To this day, Secretariat remains one of the first names everyone thinks of whenever the topic of horse racing comes up. "It's hard to believe after all these years," Chenery said, "but hardly a day goes by that I don't get mail about Secretariat."
He’s never been forgotten by those who had the privilege of witnessing his greatness either in person or by television during his short 16 month racing career in the 1970’s. He became an American Icon after breaking the long 25 year dry-spell of no one winning the coveted Triple Crown title and no horse has come close to beating his records set in all three classic races.
The 2010 Walt Disney premier of the movie bearing his name brought him back to life all over again…this time on the big screen. It brought back memories for those who were around during the 1970’s and introduced him as a legend to several new generations of horse lovers and relit the flame of his global fans. His owner, Penny Chenery said, "It's hard to believe after all these years, but hardly a day goes by that I don't get mail about Secretariat."
In a career that spanned only 16 months, Secretariat started 21 times, won 16 and finished in the money in all but his first race. He was an odds-on favorite 17 times, winning 13. By the time he went to stud, he had won back-to-back Horse of the Year awards. The true measure of Secretariat's greatness was his performances in big races.
Secretariat was born on March 30, 1970, at the Meadow Stud in Doswell, Va. He was the third offspring of 1957 Preakness winner Bold Ruler, the greatest sire of his generation, and Somethingroyal, who raced just once but whose breeding was of top quality. Secretariat was the brightest of chestnuts, deep-chested with the muscular quarters of the speed horse and the length and scope of the stayer.
Secretariat's debuted his racing career on July 4, 1972, where he went off as the favorite but finished fourth after a bad start in the 5 1/2-furlong race at Aqueduct. Eleven days later, he broke his maiden in a 6-furlong race at Aqueduct.
Secretariat became the first two year old to be named Horse of the Year after his seven victories in nine races. “Big Red” as he was affectionately called loved to come from the back of the pack and one by one pass his competitors along the outside of the field. That was his style, until the 1973 Belmont when he broke together with Sham and they went to the front and steadily increased their lead on the backstretch. Then Secretariat turned on his after-burners and became jet-propelled.
The famous words from the track announcer rang out atop the screaming crowd, "Secretariat is alone. He is moving like a tremendous machine! He's going to be the Triple Crown winner. Unbelievable! An amazing performance. He's 25 lengths in front!"
Jockey Ron Turcotte turned to see where the other horses were and later said, “I know this sounds crazy, but the horse did it by himself. I was along for the ride." The rest is history as told by Time Magazine, Newsweek, and Sport’s Illustrated where he was the only horse to ever appear on the front cover in the same week. He gave the country something to believe in during a time of turbulence for our country.
The country mourned when his life was cut short on Oct 4, 1989 at 19 years old from a painful hoof disease called laminitis. They mourned as if we’d lost a beloved President, but his memory remains as vivid as ever for his die-hard fans who gather to pay tribute to him every year at the Secretariat Birthday celebration at the Meadows in Doswell, Virginia where he was born on March 30, 1970 and in Paris, Kentucky every fall for the Secretariat Festival.
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