All was quiet in the stands as everyone waited in anticipation for the running of the Belmont. Suddenly the gates flew open and five horses surged forth, with speed only thoroughbreds contain, leaving the spectators sitting on the edge of their seats.
One horse in particular stood out from the rest for he was setting a terrific pace. Only one other horse was able to match that speed, but not for long. No horse could sustain the velocity that this one horse was maintaining.
In just two minutes and 24 seconds this horse ran one and a half miles on a dirt track, faster by two seconds than any horse in history had ever run the Belmont. Even more terrific is that he won the race by 31 lengths.
Who could this phenomenal horse be? What was his name? Where did he come from?
This horse was none other than the incredible Secretariat, the ninth horse in the world to win the Triple Crown. It had been 25 years since there had been a Triple Crown winner!
The story of Secretariat is nothing short of being amazing.
One day two men by the names of Christopher Chenery and Ogden Phipps, who owned the Meadow Stables and the Claiborne Farms consecutively, decided to flip a coin to see who would get first pick of three foals. These foals would be sired by Bold Ruler and out of Somethingroyal and Hasty Matelda.
Phipps won the toss and took the yearling filly out of Somethingroyal, leaving a colt out of Hasty Matelda and an unborn foal out of Somethingroyal for Chenery.
On March 30, 1970, Somethingroyal foaled a beautiful red chestnut colt that had three white socks, a beautiful white star and a narrow blaze that adorned his handsome face. He was owned by Penny Chenery, the daughter of Christopher Chenery.
By the time he became a yearling he still had not been named. Elizabeth Ham, Chenerys secretary, had sent ten different names to the Jockey Club, which had been denied for different reasons. Finally, out of frustration and from her own experience as a secretary she submitted the name "Secretariat" which was accepted.
In his first season as a two-year-old he won seven races, including the Futurity Stakes, the Sanford Stakes and the Hopeful Stakes. He also placed fourth and second in two other races. His great performance earned him the honor of being the American Horse of the Year as a two-year-old. Only one other 2-year-old has had that privilege since Secretariat.
As Secretariat turned three he ran in three prep races, preparing for the Kentucky Derby, the last one being the Wood Memorial where he finished third.
At the Kentucky Derby he came out of the gate last, but even so, he still won. Each quarter of a mile that he ran was faster than the last and he finished with a record time of 1:59 2/5. That time still stands today, some thirty-five years later, just waiting to be broken.
After the Derby he headed for the Preakness where he also broke last from the gate, but at the first turn he went from last to first in an amazing burst of speed, and easily won by two and a half lengths. When he won the Preakness there was no doubt that he would make a run for the Triple Crown in an attempt to win the Belmont.
As the Belmont began Secretariat came out of the gate well, and immediately began to set an exceedingly fast pace. Only one horse, by the name of Sham, was able to keep up with him for a time, but then dropped back after six furlongs of the grueling pace. Secretariat surprised everyone that day by maintaining his excruciatingly fast pace and by lengthening his lead to 31 lengths to win the Triple Crown!
After running the Belmont he ran in five other races before his last run in the Canadian International Stakes that was held at the Woodbine Race Tract in Toronto, Canada. It was a turf race against older horses and the length of the race was one and five-eighths miles, longer than any race he had ever run. Even so, he easily won by 6 lengths.
Because of her fathers death and the debts that he left behind Penny Chenery, Secretariats owner, had made a deal with a syndication agreeing to race him only until his third year, and then sell him to them as a stud for $6,080,000.
During Secretariat's racing career he earned $1,316,808, and placed in the money in 20 out of 21 runs. He had three second place and one third place finishes and he won 16 out of 20 races.
In 16 years he sired approximately 600 foals. Some became great, though not nearly as great as he was. Lady's Secret was named the Horse of the Year in 1986, and Risen Star won the Preakness and the Belmont in 1985.
At the young age of 19 he had to be humanely put down because of a hoof disease called laminitis. Even dead he had the special privilege of being buried whole, whereas, most racehorses have only their heart, head and feet buried.
Even today he continues to have the privilege of being rated the second-best Thoroughbred. All in all Secretariat was one of the greatest and fastest horses in the world of racing, and he will always hold a special place in the heart of horse lovers around the world.