Secretariat Is Still the GOAT, 50 Years Later, Kentucky Derby Fans Agree

Before he was “shifting like an incredible machine” in a literal earth-shattering efficiency in the Belmont Stakes, earlier than he secured the ninth Triple Crown sweep in historical past, ending a 25-year drought, Secretariat received the Kentucky Derby in such dramatic vogue that it could be thought of one among the biggest races of all time — if solely he did not comply with it with even higher theatrics in his subsequent two races.

Coming off a shocking loss in the (*50*) Memorial, Secretariat, who was named the 2-year-old champion, was immediately the beneficiary of doubt amongst the horse racing devoted, regardless of having received 10 of 11 races going into the derby. Rumors swirled: he was injured, he misplaced a step throughout his 3-year-old season, he simply wasn’t the superhorse everybody thought he was, his (*50*) rival Sham could be the true king of 1973.

Then the gates opened in the 99th working of the Run for the Roses, and he went off as the 3-2 favourite anyway, with Sham the second selection at 5-2. And so his livid rally to show his doubters improper started. He broke a step sluggish, a Secretariat trademark, and settled in behind his 12 challengers. His common rider, Ron Turcotte, sat aboard, unworried. Turcotte let the colt discover his legs and run his race.

He moved to the first pack, after which moved as much as the second. His rival Sham sat close to the lead and made his transfer to catch the chief, Shecky Greene, at the prime of the homestretch. Then, and solely then, did Turcotte ask his horse for extra, and Secretariat, like the most interesting of racecars, discovered one other gear.

He dug in and zipped previous Sham in the stretch to win by two and a half lengths in 1:59⅖, a document that also stands. He ran every quarter-mile quicker than the one earlier than, going 25⅕, 24, 23⅘, 23⅖, and 23 seconds — exceptional in horse racing — and on he went into the historical past books.

Of course, the horse referred to as Big Red for his crimson-tinted chestnut coat went on to battle Sham in one other thriller in the Preakness, setting one other document in 1:53, after which adopted that with a jaw-dropping efficiency in the Belmont in 2:24, a feat that can nearly definitely by no means be bested.

His affect on the sport is unparalleled, and his exploits additionally redefined the breeding trade. Nearly half of the horses in Saturday’s Derby have Secretariat of their bloodlines.

“I feel folks fell in love with the story, the horse was very fairly and his athletic skills simply sort of captured the nation,” mentioned Walker Hancock, who runs Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., the place Secretariat stood at stud and the place he’s interred and memorialized.

On most days, his modest grave is topped with roses and pennies, a nod to his proprietor, Penny Chenery Tweedy, an unlikely heroine who took over her father’s farm early in Secretariat’s profession and saved it with the horse’s Triple Crown run and a $6.08 million Syndication of his breeding rights, a document at the time.

“He sort of was like a rallying cry for America,” Hancock mentioned, referencing the period of Richard Nixon, the Watergate scandal and the finish of the Vietnam War — a time throughout which his father, Seth, ran the historic breeding farm; Hancock was not even born but. “He sort of introduced everybody collectively after everybody was so divided.”

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