He was born on a chilly spring morning on March 30th, 1970 at the Thoroughbred breeding farm, Meadow Stables, in Virginia. Owned by self-proclaimed housewife Penny Chenery, this magnificent bright red stallion would top out at 16.2 hands, 1,200 pounds, and become perhaps the greatest racehorse ever.
In the year of his 37th anniversary of winning the Triple Crown, and especially with the new Disney movie about him to be released this Thanksgiving weekend, editorial intern Amie Peck and I thought it would be fun to give you 11 facts you may not have known about this lightning bolt on four legs.
1. Secretariat was the only horse in history to grace the cover of Time Magazine, as well as Newsweek and Sports Illustrated – all in one year!
2. Secretariat has an indelible Canadian connection. His final race was at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto on October 23, 1973, and it was held in tribute to his Canadian trainer, Lucien Laurin and his Canadian jockey, Ron Turcotte.
3. He was the first Triple Crown Winner in a quarter of a century, winning the title in 1973. Previous winner was Citation in 1948.
4. Secretariat set track records for each Triple Crown Race: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. He has also set two world records.
5. Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes in a record breaking time of 2:24 at 1.5 miles – a record which still stands today, and many argue stands little chance of ever being broken.
When he crossed the finish line, he was an estimated 31 lengths (the length of one horse) ahead of his closest competitor.
Back on June 9th, the 37th anniversary of the running of this incredible race, I posted footage of the race on the Western Horse Review Facebook Page and a reader pointed out jockey Ron Turcotte looking back over his shoulder in the backstretch, because he could no longer hear any other horse behind him. If that doesn’t make your spine tingle. . . .
6. He was the first horse to have a publicity agent who brokered his appearance and endorsement contracts. “Big Red” was as hot as any movie star.
7. He died of Cushings related laminitis at the young age of 19.
8. Secretariat was named Horse of the Year at just two-years-old – before he ever attempted the Triple Crown run – a very rare honour.
ESPN also placed Secretariat in the 35th slot of their countdown of the top American athletes of the entire century, right between Lou Gehrig and Oscar Robertson.
9. The ownership of Secretariat was determined by a coin toss. There was an agreement between Meadow Stable and Claiborne Farm that each year a coin would be flipped to determine who would own the newborn foals. The year Secretariat was born, Meadow Stable won the coin toss. Pretty good luck, eh?
10. Unlike the Grinch, whose heart was two sizes too small, during the autoposy of Secretariat’s body, it was found that his heart weighed 22 pounds; the average horse heart is eight pounds. This was partly attributed to his tremendous racing ability, and proved what everyone had always known about him – he had incredible drive and heart.
11. As part of a deal to help the financially ailing Meadow Stable, Secretariat was sold to a breeding syndicate for a then-record price of $6.08 million. Although he sired some champions, his own incredible athleticism was never equalled in an offspring.
Lastly, we leave you with the trailer view of Secretariat, starring Diane Lane, John Malkovich and Margo Martindale. In the movie, Secretariat is played by four horses – three Thoroughbreds and one Quarter Horse. Apparently, on set, a make-up crew spent the better part of most mornings painting matching socks and the original’s distinctive white stripe on each of the four horses.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!