Secretariat
was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1974, the year following
his Triple Crown. In 2005, he appeared in ESPN Classic’s show “Who’s No. 1?”. In the
list of “Greatest Sports Performances”, the horse was the only nonhuman on the list, with
his run at Belmont ranking second behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game. On May 2, 2007,
Secretariat was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, marking the first time
an animal received this honor. A new award created in 2010 titled the Secretariat Vox
Populi Award was presented by Penny Chenery to the first honoree, Zenyatta. This annual
award will acknowledge the horse that brings the most excitement and attraction to the
sport. Pop culture
Secretariat, a Disney live-action film written by Mike Rich and directed by Randall Wallace,
was released on October 8, 2010. The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson features
a pantomime horse named Secretariat. Races
Pedigree References External links
The official Secretariat website ESPN Sports Century – # 35 – Secretariat
Kentucky Derby.com – Secretariat – 1973 ESPN Classic – ESPN Classic story on 1973
Belmont – 19-Nov-2003 USPS.com – 1999 U.S. postage stamp – Secretariat
Secretariat at Find a Grave Pedigree Online – Pedigree of Secretariat

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