1970sHighlightsHistoryHorse RacingL E Stories

Horse Racing – Secretariat – Triple Crown Champion – L E’s Stories Special – “Salute To Big Red: The Greatest Horse To Ever Take To A Racetrack” – The Story Of Secretariat

Our story today focuses on one of the top 5 greatest “star athletes” to bless the 5500 posts currently displayed here at ImaSportsphile…..who dominated racing throughout his entire career….while blowing away the competition at the biggest events with the most pressure to perform….as the truth be known, he was internationally famous by the end of his 3rd year on Earth.  Secretariat was such a star….cuz while researching his career, I realized that there was enough content on this superstar for two posts….so, that is what I’m gonna do…..as this 1st post will give a great view of the history ofBig Red”….the legendary big red racehorse….while the story will cover his life from before birth thru his death…..and the second post will focus on Secretariat’s his Triple Crown victories….which were incredible to say the least.                           

Horse Racing – 1973 – Man-O-War Stakes – Featuring Secretariat


Secretariat (March 30, 1970 – October 4, 1989) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse who, in 1973, became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. His record-breaking victory in the Belmont Stakes, which he won by 31 lengths, is widely regarded as one of the greatest races in history. During his racing career, he won five Eclipse Awards, including Horse of the Year honors at ages two and three. He was nominated to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1974. In the List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century, Secretariat is second only to Man o’ War (racing career 1919–1920), who also was a large chestnut colt given the nickname “Big Red”.                                                                                          

Horse Racing – 1972 To 1973 – Special – Tribut To Secretariat – R.I.P. “Big Red”


At age two, Secretariat finished fourth in his 1972 debut in a maiden race….but then won seven of his remaining eight starts….which included five stakes victories…..with his only loss during this period was in the Champagne Stakes….where he had finished first….but was disqualified to 2nd for interference. He received the Eclipse Award for champion two-year-old colt…..and also was the 1972 Horse of the Year…. which was a rare honor for a horse so young.                                                                                                                                   

Horse Racing – 1972 – Special Highlights – Horse of the Year: Secretariat

Horse Racing – 1972 – The Garden State Futurity -Featuring Winner Secretariat



Horse Racing – 1972 – The Hopeful Stakes – Featuring Secretariat

At age three, Secretariat not only won the Triple Crown, he set speed records in all three races. His time in the Kentucky Derby still stands as the Churchill Downs track record for ​1 14 miles, and his time in the Belmont Stakes stands as the American record for ​1 12 miles on the dirt. His controversial time in the Preakness Stakes was eventually recognized as a stakes record in 2012. Secretariat’s win in the Gotham Stakes tied the track record for 1 mile, he set a world record in the Marlboro Cup at ​1 18 miles, and further proved his versatility by winning two major stakes races on turf. He lost three times that year: in the Wood Memorial, Whitney, and Woodward Stakes, but the brilliance of his nine wins made him an American icon. He won his second Horse of the Year title, plus Eclipse Awards for champion three-year-old colt and champion turf horse.                                                                                                                  

Horse Racing – 1972 – The Laurel Futurity – Featuring Winner Secretariat


At the beginning of his three-year-old year, Secretariat was syndicated for a record-breaking $6.08 million (equivalent to $35 million in 2019), on the condition that he be retired from racing by the end of the year. Although he sired several successful racehorses, he ultimately was most influential through his daughters’ offspring, becoming the leading broodmare sire in North America in 1992. His daughters produced several notable sires, including Storm Cat, A.P. Indy, Gone West, Dehere and Chief’s Crown, and through them Secretariat appears in the pedigree of many modern champions. Secretariat died in 1989 due to laminitis at age 19. He is recognized as one of the greatest horses in racing history.                             

Horse Racing – 1972 – The Sanford Stakes – Featuring Winner Secretariat


Secretariat was officially bred by Christopher Chenery’s Meadow Stud, but the breeding was actually arranged by Penny Chenery (then known as Penny Tweedy), who had taken over the running of the stable in 1968 when her father became ill.  Secretariat was sired by Bold Ruler and his dam was Somethingroyal, a daughter of Princequillo. Bold Ruler was the leading sire in North America from 1963 to 1969 and again in 1973  Owned by the Phipps family, Bold Ruler possessed both speed and stamina, having won the Preakness Stakes and Horse of the Year honors in 1957, and American Champion Sprint Horse honors in 1958.  Bold Ruler was retired to stud at Claiborne Farm, but the Phipps’s owned most of the mares to which Bold Ruler was bred, and few of his offspring were sold at public auction.                                  

Horse Racing – 1972 – The Champagne Stakes – Featuring Secretariat Winning But DQ’d To 2nd Place


To bring new blood into their breeding program, the Phippses sometimes negotiated a foal-sharing agreement with other mare owners: Instead of charging a stud fee for Bold Ruler, they would arrange for multiple matings with Bold Ruler, either with two mares in one year or one mare over a two-year period. Assuming two foals were produced, the Phipps family would keep one and the mare’s owner would keep the other, with a coin toss determining who received first pick.  Under such an arrangement, Chenery sent two mares to be bred to Bold Ruler in 1968….Hasty Matelda and Somethingroyal…..then she sent Cicada  and Somethingroyal in 1969. The foal-sharing agreement stated that the winner of the coin toss would get first pick of the foals produced in 1969….while the loser of the toss would get first pick of the foals due in 1970….when in the spring of 1969, a colt and filly were produced…..but in the 1969 breeding season, Cicada did not conceive….thereby leaving only one foal due in the spring of 1970. Thus, the winner of the coin toss would get only one foal (the first pick from 1969), and the loser would get two (the second pick from 1969 and the only foal from 1970). Chenery later said that both owners hoped they would lose the coin toss…. which was held in the fall of 1969 in the office of New York Racing Association    Chairman  Alfred G. Vanderbilt II….with Arthur “Bull” Hancock of Claiborne Farm as witness. Ogden Phipps won the toss and took the 1969 weaning filly out of Somethingroyal.  The filly was named The Bride and never won a race….although she did later become a stakes producer.  Chenery received the Hasty Matelda colt in 1969….and the as-yet-unborn 1970 foal of Somethingroyal….which turned out to be Secretariat.  When Secretariat was born….a poem was written about the new born colt by J. A. Estes….which appeared in the film “Big Red” as follows:

‘A foal is born at midnight
And in the frosty morn
The horseman eyes him fondly,
And a secret hope is born. But breathe it not, nor whisper
For fear of a neighbor’s scorn.
He’s a chestnut colt, and he’s got a star.
He may be another Man o’ War.Nay, say it aloud—be shameless.
Dream and hope and yearn,
For there’s never a man among you
But waits for his return.                                                                                                                                                     

Horse Racing – 1972 – Garden State Futurity – Featuring Winner Secretariat


On March 30, 1970, at 12:10 a.m. at the Meadow Stud in Caroline County, Virginia, Somethingroyal foaled a bright-red chestnut colt with three white socks and a star with a narrow stripe. The foal stood when he was 45 minutes old and nursed 30 minutes later. Howard Gentry, the manager of Meadow Stud, was at the foaling and later said, “He was a very well-made foal. He was as perfect a foal that I ever delivered.” The colt soon distinguished himself from the others. “He was always the leader in the crowd,” said Gentry’s nephew, Robert, who also worked at the farm. “To us, he was Big Red, and he had a personality. He was a clown and was always cutting up, always into some devilment.” Some time later, Chenery got her first look at the foal and made a one word entry in her notebook: “Wow!”                                                                            

Horse Racing – 1973 – Bay Shores Stakes – Featuring Winner Secretariat


That fall, Chenery and Elizabeth Ham, the Meadow’s longtime secretary, worked together to name the newly weaned colt. The first set of names submitted to the Jockey Club (Sceptre, Royal Line, and Something Special) played on the names of his sire and dam, but were rejected. The second set, submitted in January 1971, were Games of Chance, Deo Volente (“God Willing”), and Secretariat, the last suggested by Ham based on her previous job associated with the secretariat of the League of Nations  (the predecessor of the United Nations).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Horse Racing – 1973 – The Gotham Stakes – Featuring Winner Secretariat


Secretariat grew into a massive, powerful horse said to resemble his sire’s maternal grandsire, Discovery. He stood 16.2 hands (66 inches, 168 cm) when fully grown…..while being noted for being exceptionally well-balanced, described as having “nearly perfect” conformation and ride biomechanics….. for his chest  was so large that he required a custom-made girth….plus he was noted for his large, powerful, well-muscled hindquarters. An Australian trainer said of him, “He is incredible, an absolutely perfect horse. I never saw anything like him.”  Secretariat’s absence of major conformation flaws was important…..as horses with well made limbs and feet are less likely to become injured…..whereas his hindquarters were the main source of his power….with a sloped croup that extended the length of his femur. When in full stride, his hind legs were able to reach far under himself….thus, increasing his drive…..while his ample girth, long back and well-made neck all contributed to his heart-lung efficiency….as the manner in which Secretariat’s body parts fit together determined the efficiency of his stride…..which affected his acceleration and endurance.  Even very small differences in the length and angles of bones can have a major effect on performance…..with Secretariat being well put together even as a two-year-old….and by the time he was three….that’s when he had further matured in body and smoothed out his gait. The New York Racing Association’s Dr. M. A. Gilman, a veterinarian who routinely measured leading thoroughbreds with a goal of applying science to create better ways to breed and evaluate racehorses, measured Secretariat’s development from two to three as follows:


October aged 2

October aged 3

Height (at withers)

16 34 hands (64.75 inches, 164 cm)

16.1 12 hands (65.5 inches, 166 cm)

Point of shoulder to point of shoulder (chest width)

16 inches (41 cm)

16.5 inches (42 cm)

Girth (around center of gravity)

74 inches (188 cm)

76 inches (193 cm)

Withers to point of shoulder

28 inches (71 cm)

28.5 inches (72 cm)

Elbow to ground (length of leg)

37.5 inches (95 cm)

38.5 inches (98 cm)

Point of shoulder to point of hip

46 inches (117 cm)

49 inches (124 cm)

Point of hip to point of hip

25 inches (64 cm)

26 inches (66 cm)

Point of hip to hock

40 inches (100 cm)

40 inches (100 cm)

Point of hip to buttock

24 inches (61 cm)

24 inches (61 cm)

Poll to withers (neck length)

40 inches (100 cm)

40 inches (100 cm)

Buttock (croup) to ground (height in rear)

53.5 inches (136 cm)

55.5 inches (141 cm)

Point of shoulder to point of buttock (body length)

68 inches (173 cm)

69.5 inches (177 cm)

Circumference of cannon under knee

8.25 inches (21.0 cm)

8.5 inches (22 cm)


Horse Racing- 1992 – NBC Sunday Mornings Special – Ode To Secretariat

Secretariat’s length of stride was considered large even after taking into account his large frame and strong build. While training for the Preakness Stakes, his stride was measured as 24 feet, 11 inches. His powerful hindquarters allowed him to unleash “devastating” speed and because he was so well-muscled and had significant cardiac capacity, he could simply out-gallop competitors at nearly any point in a race.  His weight before the Gotham Stakes in April 1973 was 1,155 pounds (524 kg)…..then after completing the grueling Triple Crown….for his weight on June 15 had dropped only 24 pounds, to 1,131 pounds (513 kg)…..cuz Secretariat was known for his appetite during his three-year-old campaign….when he ate 15 quarts of oats a day….so, to keep the muscle from turning to fat, he needed fast workouts that could have won many a stakes race.  Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm once said….“You want to know who Secretariat is in human terms? Just imagine the greatest athlete in the world. The greatest. Now make him six-foot-three, the perfect height. Make him real intelligent and kind. And on top of that, make him the best-lookin’ guy ever to come down the pike. He was all those things as a horse.”                                     

Horse Racing – 1982 – NBC Sports Special – Tribute to Secretariat – With Bob Costas



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