He won 16 of 21 races, graced the covers of national magazines, and was twice named Horse of the Year. But it is the Belmont for which Secretariat is best remembered.
On June 9, 1973, “Big Red” went postward as the 1-10 favorite to become the ninth Triple Crown winner, and the first in 25 years. Challenging him were Sham, who had finished second in both the Derby and the Preakness, and three other mismatched thoroughbreds. When the gates opened, Secretariat and Sham raced together around the first turn through a half-mile in a suicidal :46 1/5. On the backstretch, with jockey Ron Turcotte sitting still as a stone, the colt gathered momentum with every stride. He ran three-quarters in 1:09 4/5, the mile in 1:34 1/5, and when he hit the quarter-pole in 1:59, faster even than he had won the Derby, the crowd was on its feet, screaming in anticipation.
“Secretariat is alone. He is moving like a tremendous machine!” track announcer Chic Anderson yelled. “He’s 25 lengths in front!” Secretariat was completely alone as he swept across the finish line an astounding 31 lengths in front of Twice a Prince in a world-record 2:24 for the 1 1/2 miles.
Secretariat was born March 30, 1970, at Meadow Farm in Virginia, a handsome chestnut with three white stockings, a white star, and stripe. Viewing him as a yearling, trainer Lucien Laurin commented he was probably “too good-looking” to amount to much. He began his career at Aqueduct, finishing fourth, and then embarked on a campaign that would carry him to Horse of the Year honors, a rarity for 2-year-olds.
Big Red’s 3-year-old campaign started off as more of the same: He swept through the Bay Shore and Gotham Stakes, but then the unthinkable happened: He lost, finishing third in the Wood Memorial to Angle Light. Immediately, questions were raised about his ability to go a mile and a quarter. But when the first Saturday in May rolled around, he was the 3-2 choice to win the Run for the Roses. By the time he arrived back in New York for the Belmont with Derby and Preakness victories in tow, the entire country was anticipating the end of the quarter-century Triple Crown drought.
When Secretariat won the Belmont, he did more than become the first horse since Citation to win the Triple Crown. He turned in the single greatest performance in the history of horse racing. After the Belmont, Secretariat raced nine more times, winning six, coming in second twice and third once. His major losses were to Onion in the Whitney and to Prove Out in the Woodward. Inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 1974, Secretariat was also ranked 35th on ESPN’s 100 Greatest Athletes of the Twentieth Century. Suffering from laminitis, he was euthanized in October, 1989, and is buried at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky.
Christopher Chenery and his wife Penny were the owners of Meadow Stable and Meadow Stud, a breeding farm in Virginia. Chenery became the owner of Secretariat by a stroke of luck. In 1965 Chenery entered a foal-sharing agreement with the Phipps family, who owned leading sire, Bold Ruler. Chenery would breed two Meadow broodmares for two years with Bold Ruler. After the birth of the first pair of foals, but before the birth of the second, Phipps and Chenery would flip a coin. The winner received first choice of the first pair, while the loser had first choice of the second. In 1968, due to Chenery's illness, his daughter, Penny, had been placed in charge of the Meadow. She sent Somethingroyal and other mares to Claiborne for breeding to Bold Ruler. In 1969 Tweedy lost the coin toss with the Phipps family and ended up with Somethingroyal's yet-to-be-born second foal, who would later be named Secretariat
Lucien Laurin was a French-Canadian jockey and Hall of Fame horse trainer. In all, he trained a total of 36 stakes winners and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1977 and enshrined in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1978.
Ron Turcotte began his career in Canada as a hot walker and then apprentice jockey. He became internationally famous after riding Secretariat and was North America's leading stakes-winning jockey in 1972 and 1973. He became the first jockey to win back-to-back Kentucky Derbies since 1902. He was honored with the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1979. He was voted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame and Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.