Triple Crown Heroes: Secretariat
Editor's Note: In the ninth of 11 installments on previous Triple Crown winners, here is an excerpt from Kent Hollingsworth's "What's Going On Here" column in The Blood-Horse issue of June 18, 1973 on Secretariat winning the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown.
This one we saw. Seeing is believing, but Secretariat's Belmont challenged credulity. He ran so far beyond known reference points, he left us with no measurable comparison. We saw it, believed it; we are having trouble, however, comprehending the preternatural.
Yet it was not a horse race, really, for Secretariat already had established his superiority over current rivals. He was racing against memories held of great horses in other years, a vague field against which no contemporary horse even so much had placed since Citation.
It was a contest between a horse and apprehension. Tim Tam, too, had dominated his rivals, but was struck down by injury. Carry Back had only the distance to beat, but failed. Pace had thwarted many champions.
So when Secretariat broke with the early-speed horses, not last as he had in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, apprehension took the lead. And when (jockey Ron) Turcotte let him run easily to the first turn on the front end, we became alarmed. You Can't Win A Belmont With A Quarter in :23 3/5! We shouted to him.
He went on, anyway, with Sham right there. Sham taking the lead by a half-length on the turn. Let Him Have It! Drop Back And Take A Breather!
Good Lord, they've gone the first half in :46 1/5. Nobody can last a mile and a half at that pace! What's the matter with that jock! YOU'RE BLOWING IT! Pincay's taking back. Oh no; I think Secretariat's Bolted!
Secretariat looks like he's still going, though. He drawing off. Why he must be 10 lengths out there! Could be 15 lengths. He's got a bigger lead now than Graustark had in the Blue Grass. Oh, look at that mile time, 1:34 1/5. It is impossible for him to do that and stay.
He does seem to be rolling along there pretty easily, though; don't you think he's going easy? He must be 25 lengths on top. I don't believe he can lose that kind of lead, can he? EASE UP ON HIM TURCOTTE!
He's moving out. He's moving out on the turn! ... I believe he's gonna do it! He IS gonna doit!
Come On With THAT HORSE TURCOTTE. DAMMIT COME ON WITH HIM, COMEONWITHIM! LOOKA THAT DUDE RUN WILLYA! GO. WITH. HIM! GO WITH HIM! GOWITHIM!
Two twenty-four flat! I don't believe it. Impossible. But I saw it. I can't breathe. He won by a sixteenth of a mile! I saw it. I have to believe it.
To see that which never before has been seen is an emotional experience. And we figure to be quite snobbish about having seen it. So when old racing men begin to reminisce of Buckpasser's Suburban, Kelso's International, the Ridan-Jaipur Travers, Swaps' Sunset, Tom Fool, Native Dancer, Citation, Count Fleet, Alsab against Whirlaway, War Admiral and Seabiscuit, Equipoise: Gentlemen, we will say, let me now tell you about a nonpareil, a genuine race horse I saw win the Belmont by a sixteenth of mile without working up a lather.
(Afternote: Secretariat's time in the Derby was a record 1:59 2/5, which still stands, and his Preakness clocking was an unofficial record 1:53 2/5, caught by Daily Racing Form. Secretariat twice proved mortal over the coming months with a loss to Onion in the Whitney at Saratoga and one to Prove Out in the Woodward at Belmont. In between, he won the inaugural Marlboro Cup in record time over stablemate Riva Ridge, Cougar II, Onion, Travers winner Annihilate 'em, Kennedy Road of Canada, and Key to the Mint. Secretariat closed out his career with a victory in the Canadian International in October and was off to stud at Claiborne Stud near Paris, Ky. He sired a Horse of the Year in Lady's Secret, a Preakness/Belmont winner in Risen Star, and achieved extraordinary acclaim as a sire of broodmares. He died Oct. 4, 1989. He ranks No. 2 on The Blood-Horse's Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.)
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