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Breeders' Cup 2017

What Would a Triple Crown Win Mean: The Most Exciting Since Big Red


June 9, 1973: A 20 year old college dropout sits in his older brother's living room watching the post parade for the Belmont Stakes, as Secretariat entered the track for his attempt to end the twenty-five year Triple Crown drought.


I was that 20 year old, of course. I look back now and wonder how I could have become so disillusioned, cynical and apathetic at such a young age. A few months before, my candidate had badly lost the first presidential election I voted in, to a man whose election transgressions were just beginning to come to light. I'd changed my college major more often than my socks before finally dropping out, declaring higher education to be useless in the real world (as if I knew what the real world was all about at that point). And then came Red Horse.


I'd had exposure to thoroughbred horse racing most of my life. My mother wasn't a very adept handicapper, but she loved going to the races. My older brother was better at the betting side of it. For me, though, it was different. My cousin and her family lived outside the city, and she rode horses at a nearby stable. Her parents even bought her a horse when we were teenagers. When we would visit, I would go with her to ride. I was a city kid, and I fell in love with horses. I even remember the first horse I ever rode; a mare named Goldie. A lot of racing fans come to the sport for the gambling; I came for the horses. My love of horses hadn't led me to as much interest in racing as my brother, though, until the end of 1972. Everyone was talking up a two year old colt who'd just been named Horse of the Year. I watched replays of some of his races and his speed, grace and pure athleticism were captivating. As the 1973 campaign started, I began paying more and more attention to the sport.


Heartbroken after my equine hero lost the Wood Memorial, I prepared myself for more heartbreak in the Kentucky Derby. And then I shouted my lungs out as Secretariat ran down a great horse who was himself on a record-breaking pace. In the Preakness, I watched in even greater awe as he circled the field and went from last to first in less than half a furlong...with most of the move coming on the first turn!


I've used up a lot words over the years in attempting to describe watching the 1973 Belmont Stakes. As Secretariat and Sham dueled down the backstretch, my heart was in my throat. The pace was too fast; one or both of them would hit the wall, hard. Then Secretariat started to open his lead. Sham had it; he was falling back. Later, looking at the fractions, I would know that Red actually did slacken his incredible pace in the second half of the race. But watching at the time, it felt like he streaked the whole way around that track like a lightning bolt.


I had a hero who won, for what felt like the first time in my life.


Flash forward to May 19, 2012: The Preakness. I'll Have Another runs down speed demon Bodemeister and gets a head in front, and I screamed harder than I have for any horse race in the last 39 years.


My love of racing has remained a love and admiration of the athletes in the sport, the horses and jockeys. As for owners and trainers; if there were a way to run this sport without them, that might be a good thing. As William Nack once said of Secretariat; “His biggest problem was that he was handled by people.”


Horse racing is the one sport in which none the problems and corruption come from the athletes. I'll Have Another will never be busted for smacking his girlfriend around, or bringing a gun to a club. Race horses are in most ways the purest athletes in the world. Whatever you have to say about his trainer and owner, as long as I'll Have Another continues to test clean, I'll keep cheering for him. I've fallen in love with this gutsy undersized colt.


What would a Triple Crown mean to me? If, for this 59 year old working a “bridge-job” to retirement after losing his career in the 2008 financial crisis, I'll Have Another can restore one tenth of the joy and wonder in the world that Secretariat gave to that 20 year old, it will mean a great deal indeed.


Jim Peters



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Older Comments about What Would a Triple Crown Win Mean: The Most Exciting Since Big Red...

Buckpasser, is right, kids, and adult kids alike,it will happen.
I am sad as so many are, but let me say this. I witnessed so many others fail for a variety of reasons before Secretariat. Tim Tam was a lock in my opinion, but he broke his leg in the stretch. Natve Dancer was a lock until Guerin gave him one of worst rides imaginable in the Derby. Others like Carry Back, Kaui King, Majestic Prine, Northern Dancer and Cannonero had injuries that were worsened by the Belmont and were retired. I was sad for all those losses, but when Secretariat won the Belmont the way he did, it was well worth waiting for. I know it has been along time, but TC winner will come
I also was there for Secretariat and remember crying when he won.. His move along the backstretch was earth shattering. I still cry every time I see him. His life was an awsome impact on all of us in the 70's.
Sadness beyond belief. "It could have been". One good thing: The sport is NOT dying. The crowd at the Kentucky Derby was a RECORD. I was personally at the Preakness, and I saw this magnificent horse explode in the stretch to clobber the hell out of Bodemeister. God bless I'll have another.
Thanks for writing this Jim. Having not been alive since the last triple crown winner, I can only hope that getting to see I'll Have Another will have as much impact on me as Big Red did for you.
  • Dogwoodtree · After Secretariat's TC win, I stopped looking and never saw Affirmed or anyone else. NOTHING could ever match or top Secretariat's dazzling Belmont. And nothing has... · 1964 days ago
SilverRuffian. I had not seen your post when I hit the enter button. We are evidently kindred spirits when it comes to the Sport of Kings. The fact that you use Ruffian in your tag says alot. Now there was a filly--and a great deal of heartache.
I darn near genuflect when I hear the name Secretariat. And the chills run nonstop when recall his Triple Crown races. I distinctlt recall saying aloud in '73--to no one in particular--"My God, there's not another horse on the [TV] screen!" And the shot was not a close-up. Amazing stuff it was. I am sorry, though, that I can't get with the I'll Have Another crowd. And as for excitement since '73, did you miss Affirmed v. Alydar?
Watching Secretariat win his triple crown still sends chills down my spine after all these years. I also saw Seattle Slew and Affirmed win theirs. The last time I felt any joy or wonder watching horse racing was when Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta raced. Maybe I'll find that again on Saturday, or maybe not.
My roots in racing run deep to Secretariat, also.

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