Secretariat's Preakness Time Under Review

Secretariat's Preakness Time Under Review
Photo: Blood-Horse Library
Secretariat winning the Preakness Stakes.

Hold all tickets.The Maryland Racing Commission has agreed to conduct a hearing to consider “compelling” evidence based upon advances in modern video technology regarding the long-standing controversy surrounding Secretariat's winning time in the 1973 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico. The request came from Penny Chenery, the owner of Secretariat, and Thomas Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club. The meeting will be held June 19 at Laurel Park beginning at 1:00 p.m. (EDT) and is open to the public.

The electronic timer in use at Pimlico for the 1973 Preakness recorded a winning time of 1:55—a clocking that quickly became the source of controversy after two independent clockers from the Daily Racing Form had individually hand-timed the race at a much faster 1:53 2/5. In the days following the Preakness, the stewards at Pimlico, and later the commission, concluded that there were “extenuating circumstances” attendant to the electronic timer’s recording.  As a result, the official time was subsequently changed to that reported by Pimlico’s official hand clocker--1:54 2/5.

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Had Secretariat’s time been officially recorded as 1:53 2/5--the time still recognized today by Daily Racing Form--he would have beaten Canonero II’s track record of 1:54 for the 1 3/16-mile distance set during the 1971 Preakness. Instead, the Preakness wound up being the only jewel of Secretariat’s three Triple Crown race victories in which he did not establish a new track record.

“For me, revisiting this dispute on a new day is a matter of resolution--for historians, for sportswriters, and for racing fans,” Chenery said. “Their voices are supported by sound evidence, and they deserve to be heard.”

“During the last 40 years, video technology has been accepted in other professional sports as a supportive mechanism for officials to ensure fairness and accuracy in their decisions,” Chuckas said. “It is important for horse racing and the record books to confirm the correct time in this historical race. It is the appropriate thing to do.”

In later runnings, Tank's Prospect (1985), Louis Quatorze (1996), and Curlin   (2007) separately established the current, officially recognized Preakness record time of 1:53 2/5. The track record at Pimlico for 1 3/16 miles is held by Farma Way with a time of 1:52 2/5 when he won the 1991 Pimlico Special (gr. I).          


 

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