Secretariat became the ninth Triple Crown winner in history and it has been 40 years ago since his win at Belmont. Here is the epic footage of the 1973 Belmont Stakes.
Sportswriter Mike Sullivan said, in admiration:
“I was at Secretariat’s Derby, in ’73. . . That was…just beauty, you know? He started in last place, which he tended to do. I was covering the second-place horse, which wound up being Sham. It looked like Sham’s race going into the last turn, I think. The thing you have to understand is that Sham was fast, a beautiful horse. He would have had the Triple Crown in another year. And it just didn’t seem like there could be anything faster than that. Everybody was watching him. It was over, more or less. And all of a sudden there was this, like, just a disruption in the corner of your eye, in your peripheral vision. And then before you could make out what it was, here Secretariat came. And then Secretariat had passed him. No one had ever seen anything run like that – a lot of the old guys said the same thing. It was like he was some other animal out there.
Only four horses competed against Secretariat for the June 9, 1973, running of the Belmont Stakes, including Sham, who had finished second in both the Derby and Preakness, along with three other horses thought to have little chance by the bettors: Twice A Prince, My Gallant, and Private Smiles. With so few horses in the race, and with Secretariat expected to win, no “show” bets were taken. Secretariat was sent off as a 1–10 favorite to win as a $2.20 payout on a $2 ticket and paid at 20 cents more – $2.40 – to place. Before a crowd of 67,605, Secretariat and Sham set a fast early pace, opening ten lengths on the rest of the field. After the six-furlong mark, Sham began to tire, ultimately finishing last. Secretariat continued the fast pace and opened up a larger and larger margin on the field. CBS Television announcer Chic Anderson‘s described the horse’s pace in a famous commentary: “Secretariat is widening now! He is moving like a tremendous machine!”
In the stretch, Secretariat opened a 1/16 mile lead on the rest of the field. At the finish, he won by 31 lengths (breaking the margin-of-victory record set by Triple Crown winner Count Fleet in 1943, who won by 25 lengths), and ran the fastest 1½ miles on dirt in history, 2:24 flat, which broke the stakes record by more than two seconds. This works out to a speed of 37.5 mph for his entire performance. Secretariat’s record still stands; no other horse has ever broken 2:25 for 1½ miles on dirt. If the Beyer Speed Figure calculation had been developed during that time, Andrew Beyer calculated that Secretariat would have earned a figure of 139, the highest he has ever assigned. Bettors holding 5,617 winning parimutuel tickets on Secretariat never redeemed them, presumably keeping them as souvenirs (and because the tickets would have paid only $2.20 on a $2 bet).
The story of Secretariat
The story of Secretariat began with the toss of a coin in 1969 between Penny Chenery of Meadow Stable and Ogden Phipps of Wheatley Stable. The idea of a coin toss came from Phipps, the owner of Bold Ruler, and “Bull” Hancock of Claiborne Farms as a way to get the very best mares for Bold Ruler, and when the toss went their way, to add well-bred fillies to their own broodmare band. Bold Ruler was considered one of the important stallions of his time. He had a fine balance between speed and stamina, and though he finished fourth in the 1957 Kentucky Derby at a mile and a quarter, Bold Ruler won the Preakness two weeks later at a mile and three sixteenths, and won three major stakes at the Derby’s 10-furlong distance. After his racing career, Bold Ruler was retired to Claiborne Farms, but still was controlled by the Phipps family. This meant he would be bred mainly to Phipps’ mares and not many of his offspring would find their way to the auction ring. Phipps and Hancock agreed to forgo stud fees for Bold Ruler; instead, they would claim one of two foals produced by the mare he bred in successive seasons or two mares he bred in the same season. Who obtained which foal or even received first pick would be decided by a flip of a coin.
In 1968, Chenery sent two mares named Hasty Matelda and Somethingroyal to Bold Ruler, and in 1969, a colt and filly were the result. Penny Chenery and Ogden Phipps coin toss was held in the fall of 1969, in the office of New York Racing Association Chairman Alfred Vanderbilt II, with Hancock as witness. As stated in the original agreement, the winner of the coin toss would get first foal pick in 1969, and second foal pick in 1970. Phipps won the toss and took the weanling filly out of Somethingroyal. This resulted in Chenery getting the colt out of Hasty Matelda. In 1969, Hasty Matelda was replaced by Cicada, but she did not conceive. Both parties assumed Somethingroyal would deliver a healthy foal in the spring of 1970. This left Chenery with the unborn foal of Somethingroyal.
On March 30, at 12:10 a.m., Somethingroyal foaled a bright-red chestnut colt with three white socks and a star with a narrow blaze. By the time the colt was a yearling, he was still unnamed. Meadow Stable’s secretary, Elizabeth Ham, had submitted 5 names to the Jockey Club, all of which were denied for various reasons. Approval finally came with the 6th submission, a name Ham herself picked from a previous career association – “Secretariat”.