Secretariat: A Race Legend

It’s the first week of May. This is the time of year that Hope springs eternal for horse racing owners. The hope and dreams rest with the most exciting two minutes in sports.

It’s the run for the roses, the Kentucky Derby.

Roll back the clock 40 years to 1973. A lady named Penny Tweedy, the owner of Meadow Stables, came to Louisville with a horse named Secretariat. She had a dream her horse could win the fabled race, however, the colt known by many as “Big Red” had come off a disappointing Wood Memorial. The colt got beat by Sham. It was discovered after the race that Secretariat suffered from a tooth infection. Few people knew that as Big Red entered the most famous race in America.

The smart money was on Sham who had come in after an impressive showing at the Wood. The Derby came down to a dual between Secretariat and Sham. Big Red came from the back of the field pulling away at the end to win in a record time of 1:59 2/5. The performance opened the eyes of many who follow horse racing closely.

The come-from-behind performance by Secretariat was one of the most amazing ever seen In Louisville. Forty years after his win, Big Red’s winning time still is a track record at the Kentucky Derby.

Two weeks later, it was time for the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. Once again Secretariat held off Sham to win in another record time of 1:54 2/5. Two Triple Crown races set two track records.

Yet, when Secretariat entered the Belmont Stakes the odds were against him winning.

Since Citation won the Belmont to capture the Triple Crown in 1948, seven horses had won the first two jewels of the Triple Crown only to falter in the race for champions, the one and half miles of grueling track at the Belmont. It had been 25 years since horse racing had celebrated a Triple Crown champion. America was bracing that this big gallant red colt could finally end that long steak.

In the first two races, Secretariat had come from behind to edge Sham at the finish line. This time, Secretariat wasted no time in going to the front with Sham right on his heels. In the back stretch, Secretariat started to pull away from Sham and the field. By the time he hit the home stretch, Secretariat was way in front of the field.  The crowd went absolutely crazy. It might have been the most special moment ever in horse racing history.

Secretariat continued to stretch the lead as he came down to the finish line with the crowd totally in awe. The big colt won by a record 31 lengths. The winning time of 2:24 set

a Belmont Stakes and world record. The time is still a record today 40 years later. In fact, no colt has run under 2:26 in Belmont race a full two seconds behind Secretariat’s record gallop. It was a race for the history book. A performance that has never been even remotely matched.

Secretariat won the Triple Crown with a record performance in all three races. There have been two Triple Crown winners since Secretariat. Seattle Slew took all three races

In 1977 and Affirmed did the same one year later in 1978. Since then the Triple Crown door to fame has been closed.

This year marks 35 years since our last Triple Crown winner. Could there be a Secretariat in this year’s run for the roses? Some day there might be a Triple Crown champion, but there will only be one Secretariat. Big Red was a horse that captured the attention of the nation forty years ago this month. He was a legend for all those who had a chance to watch him run to glory.



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