It was a timeless performance that became even more mythical as time went on. After winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes in record form, Secretariat never slowed down as he stormed out of the starting gate on June 9, 1973, making his best start ever. As announcer Chic Anderson put it, he moved “like a hell of a machine” and, despite being uncomfortably warm at Belmont Park, won the Belmont Stakes by a whopping 31 lengths in a very enjoyable afternoon. bottom.
As with his lead at Belmont, his legend grew when he won his ninth Triple Crown, the first in 25 years, even though today’s youngest fan had yet to be born. Nine of the country’s strongest three-year-olds will face off at Secretariat’s 50th anniversary celebrations on Saturday, but none come close to the big red horse’s superstar status.
“That horse has always amazed me,” said jockey Ron Turcotte. Ron Turcotte, 81, is the only surviving member of the Secretariat’s circle, which includes owner Penny Chenery, trainer Lucien Rollin and stabler Eddie Sweat. “He was doing things we’ve never seen before and probably never will.”
Secretariat fell behind in the Derby, but Turcotte didn’t worry, he put his stallion on his feet and ran the race. When Turcotte demanded more at the head of the straight, Secretariat swept past rival Siamese to win by two and a half lengths in 1:59⅖. He ran faster every 400 meters, unprecedented in horse racing.
At Preakness, Turcotte made a bold decision to launch a stunning move on the first turn. After taking the lead, Secretariat was unchallenged and won by two and a half lengths. Siam again settled in second place. Secretariat’s final time was recorded at 1:55, one second slower than Preakness’ record. However, the timekeepers had set a faster time, and by Monday the stewards had voted to change the official time to 1:54. rice field. The Maryland Racing Commission agreed to change the official time to 1 minute and 53 seconds because Chenery hired a company to conduct a forensic investigation of the race using technology that did not exist in 1973. It wasn’t until 2012 that the record was finally established. .
Then came his masterpiece, the Belmont. If Anderson’s call to race is the pinnacle of his lyrical art, the photo credited to track photographer Bob Collanese is the visual equivalent. Turcotte caught Secretariat head-on looking over his left shoulder at the timer, hooves hovering over the track with all his might, setting the timer to run the Belmont in 2 minutes and 24 seconds, two seconds faster than any horse in front or behind. ing. The blue-and-white checked poles, the colors of Chenery’s silk, mark the margin of victory, and the range is almost unbelievable. “I still had a lot of horses when I got through the wire,” Turcotte said. “He wasn’t even sweating.”
Adam Collanese, who took over as official track photographer following his father’s retirement, said of the photo: You’re basically out of luck. Back then, when you shoot one frame, you can’t plan what you’re going to get. ”
I had a question about my recent account Whether Bob Collanese, who has been a circuit photographer for the New York Racing Association for over 50 years, was taking pictures in the first place. Adam Collanese disputed claims to the contrary, but admitted that he knew very little about the details of the black-and-white photographs, including whether they were developed that night.
“He was very discreet in everything we did,” said Adam Collanese of his father. “I don’t think people understand what it takes to prepare for the Triple Crown. For weeks leading up to the American Pharoah race, I mapped out where each of the 20 photographers would stand. was there.”
I don’t know if Bob Collanese, who died last year at the age of 88, or someone else on his team took this image, but it only adds to the horse’s legend, which has spread far beyond the racecourse. can not see.
Star status, retirement and death
Just off Secretariat Way in Paris, Kentucky, is Claiborne Farm, one of America’s oldest breeding operations. Built in 1910, the black and yellow stall has produced 22 Derby winners, 20 Preakness horses, 22 Belmont horses and 6 of his 13 Triple Crown winners including Secretariat.
Secretariat’s name and the name of his stallion, Bold Ruler, are still engraved on the corner stall of the stallion, along with the names of other elites who lived in the space. His father and son are buried in the Thoroughbred royal cemetery behind the office.
Most days, Secretariat’s humble tombstone is adorned with memorabilia from fans, who plant roses on birthdays and anniversaries—some red, some painted blue. They were also the unlikely heroine who took over his father’s farm early in Secretariat’s career and saved the ranch with a horse triple crown and a then-record $6.08 million breeding rights syndication. Left a penny in honor of a certain Chenery.
“He was a roar to America,” said Claiborne President Walker Hancock, citing the era of Richard Nixon, the Watergate scandal, and the end of the Vietnam War. “After everyone was so divided, he brought everyone together.”
Secretariat’s popularity – he has been on the covers of Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and has been the subject of a Disney movie – was the day he arrived at Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport on November 12, 1973. From the moment hundreds of people greeted him, he brought the farm to life. . Thousands more flocked to Claiborne each year. There were so many people that they had to put up privacy fences along the road.
“They thought they could just walk and pet the stallion,” stallion manager Joe Peel said with a laugh.
The tour has continued since Secretariat died of laminitis (laminitis) on October 4, 1989, at the age of 19. Dr. Thomas Sverczyk of the University of Kentucky performed an autopsy on Secretariat and estimated that his heart weighed about 21 to 22 pounds, or almost 2.5 times larger than the average thoroughbred.
As with photography, the autopsy was done hastily without proper equipment or documentation, so there is no evidence. According to a 2020 interview. But Mr. Sverczek stood by his own claims until his death last year at the age of 82.
beyond field and time
The National Racing Hall of Fame and Museum in Saratoga Springs, New York has not had a touring exhibit for over 20 years. Secretariat milestones were needed to get the museum back on track.
Titled “A Tremendous Machine” after Anderson’s race call, the exhibit follows Secretariat’s Triple Crown route, touring Louisville, Baltimore, and now Elmont, New York. Secretariat was born in Virginia, so his final destination will be Colonial Downs in September. At Chenery’s Meadow Farm.
Along the way, organizers have collected stories and photos from visitors. Some people saw the Secretariat race. Others visited him on the farm. Some owned his descendants. Some have his hair in a bun. A man stationed overseas while in the Army in 1973 remembered hearing Belmont on the radio and crying tears of joy.
“It puts people in a really good mood,” said Kate Masterson, director of the museum, which will host a large Secretariat exhibit this summer. “It’s a journey down memory lane.”
In Secretariat’s hometown of Paris, a new three-story mural depicts Turcotte and Secretariat running down the main street. A park and a statue are planned under this.
Lyra Miller runs a guest house on her horse ranch and receives visitors who return each year to visit Secretariat’s grave. She also runs a diner on Main Street named Lill’s Coffee Shop.
During the week of the Derby, she chatted with regulars, one of whom was Dr. Robert Coplan, the 96-year-old veterinarian who treated Secretariat for the Triple Crown. This feat is still fresh in people’s memories after 50 years. They thought about legends: records, jaw-dropping performances, women in charge, the heart of a champion.
“That’s crazy, isn’t it?” said Miller. “People talk about him as if he were still alive. In a way, he still is.”