• Manifold wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
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Secretariat - Legendary Horses

Secrateriat.GIF (3656 bytes)

 

Owner Meadow Stable
Trainer Lucien Laurin
Rider Ron Turcotte
Breeding Bold Ruler--Something royal (by *Princequillo)

By the early 1970s, racing needed a hero. It had been over two decades since Citation had won the Triple Crown, and the naysayers, with their criticism of the Triple Crown and racing in general, were gathering momentum with each passing year. Racing had reached a stage of advanced ennui and desperately needed something to shake the sport out of the doldrums.
Along came Secretariat.

Secretariat was something out of central casting, possessing good looks, personality, and racing ability beyond anything seen since Citation, at the least, and perhaps even as far back as Man o' War. By the time Secretariat retired to stud at the end of 1973, he had given horse racing the boost to carry it through a golden period in the mid- and late-1970s.

A beautiful chestnut colt with a sturdy barrel chest, perfect legs and a star on his forehead, Secretariat was the beauty pageant winner with a combination Miss America, Heisman Trophy winner, and Rhodes scholar all packed into one four-legged beast. He learned early what racing was about, and about how to wear down, demoralize, and destroy the opposition.

He was also, as one might say, human. He lost races, five of them during the course of a 21-race career, four more than Man o' War lost in 21 starts and three more than Citation lost in 29 starts in his first two years of racing. But those losses even had a singular quality of nobility about them. Whether he was done in by a false pace, a sloppy track, or sickness, there was just enough quality to his losses to remind us that brilliance in a racehorse is a rare and fickle proposition, and that we should appreciate such brilliance even when it is brought down a peg or two.

Skepticism followed Secretariat to a certain extent early in his career. A son of Bold Ruler out of the *Princequillo mare Somethingroyal, it was the felt the match of speed on the sire's side and stamina on the dam's side would produce a horse capable of stretching out to the classic distances, something Bold Ruler's progeny was not known for. The fact he was a son of Bold Ruler made him a target for the skeptics, who wanted proof a son of Bold Ruler could get the 1-1/4 miles at Churchill Downs the first Saturday of May.

Secretariat would provide such proof and more.

Meadow Stable, which campaigned 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Riva Ridge, also bred and owned Secretariat. The matching of Bold Ruler and Somethingroyal was part of a deal Meadow Stable patriarch Christopher Chenery and Ogden Phipps had struck up years ago, and which Chenery's daughter, Penny Tweedy, would maintain after she took over management of Meadow Stable in the late 1960s. Under the arrangement, Meadow Stable would send two broodmares every year to Claiborne Farm, to be bred to Phipps's Bold Ruler, with Meadow Stable and Phipps getting one foal apiece each year. Every two years, Meadow Stable and Phipps would flip a coin to determine who would get first choice that year, with the loser getting first choice the next year. In 1969, Tweedy having sent Somethingroyal and Hasty Matelda to be bred to Bold Ruler, the coin flip took place. Phipps won and took the 1969 Bold Ruler--Somethingroyal foal, a filly named The Bride who would fail to hit the board in all six career starts. Meadow Stable got her full brother the next year--Secretariat.

Secretariat made his career debut on July 4, 1972 in a 5-1/2 furlong maiden race at Aqueduct. Hit from both sides and pinched back coming out of the starting gate, Secretariat nearly went down in his first start. He encountered more traffic problems on the turn for home, but the chestnut colt composed himself and came flying at the leaders down the lane to finish fourth. Astute racing observers were stunned by the colt's late kick and made mental noted to follow his progress.

They weren't disappointed. Secretariat came back with victories in a maiden race and an allowance race. Trainer Lucien Laurin then moved the colt up in class, entering him in the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga on August 16. Linda's Chief was considered the leading two-year-old on the East Coast at the time and was sent off the 3-to-5 favorite, but Secretariat showed there was a new sheriff in town, winning by three lengths with his now familiar late kick.

Secretariat added the Hopeful Stakes, Belmont Futurity, Laurel Futurity, and Garden State Stakes to his resume by the end of the year, his only loss coming on a disqualification in the Champagne Stakes when he ducked in at midstretch, bothering Stop the Music. His year-end tally showed nine starts, seven wins, earnings of $456,404, and the honor of becoming just the third two-year-old to be named Horse of the Year, following Native Dancer in 1952 and the filly Moccasin in 1965.

In early February of 1973, as Secretariat was being prepared for his attempt at Triple Crown glory, it was announced the colt had been syndicated by Claiborne Farm's Seth Hancock. Hancock, just 24 years old, was making his first major deal since his father, A. B. "Bull" Hancock Jr., had died September 14, 1972. Hancock's first major deal had an element of risk and romance to it, as Secretariat was syndicated for a then record $6.08-million. Hancock was barely out of college and he was making the kind of deal that could forever enhance or destroy his reputation.

When Secretariat won his first two starts of the year--the Bay Shore (G3) and Gotham (G2) Stakes--with contemptible ease, Hancock looked like a genius. But then came the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) on April 20. It would be Secretariat's biggest challenge of the year, with the colt considered the second-best in the land, Sham, was also scheduled to compete. Laurin had also decided to enter Edwin Whittaker's Angle Light, and it was Angle Light who stole the show, getting off to a nice, easy lead and going on to narrowly win over Sham, while Secretariat ran a dull third.

Secretariat entered the Kentucky Derby (G1) as the 3-to-2 favorite (in an entry with Angle Light), but with a cloud of doubt hovering over him. Laurin insisted the colt was training better for the Derby than he had for the Wood, though speculation had Secretariat too banged up to show his best in the Derby. Laurin's confidence was rewarded on Derby Day. After breaking near the back of the pack, Secretariat began picking up horses on the first turn, came up on Sham at the top of the lane, and drew off to a 2-1/2-length victory, while running the first (and, so far, only) sub-2:00 Derby in history, 1:59-2/5 for 1-1/4 miles.

The rest of the Triple Crown would simply be a procession for Secretariat.

In the Preakness Stakes (G1), jockey Ron Turcotte sensed a slow early pace, let out a notch, and Secretariat cruised to the front as the six-horse field entered the backstretch. Secretariat dominated the rest of the race, winning by 2-1/2 lengths over Sham once more. Pimlico's electric timer caught the race in 1:55 for 1-3/16 miles, one second off the track record. Clockers for Daily Racing Form, however, clocked the race in 1:53-2/5. Several days after the race, Pimlico officials changed the time of the race to 1:54-2/5, saying that was the time clocker E. T. McLean Jr. had hand-recorded.

Only four rivals dared show up for the Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 9, including Sham. What the Belmont Park faithful and a national television audience witnessed was one of the greatest performances in racing history. Secretariat and Sham both went after the lead at the start of the race and engaged in a six-furlong duel--clocked in 1:09-4/5--which would have seemed self-destructive if it had been any other horse but Secretariat. Sham, injured and never to race again, surrendered after six furlongs, backing up to last. With no competition but himself, Secretariat went on a record-destroying mission, winning the race by 31 lengths, an all-time record, while running the 1-1/2 miles in 2:24, knocking 2-3/5 seconds off the track record.

Secretariat would race six more times, winning four and finishing second twice. His losses came to a pair of four-year-olds trained by H. Allen Jerkens, Onion and Prove Out. Onion defeated Secretariat in the Whitney Stakes (G2) when the superstar was bothered by a virus. Prove Out's moment came in the Woodward Stakes (G1), when Secretariat was unable to handle a sloppy surface and surrendered the lead to Prove Out in the stretch.

Between those starts, however, Secretariat beat one of the finest fields ever assembled for a race, including stablemate Riva Ridge, *Cougar II, Key to the Mint, and Kennedy Road, in the inaugural Marlboro Cup Handicap. And just to show what an amazingly versatile animal Secretariat was, Laurin decided to make his last two starts on the grass, with the colt winning Belmont Park's Man o' War Stakes (G1) then ending his career with an easy victory in the Canadian International Stakes (G2) at Woodbine.

Secretariat then retired to luxury at Claiborne Farm. The colt was never going to be able to sire an offspring capable of his feats, but he sired a number of talented runners, including dual classic winner Risen Star. He also was a noted broodmare sire. Secretariat died of complications from laminitis on October 4, 1989.

 

Career Record
Year Starts 1st 2nd 3rd Earnings
1972 9 7 1 0 $456,404
1973 12 9 2 1 $860,404
Career 21 16 3 1 $1,316,808

1972

1st -- Sanford Stakes
1st -- Hopeful Stakes
1st -- Belmont Futurity
1st -- Laurel Futurity
1st -- Garden State Stakes
2nd -- Champagne Stakes
1973
1st -- Kentucky Derby (G1)
1st -- Preakness Stakes (G1)
1st -- Gotham Stakes (G2)
1st -- Bay Shore Stakes (G3)
1st -- Belmont Stakes (G1)
1st -- Man o' War Stakes (G1)
1st -- Canadian International Stakes (G2)
1st -- Arlington Invitational
1st -- Marlboro Cup
2nd -- Woodward Stakes (G1)
2nd -- Whitney Stakes (G2)
3rd -- Wood Memorial Stakes (G1)