I’m a huge fan of Secretariat, as I’m sure many people who appreciate horses are. Watching the Disney movie gets me in instantly inspired to take on the world. After doing some research for some Thoroughbred clients, I found out a lot of things I didn’t know about Big Red – here are 6.
The Owner of Secretariat
Secretariat’s owner was a lady named Penny Chenery-Tweedy. Penny’s tenacity and never-quit attitude is the force that opened the doors for Secretariat and collected the team to nurture the horse along to greatness.
Her father owned the farm where Secretariat was born and she took over at the passing of her parents. Let’s not forget that the story of Secretariat took place in the early 1970s and in the sport is horse racing – It was a man’s world to say the least. In 1983, Penny, along with two others, became the first women to be admitted as members of The Jockey Club and in In 2003 the Arlington Park track established the annual Penny Chenery Distinguished Woman in Racing Award.
The Two Jocks
Secretariat’s jockey during his Maiden and Maiden win/break races was Paul Feliciano. Paul rode Secretariat to a fourth place in his maiden race and to a victorious first in his second.
Ron Turcotte, who would ride Secretariat throughout the rest of his career, joined the Secretariat crew for Big Red’s third race on July 31, 1972. A little known fact, as an apprentice jockey, Turcotte rode Northern Dancer to his first victory – From there Northern Dancer would become the most successful sire of the 20th Century.
In his famous Kentucky Derby win, Secretariat ran faster every ¼ mile down the track. This is actually a bit unusual as most horses run fastest at the beginning, then slow as they tire throughout the race. His Derby time is still the fastest time on record at Churchill Downs at a smoking 1:59.97.
The ‘Belmont Glory’ and the ‘Look Back’ are two of the most famous images in all of horse racing. They were taken as Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes. But why was this race so iconic? It stands as one of the greatest victories in all of sports history.
Secretariat blasted out of the gate and surged to greater and greater speeds down the track to win the race by an amazing 31 lengths in an amazing 2:24.00, which are, of course, still records at the track to this day. To put this win in perspective, the greatest win margin at the Kentucky Derby is only 8 lengths the Preakness is only 11 and a quarter.
The Triple Crown Victory
The Triple Crown, racing’s most elite set of victories, is comprised of winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes all within 5 weeks. To date (2014), there have only been 11 victors, Secretariat being the 9th. The amazing part is there was a 25 year gap between Secretariat and Citation, who won in 1948, the largest gap between any of the winners. Many people started to believe that a Triple Crown victory was no longer possible for a horse until Secretariat smashed that belief, followed shortly after by Seattle Slew and Affirmed. After Secretariat broke the 25 year gap, the 1970’s offered 3 Triple Crown winner’s, making it the last decade of winner’s, and 36 years later leaving us to wonder once again if we will ever see another Triple Crown victory.
Secretariat passed away on October 4th, 1989 at the young age of 19, by euthanasia because of chronic Laminitis. He is one of the few racehorses to be buried whole – usually only the head, the heart, and the hooves of winning race horses are buried. During the necropsy, he was found to have an extremely large heart, an estimated 22 pounds, which is almost three times the size of a normal horse which averages around 8 pounds.
Information and images mainly from http://www.secretariat.com.
The life of this remarkable race horse lives on in this book, Secretariat’s Meadow, written by those very close to him, the family and the farm which housed him. Secretariat’s Meadow is a must-have book in the library of anyone who appreciates a fine horse.
“Well written and beautifully illustrated with a gallery of old prints and photographs, Secretariat’s Meadow is an artful contribution to the history of the America turf.”
–Bill Nack, author of “Secretariat – The Making of a Champion”
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