Secretariat Sets World Record – 6/9/1973

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Secretariat was raised by his owner, Penny Tweedy, in Doswell, Virginia, at Meadow Stable. Born on March 30, 1970, he was the son of Somethingroyal and Bold Ruler and won seven out of nine races at the age of two years. Secretariat became the first horse of his age to be acclaimed Horse of the Year. 

Secretariat lost the third race, which was supposed to be the final gauge before the Kentucky Derby. However, he had won two races in his three-old-career. Later, it was discovered that the horse had a painful abscess under his lip; most supporters believed the illness was behind his declining performance.

Afterward, Secretariat participated in the Kentucky Derby, and he did not disappoint. He beat Sham by two-and-a-half lengths and set a record of just over 1:59. The same year, he won Preakness, though the official time clashed with the unofficial timers. According to the official time, Secretariat was slower by a few seconds. On the other hand, the unofficial timers insisted the horse had set a new record.

At 1-to-10 odds, Secretariat came into the Belmont Stakes in Long Island, New York, becoming the best favorite. When the race commenced, Secretariat’s opponent, Sham, and his jockey, Laffit Pincay, kept pace, but they used up too much energy in the process and eventually faded. Secretariat and Sham raced together around the first turn in a suicidal: 46 1/5. Secretariat ran ¾ in 1:09 4/5, and one mile in 1:34. The crowd was already on its feet, screaming and cheering by the time he hit the quarter-pole in 1:59. He had outdone his performance at the Derby. Ron Turcotte, Secretariat’s jockey, had anticipated a close race with Sham.

While Sham faded, Secretariat managed to separate himself from the pack. He eventually crossed the finish line 31 lengths ahead of his challengers (Twice a Prince and My Gallant) in an amazing show of endurance and speed horse fanatics had never experienced.

“Secretariat is alone. He is moving like a tremendous machine!” Chic Anderson (the track announcer) yelled. “He’s 25 lengths in front!”

The historic race took place on June 9, 1973. Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner since the 1948 win by Citation. He managed to set a 2:24 world record in the mile-and-a-half race. Many believe the record will never be broken. Later, when his jockey was asked about the race, he said, “I know this sounds crazy, but the horse did it by himself. I was along for the ride.”

Secretariat recorded excellent performance through Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes, but it was the Belmont race for which he is best remembered. Secretariat became the ninth Triple Crown winner and the first in 25years. When Secretariat won the Belmont race, he did not only become the first horse since Citation; he also recorded the single greatest performance in horse racing history. 

After Belmont, Secretariat participated in nine other races, winning six of them and coming second and third once. Some of his biggest losses were to Prove Out in the Woodward and Onion in the Whitney. In 1974, he was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame and ESPN’s 100 Greatest Athletes of the Twentieth Century ranked him 35th. Sadly, he was euthanized after suffering from laminitis in 1989. He is buried at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky.

It was discovered later that Secretariat had an extraordinarily huge heart. His 22-pound heart was much bigger than that of a typical thoroughbred: more than twice. It was then concluded that his heart was responsible for his dominance as a racehorse. 

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