Secretariat was awarded to Meadow Stables, with the random flip of a coin, literally. He was foaled in Virginia, Bold Ruler, out of a Princequillo mare, Somethingroyal who foaled four stakes winner, including Sir Gaylord. He helped save the farm, with some help from stablemate Riva Ridge. He didn't have the easiest route to the triple crown, but under the guidance of Lucien Laurin, the rides of Ronnie Turcotte, and the boss of Penny Chenery, the Big Red colt found away to accomplish great accomplishments.
Secretariat sparked from the beginning. To be HOY as a two year old, you not only have to have a great season, but there has to be something special. He lost his maiden. He played bumper cars. Got bumped coming right out of the gate. He was 10 lengths back, and he rallied for fourth much too late. Laurin supposedly kicked a chair, screamed. Yelling, angrily, that the horse should not have lost. That is when Penny Chenery Tweedy said she really knew she has a really good horse on their hands.
He won his next start under new rider Ronnie Turcotte (previous rider: Paul Feliciano) at 6 furlongs. He made a last-first move. Next out he won an allowance again at 6 furlongs. Secretariat was now 2 for 3 lifetime heading in to the Sanford, at 6 furlongs. THIS was the race where he first showed his immense talent. Ronnie said after this race he knew he had a real horse under him. Secretariat, again, was slow out of the gate, dropping far back. Around the far turn, people witnessed one of the most amazing moves any two year old has made. Secretariat loomed behind two horses. Ronnie had a mini opening between the two with about one furlong to go. He split the horses, they bounced off him, much like LeBron James driving the lane. He acted like if he weren't hit, and just ran off. He won a very visually impressive win in the Hopeful again at six furlongs, then a equally impressive win in the futurity at 6 1/2.
His next stop was the Champaigne. He was given the task to jump 1.5 furlongs, which is a big jump for a two year old. He couldn't beat Stop The Music, but that race was "the start of something new" noted Laurin. It was the race he first jumped to a route. He didn't win, but just to come in second showed for that big a jump for a baby, he handled the transition well. He then closed two wins to secure Horse of The Year in 1972 in the Laurel and Garden Futurities (both G1's, 1 1/16 mile) both from his normal off the pace style.
He then had a wintering period from December to late February, he started training in late Feb. His first start back was the Bay Shore. The classy son of Bold Ruler outclassed the field, winning rather easily. Next up was the Gotham, contested at a mile. This was the first time Laurin requested Turcotte to send Red to the lead. He set quick fractions, and just empowered for more in the stretch, and just romped. He showed a great new style heading into the Wood Memorial, his next race.
Next was the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. He worked 3/8th's a couple days before. The exercize jock told that Red was acting funny, and that he had to kick him in order to get him to work, which he had never had to do before. Yet, the word was never reached to Lucien. On race day, his biggest competitior was the west coast import, I believe, Sham. Secretariat was very, very slow out of the gate. Sham sat comfortably off the pacemakers. In the stretch, Angle Light and Sham dueled, Secretariat finished like 5 lengths back in a photo for third. Completely ignorant that he just won the race with Angle Light, Lucien was furious. He thought Turcotte misjudged the pace. Penny was seriously contemplating if Turcotte was the right jockey for Secretariat. Turcotte made a desperate plead to stay on him. It was known after the Wood that Secretariat had an abscess. He ran the whole track with it, including that workout. He still wasn't eating a couple days 'til the Derby, and Lucien was considering not running the colt. He ate, almost as he knew a big race was coming.
In the Derby, a handful of investors (Ogden Phipps one of them) came to see the Big Red colt from Virginia. Who was syndicated for 6.08 million earlier in the year, and offered by Phipps for over 8 million dollars! Sham reportedly banged his nose coming right out of the gate, and was bleeding the whole way. Laffit Pincay put it "I don't think we could have ran it any faster than 1:59 and change (what they ran), bleeding or not." Sham broke sharp, Shecky Green went to the lead. Secretariat broke way back. A good pace was put up, though, and very closeable. Around the turn, Secretariat made a tremendous move, picking off horses with tremendous ease and grace. Sham, a great horse, was under a hard left hand whip, but was no match for the Red colt, who won by 2 1/2 lengths.
In this incredible effort, Seccetariat defied logic. He ran each of the five quarters faster than the previous. In other words, he was still accelerating when he passed the finish line.
The Preakness Stakes was next. The connections had some concerns. Secretariat generated so much momentum and velocity, on turns, he was forced wide. And Pimlico Race Course has sharp turns. In a field of six or seven, Secretariat broke last. Around the first turn, he broke last. However, in the Pimlico backstretch we would yet again see something we have never seen before. Secretariat switched gears, and just flew. He went from last to first in just under 200 yards. Secretariat was first, Sham second, and it remained that way the whole race. After the race, Ronnie said he never told Red to move one bit. Red did it himself.
After the Preakness, the anxiety raised in if Secretariat would be the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 25 years. Penny and Lucien recall discussing how to train Big Red. Leading up to the Belmont, Lucien worked Red HARD. Very hard.
On race day, Bill Nack recalls seeing the colt before the Belmont. He was on his hind legs, snorting, jumping up and down, and according to Bill, he said to himself, "Dang, what are we going to see today?" Only a five horse field lined up for the Belmont Stakes, most owners and trainers resulting that it was indeed a match race between Secretariat and Sham going twelve furlongs. Laffit Pincay, jockey of Sham, was ordered to stay close to Secretariat and make him work hard. When they broke from the gate, Secretariat broke alertly on the inside, and Sham on the outside.
Secretariat rushed for the lead, and under orders, Sham was right with him. They went through the quarter in a fast 23 and change, and the half in an unheard of 46 and change. The two were going back and forth, the rest were far back. Through 3/4th's, Secretariat drew away. He just was too great. While the famous call "Secretariat, moving, like a tremendous machine!" was happening, my dad was cursing Ronnie under his breathe. "You idiot! What are you doing??? He's gonna break down in the stretch!" However, Secretariat, stride didn't shorten one bit. He won the Belmont by an incredible 31 lengths, and left great competitior, Sham, finishing last of five.
Secretariat was the first triple crown winner in 25 years since Citation. After the triple crown, nothing changed. He challenged good older horses, and won four more races. He won the Arlington, and the Malboro, against stablemate, Riva Ridge, who won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont himself. He lost two races, which were included in the "W Curse", which included the Wood Memorial, Woodward, and the Whitney. Overall, Secretariat won two horse of the year awards, in 1972 and 1973, he broke all three triple crown records, he sired many good horses, and was a fantastic broodmare sire. Not only did he accomplish amazing accomplishments, he also drew people to the track.
Off the track, Secretariat was a very arrogant, beautiful, smart horse. I once met Secretariat and Eddie Sweat. Eddie told me stories of him. Looking up when a plane was in the air and every time he heard the "click" of a camera, Secretariat would turn and pose. He is known as on of the best confronted horses of all time by many. He very well balanced, he had shoulders the size of a football, and his ears were always certainly pricked. His eyes were bold, feisty, and cocky. In the paddock, he would often stop, and stare at the crowd, almost like he was looking at the pretty girl in the stands. According to sources, no horse would eat before Secretariat. He was the alpha male, over 16 hands, 1200 pounds of fire, speed and stamina. After he died in 1989, they weighed his heart, which was 22 pounds, almost 3 times the weight of a normal horse. This allowed him to take in oxygen easier and more efficently than most horses. He was obviously still improving, and he left us wondering how much more he could accomplish as a four year old.
That was Secretariat. G-d disguised as a horse.
By Ed (a.k.a Rafirox)