Secretariat's Trainer, Lucien Laurin, Dies

Hall of Fame trainer Lucien Laurin died Sunday night at Miami Baptist Hospital as a result of complications from surgery on a broken hip he sustained when he fell last week. He was 88.

Born in the Canadian province of Quebec, Laurin hooked up with the Chenery family's Meadow Stable in the early 1970s, and his prize pupils for the outfit included champions Secretariat and Riva Ridge. Secretariat won the 1973 Triple Crown and twice was Horse of the Year. Riva Ridge, who had come along a year earlier, won the 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, giving Laurin a then-record four consecutive Triple Crown race victories, a figure subsequently broken by D. Wayne Lukas.

Penny Chenery, who ran her family's Meadow Stable, said Laurin was a good fit for Secretariat.

"I've always thought Lucien was the perfect trainer for Secretariat," Chenery told the Louisville Courier-Journal, "because Lucien was hard on his horses and he liked the horse he could really put the work to. And that's what Secretariat was. If someone else had been afraid to stretch his limitations, we might not have found out what Secretariat was. He might have just stayed a fat, lazy horse. Lucien's temperament, and the way he liked to train a horse, just suited Secretariat. But Lucien also wasn't intimidated by him. Because the horse could have turned out to be mean. If anybody had had ego problems and wanted to show him who's who, I think Secretariat could have been tough to handle. And the other thing was that Lucien had very good grooms. Eddie Sweat (who cared for Riva Ridge and Secretariat) was one of the finest men around a horse I ever saw."

Ron Turcotte rode both Riva Ridge and Secretariat, told the Courier-Journal: "It's a sad day for me. He was like a father to me. I can't say enough for him."

"Lucien Laurin occupies a special place in the great history of the Kentucky Derby," said Churchill Downs racetrack president Alex Waldrop. "His name will forever be linked with the great Secretariat…(and) his work with Riva Ridge was just as remarkable. Lucien Laurin was a great gentleman as well as a wonderful horseman and he will be deeply missed by all who love the Kentucky Derby and Thoroughbred racing. All of us at Churchill Downs extend our deepest sympathies to the Laurin family."

Laurin stayed on with Meadow Stable until resigning in 1976. Previous to Secretariat and Riva Ridge, Laurin had trained 1958 champion 2-year-old filly Quill. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 1977 and into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame the following year. His survivors include his wife, Juliette, and their son, Roger, a retired trainer. (More, Louisville Courier-Journal)