I have held my tongue for 20 years, but it’s finally time to voice my opinion - The Belmont Stakes should be renamed The Secretariat.
The smoke has cleared from yet another uneventful Triple Crown series. It has been 40 years since Secretariat swept through the series setting stakes records in all three Triple Crown races, and all still stand today. We had our typical drama after the Kentucky Derby when Orb was being touted as the next Triple Crown winner - but he clearly benefited from a grueling Kentucky Derby pace set by Palace Malice. We have been so removed from Secretariat’s greatness for so long that we tend to lose our perspective and rush to inflate mediocrity.
Most Americans recognize Secretariat as the greatest racehorse over the last half century. Racing historians recognize Secretariat’s Belmont as the greatest race EVER run by ANY thoroughbred. His performance on June 9, 1973 was almost indescribable and will be forever burned into racing lore. But what is equally impressive is that over the next 40 years no horse who ran in the Belmont Stakes could even get within ten lengths of Secretariat’s final time. This is mind boggling. In an era where sporting records fall like dominoes and the public is eager to create instant legends, Secretariat’s greatness has truly withstood the test of time.
Now I consider myself among the Triple Crown traditionalists not wanting any schedule or distance changes in the series format. However, changing the name of the race, specifically the Belmont, is where I break from the pack. Corporate sponsors are constantly renaming historic events, sites and stadiums, i.e., the YUMS Kentucky Derby. Leagues continue to rename their most recognizable awards after star players of past eras (i.e. Bill Russell award for NBA Most Valuable Player in Playoffs.)
Each year Secretariat’s legend grows, especially with the futility of shrinking horse populations. It’s hard enough to get horses to compete in all three races in the Crown series, never mind to win and run more impressively in each leg. Only one race is currently named after him: Arlington Park’s graded stakes race for three year olds on the turf course. While it is a good and prominent race, it still falls short of recognizing Secretariat’s greatness. His recognition shouldn’t be just another Stakes race - it should be the Belmont Stakes. Even August Belmont Jr. would have probably been on board.
While thousands have tried to beat Secretariat, NO horse in history has EVER raced faster than Secretariat in any of the Triple Crown races.
~Written by John Doyle