Happy Anniversary, Big Red

It was just about this time 36 years ago that I was sitting on the porch at Saratoga having breakfast with a Daily Racing Form co-worker who also happened to be one of my best friends. There was the usual amount of activity on the track, with horses working and galloping past us in a steady procession.

At one point, I heard a noise behind me that grew louder as it got closer. It almost sounded like machinery, but I knew, of course, it was the sound of hooves hitting the ground. I had just never heard them quite that loud before.

I naturally turned around to see who it was. There before me, stretched out and gobbling up the ground with gigantic strides was a big, powerful chestnut. I recognized the blue and white colors of Meadow Stable on the colt’s equipment, and figured it could only be their highly touted 2-year-old Secretariat, who was already making a name for himself at the Saratoga meeting.

That was my first look at Big Red. There would be many more to follow. I was present for the majority of his races, and vividly remember watching the Preakness from the Pimlico roof and seeing him make that incredible move from last to first right below me. At the precise moment Ron Turcotte let him go, or had to let him go, it appeared as if Secretariat was about to take flight. Jockey George Cusimano, on the pace-setting Ecole Etage, said Secretariat sounded like a freight train coming up behind him, just as he had sounded to me that morning at Saratoga. When Secretariat charged past Ecole Etage, Cusimano said he went by him with such force he blew the number right off his sleeve.

A short while earlier, just after Lucien Laurin had finished saddling him on the turf course, I walked right up to Big Red and took a photo of him as he stood there motionless, staring straight ahead. As soon as he heard the clicking of my camera, he turned his head and looked right at me. I quickly took a second photo that is still one of my all-time favorites.

And there were the mornings at the barn, especially the one in September when Secretariat and Riva Ridge went out to the track together to work on the grass. Seeing the brawny Secretariat, his mane blowing in the breeze and his golden coat illuminated by the morning sun, walking side by side with the loppy-eared, gazelle-like Riva Ridge was something one doesn’t forget too quickly. I also got a great photo of that, which eventually appeared in the 2002 Kentucky Derby souvenir magazine.

The last I saw of Secretariat on the track was the day they bid farewell to him on a chilly, fall November day at Aqueduct. As soon as Ron Turcotte began parading him in front of the stands, Big Red broke off in a show horse canter, his neck bowed, giving the fans one final, unforgettable look. Following the ceremonies, he was walking along the rail heading back to the barn for the last time when a shaft of light sliced through the broken clouds and beamed down directly on him. It was a fitting final image that was beautifully captured by DRF photographer Ray Woolfe Jr.

I would visit Secretariat several times at Claiborne, and was told by the groom that he loved Certs breath mints, which my wife and I fed him. He would always put on a show. One time, he grabbed a large tree branch off the ground and stuck it in his mouth as if he were sucking on a lollipop. He trotted over to us and put his head over the fence, wanting us to pull it out of his mouth. We were happy to oblige. My final photo of Secretariat was taken in his paddock. He had been rolling on the grass in the middle of the paddock, and as he was getting up, he planted his two forelegs in the ground, raised his head, and pushed up with his forelegs. I took the photo just at that point, and many have commented that he looks like Pegasus rising from the ashes. Sounds good to me.

In late 2001, I drove down to Virginia to do a feature for the Blood-Horse on Secretariat’s old grooms who took care of him at Meadow Stud when he was a baby. As the first of my tributes to Secretariat on the 35th anniversary of his Triple Crown, I have decided to reprint that story (even though it’s kind of long), hoping it will give the readers an idea of what life was like at The Meadow back then; what it was like caring for a young Secretariat; and what eventually happened to all his old grooms.

****************

In the spring of 1969, a magical seed was planted in the equine garden known as The Meadow, located in Caroline County, Va., just north of Richmond. From that seed the following spring would sprout a legendary creature who would one day transcend the Sport of Kings and forever alter the course of racing history.

But the harsh winds of 30 winters have since eroded this hallowed ground that once nurtured the immortal Secretariat. The pastures and training track that once shook from the pounding of "Big Red's" mighty hooves have been still for two decades.

Only 400 of the farm's original 2,000 acres are as they were then. The training track and adjoining barns have remained somewhat intact, but are decaying with every passing year. There are no longer horses frolicking about or even photographs on an office wall to keep the memories alive. All that remains in Caroline County to remind one of The Meadow's illustrious past are the aging, but still-fertile, minds of several former grooms, to whom those glory days of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s have all but faded from their minds. They have moved on with their lives--two work full-time as janitors, two have retired, and one dabbles as a handyman, occasionally doing lawn work and fixing small engines and lawn mowers.

Charlie Ross, 66, passes The Meadow every day to and from his job at the All American Truck Plaza, just off Interstate 95, directly across from King's Dominion amusement park. Ross has been employed there as a janitor for the past eight years. For someone who worked at The Meadow for 37 years, taking care of some of the best-bred yearlings in the country, Ross admits, “It was strange at first going from the horses to cleaning showers.”

One of the yearlings who was turned over to him in the early spring of 1971 was a powerful chestnut colt by Bold Ruler, out of Somethingroyal, who had already been given the name Secretariat.

Ross spent nearly a year grooming Secretariat, watching him trim off pounds of baby fat and develop into a racehorse and eventually into a legend. But the big chestnut with the three white legs and long, elegant strip of white running down his face was but one of many horses to pass Ross' way. Although he does admit to feeling good about his role in Secretariat's life, in the world of Charlie Ross, there is not much room for sentimentality. His only personal link to Secretariat these days is a copy of Ray Woolfe Jr.'s book, which tells Big Red's story in text and photos. Any other pieces of memorabilia collected over the years are long gone.

On the afternoon of Dec. 20, 2001, Ross left work at the usual time of 3 o'clock, got into his 1999 metallic blue Toyota pickup, and headed west on two-lane Route 30 toward his home on nearby Sadie Lane. But today was different. Instead of driving past the dirt road entrance of The Meadow's old training complex, Ross hung a right and drove along the outside of the track to an opening in the rail. On the other side of the track was the indoor training barn and the European-style stable area, with the three outdoor barns forming three sides of a square. The fourth side, completing the square, was a large open shed, in which still stood the old hotwalking machine.

Ross looked at the peeling paint of the training barn that was now more gray than white and just shook his head. "It's been a lot of years since I've been here," he said. "It feels strange to be back. There was a time when I used to be here more than I was at home. There sure was no paint peeling off back then like it is now. We used to paint it every year. This was a beautiful place to work, and Mr. (Christopher) Chenery was a wonderful man to work for. So was Mrs. Tweedy (Chenery's daughter Penny, who took over the farm after her father's death in 1972)."

Ross, who has a noticeable limp due to arthritis, walked alongside one of the barns, passing one stall after another. When he came to the end, he unhooked the top door of the first stall and said, as if he were unveiling a priceless work of art, "This was Secretariat's stall." Inside, several of the ceiling boards had come loose and were split and rotted. In the back left corner hung a veil of cobwebs, and in the front left corner stood an old broom.

Ross just stared inside, then took a few steps forward and rested his arms atop the bottom stall door. Although he said nothing, one couldn't help but imagine the flood of memories that were rushing through his mind. "See these two holes," he said, pointing to a pair of nail holes in the open top door. "This is where I hung the plaque that read: 'Secretariat, by Bold Ruler out of Somethingroyal.' Yeeeaaah, it does bring back memories. I remember when I used to stand outside this stall in the sunshine, just as I am now.

"I got Secretariat in the spring, along with five other yearlings, and I remember liking him when I first saw him. He was built real strong, and because he was so big and powerful, it took him a while to get it together. He was a very quiet horse to work with and I didn't have any problems with him. He had no bad habits; no biting, no kicking or anything like that. Meredith Bailes used to ride him a lot and he thought he might be something, but he really never showed anything to make us believe he was gonna become such a great horse."

Ross recalled going to the Preakness on a rented bus with other farm employees. He also attended the Belmont Stakes with his wife, but was blocked by the huge crowd and had to watch the historic event on a TV monitor in the clubhouse.

As Ross returned to his truck, he seemed to be engulfed by the quiet, as the only sound came from the winter winds howling through the naked tree limbs. "Yeah, I made a lot of tracks around this old place," he said. "But there's nothin' around here no more. It's really sad. I still think about Secretariat now and then, especially when I watch the races on television. But I have another job now, and as long as I'm working, I'm happy."

Just up the road from Ross' house is the home of 66-year-old Bannie Mines, who along with Howard Gregory and Lewis Tillman, took care of Secretariat when he was a foal and weanling. Tillman died several years ago, but Mines and Gregory are still going strong. Mines lives in a small house on Riva Ridge Road with his daughter and grandson, for whom he babysits while his daughter is at work. A few doors down lives Raymond "Peter Blue" Goodall, who was Riva Ridge's groom when he was a yearling.

Gregory lives several minutes away, across Route 30, on Gregory Road. One of his neighbors is 74-year-old Wilbur "Bill" Street, who spent most of his time at the track, but did team up with his brother Harry to van Secretariat from the farm to Hialeah in January of 1972 to start his racing career.

Mines says he doesn't do much else other than some yard work and watching television. Gregory, although 76, is still sharp and loves to keep busy, mowing lawns, doing a little landscaping, and fixing engines.

Gregory worked at The Meadow for 31 years and another several years after Penny Chenery sold the farm. Of the next two owners of The Meadow, also known as Meadow Farm, one went bankrupt and the other went to prison. The current owner tore down the original house and built a new one across the road from the old training complex.

Gregory was around Secretariat from the day he was born, which was March 30, 1970, at 10 minutes past midnight. Dr. Olive Britt, The Meadow's veterinarian who still practices part-time at age 83, remembers getting a call from the nightwatchman, telling her that Somethingroyal was in the middle of foaling. By the time she arrived, Somethingroyal had already given birth. Britt, who now lives in nearby Goochland County, said she'll never forget farm manager Howard Gentry watching the foal get to his feet and saying, "This is what we've been waiting for for 35 years."

Gregory could tell right away the colt was something special. "We knew from the get-go he was different from any horse we ever had," he said. "There was definitely something there. I remember him being very alert, and he'd test you. When you walked him to the paddock your mind and his had to correspond. If he thought you weren't paying attention he was gone. You had to have your mind focused on him at all times. I also worked with Riva Ridge and he was an altogether different horse. He was so quiet, and all you had to do was say, 'Whoa, Riva,' and he'd just stop and stand there. But Secretariat would try you in a heartbeat. You had to know what you were doing, because he always knew when you had him and when you didn't. And if he knew you didn't, that was it; he was gone.

"He was a gorgeous colt, with a beautiful head, and those three white stockings. I'll never forget watching the Belmont Stakes on TV. Lord, that was something to see. I'm very proud to have been around a horse like that. I remember putting his mother, Somethingroyal, in the ground after she died at age 31. I also buried Hill Prince. Those were really special days back then, and you couldn't work for anyone nicer than Mr. Chenery. Money was never a problem, and we got bonuses and shares in winnings. I was available anytime they needed me, because I loved what I was doing and where I was working. When I wanted to build my own house, they helped me out. And because of Mr. Chenery, I live in a six-room house on five acres, and it's all mine. There aren't many people out there like Mr. Chenery anymore.

"I stayed on after Mrs. Tweedy sold the farm, but the last fellow I worked for, Mr. (Eric) Friedlander, couldn't pay us, so I left. I drive by the farm most every day, shopping and doing errands, but I go right by. I haven't been back since the day I left. It hurts me too bad to see what's become of it. I've had several jobs since, but I'm pretty much retired now. I thank God I'm still around to do whatever I want to. I couldn't ask for more than that."

Gregory, like Ross, has little in the way of memorabilia from the old days, and no longer sees much of his fellow workers. "I used to have all kinds of stuff, but where they are I couldn't put my finger on it," he said. "It's been so long. I very seldom get a chance to visit with the other guys. Everybody's pretty much gone on their own now. Every once in a while I run acrosss one of 'em, but not too often."

Gregory actually lives only five or six minutes from Riva Ridge Road, and was able to point out Bannie Mines' house before heading to Richmond to do some errands. Mines, who is Charlie Ross' brother-in-law, is an amiable fellow with white hair, who cordially welcomed a stranger into his home. While his memory is not nearly as sharp as Gregory's, and he has a problem hearing, he did try to pull out whatever remnants of the old days his memory could muster. Mines worked at The Meadow for 25 years, mainly in the broodmare barn and helping out with the yearlings.

“I remember Secretariat was a big, strong colt; bigger than the others, and very well built,” he recalled. “With the weanlings, we always tried to put the three best horses together, and the best horse would go into the first stall. I remember Secretariat was put in the first stall, so everyone must have felt he was the best. He gave you an idea even then that he might turn into something. It made me feel real good to see him become such a great horse. He was pretty easy to work with, but he had a temper, too. I had him for about a year, and then he went to Charlie.”

Mines continued on after the farm was sold, then went to work at another farm before retiring. “I don't do much these days, just rake a little leaves and cut a little grass," he said. “I watch TV most of the time. I don’t have any souvenirs, but I did have a picture of Hill Prince. I think it's out back in the shed somewhere.”

Mines then went out to his backyard and opened the door to his shed. He had to step over several large objects to get to the back wall, and there, hanging in a glassless frame, was a finish and winner's circle photo of Hill Prince, yellowed by the years. Mines removed the photo from the frame and showed off his only link to the old days. “I really do miss those days," he said. “But I left after the last people took over and I've never been back.”

Riva Ridge Road and Sadie Lane comprise the settlement known as Duval Town, which was originally built after emancipation to house freed slaves. It was there that the majority of grooms lived. Each morning, the farm truck would make its rounds through Duval Town, picking up the grooms and bringing them to work. Sadie Lane was named by the county after the matriarch of the extended family that lived there. Known as “Aunt Sarah” or “Aunt Sadie,” she cooked for Penny Chenery's mother in the 1940s.

“I remember Raymond Goodall's mother, Magnolia, worked in the house, along with her sister,” Penny Chenery recalled. “And they were daughters of Aunt Sadie. They were all great people. The grooms were all in their 30s during the heyday of the '70s. Whenever we won a big race, we gave them a week's pay. They were wonderful to me. I clearly was not my father, but they were respectful and helpful as I was learning on the job. It was just a wonderful team.”

And they came up with a wonderful horse, believed by many to be the greatest of all time. There are only faint memories left for The Meadow's grooms. But Howard Gregory's eyes still light up when he thinks of the chestnut foal who would one day grow up to be Big Red. He rolled the images around in his mind for a few seconds before the words made their way out:  “A horse like Secretariat. That will never happen no more.” 

97 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Loretta T.

What a wonderful story and how truly sad that " The Meadow"& all its history has faded away. Your article made me re-live the grand days of the 70's when the world saw perfection in a racehorse. And to quote Howard Gregory, "we will never see a colt like Secretariat again". Thanks for the walk down memory lane; as usual, "job well done" Steve"

23 Jul 2008 6:51 PM
nina

Wonderful story. I was crying at the end. I was at the Belmont and still can hear the crowd screaming and clapping. I agree with Mr. Gregory,that will happen no more.

23 Jul 2008 7:05 PM
russell maiers

ah you took us right back there,that is a story one wishes would never end. Thanks Steve

23 Jul 2008 7:12 PM
Elaine Tillery

Thank you for the wonderful walk down memory lane. I still get chills watching his races. Many good races have come and gone sice his glory days. But none have come close to his accomplishments. May you R.I.P Big Red!

23 Jul 2008 7:15 PM
Runfast159

Thanks for the great memories.  Is there any way you can post the pictures of Big Red you talked about in the article?

23 Jul 2008 7:20 PM
Bill McCarthy

The true heros of the game --- the grooms!

23 Jul 2008 7:31 PM
tvnewsbadge

I've been out to the Meadow more than a few times this past year, photographing what is left and doing a video or two for my net video blogs (one was a simple single still shot of the foaling barn where Secretariat was born 38 years ago at the exact time of his birth, 10 minutes after midnight ).

I wonder if you can tell me what the indoor training track looked like. There's a sorta round building it the middle of what used to be the track, but it hardly looks big enough to be an indoor track.

You can see it in one of my videos in the tvnewsbadge pages on YouTube.

Thanks for any direction , TvNB

23 Jul 2008 7:33 PM
Gates of Eden

Thank you for sharing these memories of the people that took care of the greatest horse of our generation. His races still inspire and his greatness is evident. Secretariat...what a horse!!

23 Jul 2008 7:36 PM
Chase

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.  It's so beautiful, and a little sad.  I hope something good comes of whats left of The Meadow.

23 Jul 2008 8:53 PM
katsan

Beautiful story, I can just picture him. Saw him run, what a ham he was with the camera. Please try and print the pictures they sound lovely.

23 Jul 2008 9:00 PM
LCM

Thanks for the very touching story.  It really makes one long for the "good ol days" when horses like that existed.  Not to mention, the owners/breeders, trainers and caretakers.  I met Eddie Sweat years ago when I worked on the backstretch and I was in awe of him.  THe idea of working with such an incredible was beyond belief.  It still is.

23 Jul 2008 9:34 PM
LCM

YES. PLEASE POST THE PICTURES!!!

23 Jul 2008 9:35 PM
Kim

Great story.  There will never be another like Secretariat.  Thanks you writers like you for taking us all back to the glory days of racing.  

23 Jul 2008 9:44 PM
Kathleen Armond

Thanks for the great article on Big Red.I also think that there will never be another Secretariat.

He was a great race horse, and just the sound of his name commands respect and awe.

23 Jul 2008 10:01 PM
American Classic Thoroughbreds L.L.C.

Smile everyone and be happy. For in 2009 Big Red will be on the Big Screen and once again he will save racing. He will fill everyone's heart with passion for this Great Game once again !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

23 Jul 2008 10:03 PM
Bill

Great reminiscences of a great horse and a bygone era we will not see again.  The one and only time I saw Secretariat was the Sunday before the Preakness at a workout at Pimlico.  For some odd reason it was closed to the public, but the press, of course, was invited.  Not having a press pass I crawled under the Rogers Ave. chain link fence and got to the track apron just as Secretariat was flying down the stretch.  The Bloodhorse had a team there measuring his stride.  I believe it was over 30 feet!  I stood by the rail as Turcotte brought Secretariat back after the work.  I was in total awe of that horse.  I've never seen such a beautiful animal. His copper coat glistened in the warm sun and all seemed right with the world on that long ago Sunday in Baltimore. You don't have to be a genius to recognize greatness when you see it.  A memory I will always hold dear.

23 Jul 2008 10:46 PM
Judi T - Mechanicsville, VA

Thank you - for turning back time and helping me to experience the greatness, once again, of our beloved Secretariat. I have carried my love for him, as many of his fans, for 35 years and it is as real to me today as it was in 1973. I am so proud to be a Virginian and live near his birthplace. The State Fair will be relocated to Meadow Farm and they are building a huge equestrian facility. But more importantly, at least to me, they are preserving the stalls of Riva Ridge and Secretariat. Finally, I will be able to visit them and pay tribute to these two Virginia heroes. Long live the memories of the great Secretariat and his stable mate, Riva Ridge. And I too would truly enjoy seeing those pictures mentioned in the story.

23 Jul 2008 11:22 PM
Maggie

Thank you, Mr. Steve Haskin for putting forth this wonderful tribute to a true champion.  I wish I was born and lived during that wondrous Triple Crown season.  Secretariat brought tears to many eyes after the effortless display at the Belmont Stakes that many years ago, and his accomplishment still stirs the imagination and deep emotions today.  There will never be another like him.  All red, white and blue, a patriotic banner that the people cheered and rooted for!

That is correct.  Next year of 2009, we will be able to see a tribute to Big Red on the silverscreen.  And don't worry, everyone.  Caroline County in Virginia is taking care of what's left of the Meadow Farm in due part by the ownership of the Virginia Fair.  They are going to renovate it and make it into a museum where the great champion was born and raised.  It should be open by next year, too.

23 Jul 2008 11:33 PM
Suzanne

As great as he was, Secretariat was not "Big Red". That nickname will forever belong to the incomparable Man O'War.

23 Jul 2008 11:54 PM
For Big Red

I have loved Secretariat since the first time I saw him as a two-year-old. I was privileged to be at the track for several of his races, including the Belmont Stakes. That he still owns the Kentucky Derby and Belmont stakes records (the latter still a world record for 1 1/2 miles on a dirt track) is a testament to his greatness. I cried buckets of tears the day he died. When my time comes, if my destiny is to go to heaven, one of my fondest wishes is to see Red racing across the Meadows up there.

24 Jul 2008 12:11 AM
Cgriff

Great piece, Steve -as usual.  What a neat angle interviewing the Meadow's grooms. Everyone remembers Shorty Sweat - but not many delve back into those yearling days at the Meadow!

And I can see from American Classic Thoroughbreds LLC that word is out about the Disney film.  Then I'll add to the excitement and let everyone in on the Secretariat Festival September 20th - Disney will be there for a Secretariat "Look alike" contest - checking for horses that might be able to be used as Big Red in the film!  

Be there or be square!

24 Jul 2008 12:14 AM
Wanda

Super well written article I really enjoyed it.I was lucky enough to know Ron Turcotte's brothers Ives and Rudy who I believe worked Big Red on occasion.I wish now that I had paid closer attention when Rudy told a story about him and Riva Ridge.

24 Jul 2008 12:14 AM
Bellwether

the state of Va. bought it & it will never look close to what it was...but i did get to see it just the way it was the evening he came to us...i was in the very stall he was born in standing on the very soil he was born on...i bent over & picked up a hand full of it & let it run thru my hands like a hourglass...Long Live The King!!!

24 Jul 2008 12:30 AM
Bellwether

ps...i'm so chocked up i forgot to say one hell of piece Steve...keep DREAMING folks as they really do come true...LLTK!!!

24 Jul 2008 12:35 AM
katsan

It will be nice to see him in a movie. I've watched everything on him for years. Still have the magazines he was on the cover of. Sadly though as so many say he was one of a kind and the good feelings are only temporary with the movies, books and such. If there was only a colt, an owner and a trainer out there that could remind us, we could all feel what Steve brought back to our hearts.

24 Jul 2008 12:54 AM
Shamfan49

One of the biggest disappointments of my life, is I never met Secretariat in person. I thought there would always be time. I was stunned and mad at myself when I learned of his premature passing.

When I read in Blood-Horse that John Henry was alive and well at the Kentucky Horse Park, and had just celebrated his 30th birthday, I was determined to not make the Secretariat mistake again. So my wife and I hopped in the car and drove to Lexington where she and I got to scratch his nose. What a thrill. Now he too is gone.

Those who never have should visit the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington where they might get to scratch the great Cigar's nose before it's too late. While there visit Man O' War's grave.

Don't wait until fate snatches another treasure from us.

Steve, as always your writing is inspirational. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. Now, please help make a stupid old man happy and share your wonderful photos.

24 Jul 2008 12:57 AM
CANDACE J SERVISS

Thank you for the memories of Big Red..he was truly a Super Horse and those of us who saw him run will forever remember that we witness God's most perfect athelete.

24 Jul 2008 1:07 AM
Tammy

Can it really be so many years ago?

And still his greatness shines.

Thank you Mr. Haskin for sharing that reprint. You shine.

24 Jul 2008 2:26 AM
Karen

I was lucky enough to visit Secretariat at Claiborne Farm during his retirement.  He was magnificent and proud as he stood still so I could get a photo of him. The Kentucky sunshine made his chestnut coat gleam. PLEASE POST THE PICTURES!!!!!  

24 Jul 2008 9:18 AM
TripleCrownKaren

'Greatness" is a word folks throw around ALOT today bout certain horses in racing.......But SECRETARIAT was one of the last ones who actually DESERVED the name....AFFIRMED, ALYDAR, SEATTLE SLEW.....unfortunately....they'll never be anymore like them.....we no longer have the "family racing dynasties" who actually CARE about the animal and the sport.

The KING is dead!  I hope to live long enough to catch a glimpse of his kind one more time

24 Jul 2008 9:22 AM
Steve Haskin

Thank you all for your comments. I'm glad I was able to share the memories with everyone. I dont have the means to post photos, but I will try and get it done through someone who does. I'm off to Saratoga now for several days, and I'll see what I can do about posting them with my next tribute. And just a note to ShamFan, people don't realize what a magnificent-looking horse Sham was. I also photographed him being saddled at the Preakness, and he took my breath away. You wont find two more awe-inspiring horses standing next to each other.

24 Jul 2008 9:53 AM
MikeM

I will always remember the first time I saw Big Reds' picture on the cover of Time magazine.Being fifteen and not knowing what a good horse looked like if it kicked me in the head,I was awestruck with his magnificence.I had never before and probably will never again see such a perfect creature.

24 Jul 2008 9:58 AM
Ann

Wonderful article.  However, at the risk of bringing down the wrath of Secretariat fans on my head, I wholeheartedly agree with Suzanne, and have always felt this -- the only "Big Red" was and forever always will be Man O'War.

24 Jul 2008 9:59 AM
Larry Hale

Hi Steve, beautiful story. I last saw Penny and Ron at Woodbine for Big Reds 25th aniversary of running there. Penny was really intersted in a picture I had of Red from 1973. Keep up the good work.

24 Jul 2008 10:00 AM
Dianne

I will never forget the wonderful day when I and a good friend visited Secretariat at Claiborne the same year that he died.  When the groom brought him out to the grassy area near the barn, Secretariat struck a pose with the look of a champion.  My friend and I had our breath taken away and almost forgot to take pictures.  The most wonderful thing happened after that--the stud groom told us "You can pet him."  I was honored to be able to approach and give the grand old man pats on his neck and shoulder with a withers scratch.  I will never forget being in the presence of greatness and Secretariat's Belmont still brings tears to my eyes.

24 Jul 2008 10:06 AM
Laura

Thank you Steve-beautiful story!

24 Jul 2008 10:34 AM
mg

Congatulations on an outstanding article down memory lane. I also was at Pimlico for the Preakness when Secretariat made that awe insiring move on the first turn. I've been in and around racing for over 50 years and have yet to see anything to equal it. The group of horsemen I was with, including myself, thought Turcotte had lost his mind but the "Big Red Machine" kept on grinding. It is truly a shame the malfunction of the timer robbed him of another record, an error the Maryland Jockey Club has yet to rectify to this day, although I believe there is ample proof to warrant the correction. He was truly a magnificent animal and although I'll debate the claim that he was the greatest racehorse of all time, he was certainly the best 3 year old I ever saw and his Belmont will forever be a part of racing history.

It's nice to hear that what is left of the Meadow will be saved and I'm sure all the old boys in your article will make one more trip down the road to see it. Thanks for the memories.

24 Jul 2008 10:36 AM
bruce walker

Hi Steve:  Great read.  Brought back my own memories of Big Red.  I'll never forget the incredible sight of Secretariat, with Ronnie Turcotte, perched over his withers as he clipped over the Marshall Turf Course at Woodbine.  Big Red could be heard rumbling over the lawn before you could see him through the early morning fog.  Then, there he was, such an incredible stride.  The sound emanating from his nostrils was one I'll never forget.  In a flash he was past.  His five furlong time was an amazing 57 and change.  The memory of that moment lives on every time I look at the print of Secretariat, painted by Richard Stone Reeves. Thanks again.

24 Jul 2008 10:41 AM
anne

I watched all of Big Red's races and then went to vist him at  Clairborne twice in the 80's. Have pictures of him happily running around his paddock and "posing" for his picture.  I cried when I heard the news of his passing. It was like losing a special friend. His greatness, beauty and speed will not be surpassed.

24 Jul 2008 11:46 AM
TerriV

I am sitting here at work with tears streaming down my face.  Secretariat has always had the power to move and your article brings him to life again.  My love of racing started with him and he is the benchmark of perfection.  I only got to see him on the screen and pictures but even that is enough to feel his extraordinary charisma. The article about his grooms is perfect because those were the people who shaped him - those who loved him and touched him every day.  Please do post your pictures - Thank you for such a moving tribute.

24 Jul 2008 11:48 AM
Cgriff

Suzanne and Anne -

Well, everyone's entitled to their favorites - and Penny would be the first to say you can't compare horses from different eras - too many variables.

That said - maybe you'd be better trotting over to the Man O War blog up on the B-H now - why try to deliberately instigate here?

Oh - and for the record - numbers and times don't lie - Secretariat would have cleaned Man O War's clock at any distance.  He was the definitive, last "Big Red" and the ultimate "Mostest Hoss" - period!

24 Jul 2008 12:13 PM
MikeM

I know there have been some truly amazing horses in the past but it is really hard to think we will see another one like him.That can probably be said about Ruffian as well.

24 Jul 2008 12:40 PM
Karen2

Steve, I could hardly get through this. Im not sure what my co workers think of me. Sitting at my desk crying like a baby. I'm sure there are all kinds of rumours flying. Wondering what it is on this computer that has me so fascinated and consumed. I won't tell them its the blog stable at Blood horse and the incomparable writings of a gentleman that literally brings me into the world of thoroughbred horse racing that I love so much. For those of you that have been fortunate enough to be at these races and seen the great ones in person, you don't know how lucky you are. Stories like this are so special to me because I grew up and still live a world away from all this but for some reason was bitten by the horse and horse racing bug before I could speak (so my mom says). Someday I hope to take pictures of my own and watch a big race live instead of watching the replays over and over. Until then, thank you Steve, for bringing this world to me. I can actually see Big Red's coat shining in the sun. How will I ever manage to get through the movie on the big screen? I better wait and watch it at home ; )

24 Jul 2008 12:57 PM
GeeGees

While I was not lucky enough to see Secretariat race I was and still am lucky enough to know two people who had a lot to do with him.  I met Eddie Sweat(now passed on) years ago at Woodbine when he came to Canada to work for Roger Laurin.  He was good friends with the night watchman in our barn and I was introduced.  He never tired of telling taled and never minded any of the questions that a young girl could ask.  Now, I have been introduced to Charlie Davis, Secretariats exercise rider during the triple crown year.  He too is the ultimate gentleman, never hesitating to recall anything that you may want to know.  Again thank you for such a great story.    

24 Jul 2008 1:20 PM
Alada

Yes, plese show us the photos.  Alada was a daughter of Riva Ridge.  They need to be remembered together with Christopher Chenery and all the people that loved and cared for these great horses and Meadow Stables.  Thanks for the memories :}

24 Jul 2008 2:36 PM
Monica V

Steve,

I had to comment on your story.  It was beautifully written and so interesting to hear the stories of rhe men who took care of Secrerariat in his pre-race days.  It must have been something to have been around that magical horse.

I was lucky enough to visit Secretariat at Claiborne the year before he died.  I will never forget it because I remember thinking "I am standing next to true greatness".  I was in awe of him and I still am.  It's so nice to be able to watch his races still but the heart aches that he has passed on with so many other great ones.  I loved that horse more than I can possibly say and I am so glad I did get to see him and thank you so much for bringing him back in this article for us to almost experience him again.

24 Jul 2008 3:02 PM
Julie L.

I fight back tears when I read about some of the old farms/stables going out the way that they are. Once gone we will never be able to bring them back, some may try but it just won't be the same.

24 Jul 2008 3:04 PM
Suzie

Steve, what a touching, fitting tribute to a magnificent horse.  You hit it out of the park again, taking me on that sentimental journey back to racing's glory days. I still get a lump in my throat watching the replay of Secretariat's Belmont romp when "Secretariat is moving like a tremendous machine" is uttered.

You're right on target about Sham being quite a handsome boy; I saw him at Spendthrift Farm and he was gorgeous.  Like Shamfan, I too missed the opportunity to see Secretariat "in person" so when visiting the Bluegrass region, racing fans may want to not just go to Ky. Horse Park but also Old Friends. What a wonderful place - I was able to see Ogygian and Sunshine Forever before it was too late.

Thanks again, Steve - great job as always.  I would love to see the photos too, and look forward to them being posted.

24 Jul 2008 4:27 PM
TerriV

There really is no point in comparing horses.  They are all magical.  If God created any creature in His image it is the horse.  From a cranky old broodmare to the most royally bred foal, they are all noble and generous with an ability to touch your heart if you let them.  The thing that lifts Secretariat above them all is that just watching him move is an emotional, moving, almost religious experience that still brings joy and awe to all who see him.  People who know no other horse know Secretariat and that in itself is quite a legacy.

24 Jul 2008 4:49 PM
Karen2

TerriV: you are absolutely correct. Great post!

24 Jul 2008 7:08 PM
needler in Virginia

miss him, miss him, miss him.........but I'm seeing Bill Nack again this weekend at the Virginia Horse Center and he has FILM of the Big Guy!!

BE THERE! VA Horse Center, where I-64 meets I-81, 1 to 5 pm AND he'll be signing books, too.

Film will help, but I still miss him, miss him, miss him................

Thank you, yet again, Steve. I've printed you out so this doesn't get lost in the shuffle of B-H updates. Have a lovely time at the Spa.

24 Jul 2008 10:02 PM
Shamfan49

Steve, as you noticed by my handle, I have a special spot in my heart for Sham and would love all photos of him that exist so I can clutter my walls. In my opinion, if Sham had been born any other year but 1970, he would have been listed among the Triple Crown Champions. Just as Alydar was stopped in his Crown Quest by Affirmed, Sham was stopped by Secretariat.

In their Kentucky Derby, we all know that Secretariat set the stakes and track record that still stands. But most people don't know that Sham also beat Northern Dancer's 1964 record that day. Alas, we can never know his actual time. We are forced to use artificial methods such as 5 lengths equals a second, but we do what we can. Also, Sham ran that Derby after practicing dentistry without a license on himself using the starting gate as a tool. Ouch!

In that literally timeless Preakness, when Pimlico truly dropped the watch, we can never know what Secretariat's actual running time was. Daily Racing Form insisted it was 1:53 2/5 which would have set a new Preakness record by 3/5 second. Since Sham finished 2 1/2 lengths back, using the old rule of thumb that 1 length = 1/5 second, Sham also bettered the old Preakness standard.

Rightfully, we all marvel at Secretariat's Belmont. Truly the standard by which all other thoroughbreds are found wanting. What is overlooked is that Sham played a major part in that by engaging Greatest Red in a speed duel that many in attendance thought would burn out both of them. It only got Secretariat warmed up. Sham did flame out, and I don't think he ever raced again. He was the 1973 Santa Anita Derby Champion, and that track still honors his memory with the annual G-3 Sham Stakes. Watching the replay of that Belmont, even I can see Sham’s legs turn to mush. He gave us all he had, so we could crown The Champion.

After his death, Secretariat’s autopsy revealed that he had a super heart. I shamelessly ripped off Marianna Haun, who studied the large heart gene in thoroughbreds, from the web site "horsesonly.com/.../heart-1.htm" by copying and pasting the following to my word processor:

“Following the tradition of burying just the head, heart and hooves of great racehorses, Eclipse was cut open by a London surgeon after his death in 1789. The heart found inside of Eclipse was so much larger than other horses that it was weighed. Eclipse’s great heart weighed 14 pounds, more than twice the normal weight of hearts of horses of that era – approximately six pounds.

“Today, the normal weight of a horse’s heart is 8.5 pounds. Even though Secretariat’s heart was not weighed at autopsy, Dr. Thomas Swerczek, head pathologist at the University of Kentucky, estimated it at 22 pounds after finding the second-largest heart in Sham (Secretariat’s Triple Crown rival) and weighing it at 18 pounds.”

I also liberally used Bill Nack’s words to fill in the gaps in my brain. Thank you, Mr. Nack, for your masterpiece of thoroughbred biography, “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion”.

24 Jul 2008 10:38 PM
Laura

Thanks so much for sharing with us your recollections of this magical creature, and for all your blog entries!  It would be wonderful and very much appreciated if you could either post your Big Red photos here or direct us to sites where we might be able to see and purchase them.  Many thanks and may the horse be with you!      

25 Jul 2008 12:12 AM
Wanda

I read over all the comments on this blog and it's hard to believe how he touched so many people.Amazing really because of the world we live in today, I hope you people never lose that. Hey MonicaV nice to hear from you again.

25 Jul 2008 12:38 AM
nancy

I galloped many years and  made a respectful practice of not walking into barns where I wasn't working.  

I made only two exceptions.  

I went to see Personal Ensign.  She was getting a bath in the inner courtyard late one morning after her gallop; she was already a queen -way before Breeder's Cup.

And then, one morning at Keeneland Lucian Laurn was standing in the sun in an empty shed row after training.  I so wanted to shake his hand. I approached ... Mr. Laurin?  He was so very gracious.  I asked if he'd been out to see the big horse. He said yea, he had been, but really, the only person Secretariat cared about was Sweat.  We laughed and talked a moment, I told him it was nice to meet him and went back to my barn to clean my tack.

25 Jul 2008 1:14 AM
lance guranovich

 mr. haskin,

some years ago at arlinton park, you and chris mccarron signed the book you wrote about john henry. i treasure it and along with forego, they are two of my top three horses of all time.

my first time at the track was in 1952 and that was at washington park, so i have seen a lot of great race horses over the years.

during the 50's and 60's, arlington took a back seat to nobody in terms of quality race horses , jockeys and trainers, so i was able to see a lot of great ones.i have attended 13 breeders' cups and that can be added to my list.

the list could go on and on, but there will never be another secretariat and i will argue that point until i die.

i loved northern dancer as a race horse and he was one of the most prolific sires of the 20th century, which entitles him to be in select company as a thoroughbred, but secretariat is one for all time, no matter what he didn't do in the breeding shed.

i never had the good fortune to see him race, but one of the highlights of my life was to see him at claiborne.

the grooms there were unbelievably gracious. they brought out danzig, cox's ridge, devil's bag, tom rolfe and others, but secretariat was at another level.

we spent 15 minutes with him. we petted him, gave him peppermints and in general, stood there in awe of him.

i raised some thoroughbreds with some pretty decent sires and i have respect for all horses that go out there and run, but those 15 minutes are irreplaceable in my heart and mind.

when i read your story about meadow farm and secretariat's grooms,it brought back a warm, but bittersweet and melancholy feeling similar to my rememberance of playing kick the can on a warm summer night on my city block.

it says so much for an period rich in quality and class from the chenery family to the men like charlie ross who brought us secretariat.

i want to remember it that way and even though i don't believe that there will ever be another secretariat, i don't want another one. call it selfishness, but that was a truly special time and i want it stay that way.

25 Jul 2008 4:56 AM
charles

I saw Big Red win the futurity at Garden Stae Park then the Triple Crown.He is and will always be my favorite horse.

He was successful as a sire despite the knock on him as a stud.He just did not reproduce himself. But I was told by a very knowledable person in Lexington KY when he was racing that he would be a broodmare sire as he resembled Discovery  his paternal dam sire, who also was a very good broodmare sire.

25 Jul 2008 9:50 AM
Carolyn

What a superbly written piece. There was mascara running all over my face by the time I was done reading it, which was less than impressive to the folks at work. I saw Secretariat win the TC as a 10 year old and he left an indelible impression on me. Not only did I purchase every book and video about him I could find, but my first two horses were red chestnuts with white.

It's so sad that the grandeur of The Meadow has faded so terribly and memories are all we have of this great red horse but time marches on. There will never be another Secretariat.

25 Jul 2008 10:52 AM
MikeM

Amazing to hear Jack Nicklaus say that Big Reds performance in the Belmont was so incredible it brought tears to his eyes. He made that comment in the documentary of the 100 Greatest Athletes.

25 Jul 2008 11:19 AM
draynot

What can I say but a great article about one of the greatest ever.  They sure don't make them like they used to. Thanks Steve it was great reading.

25 Jul 2008 12:51 PM
Maggie

First and foremost, thank you Mr. Steve Haskin for sending me the recap of Tiznow in the Breederscup Classic!  I feel rude for asking you to do that and to spend so much of postage for me.  I am most obligated to return to you your payment for your generosity.

And another second thank you for this wonderful rendition and publication to the mighty Big Red.  I only wish that I could have been born and seen him during that time.  Unfortunately, fate and time proceeded me to be born at a much later date, inhibiting me from ever personally witnessing the patriotic banner of red, white, and blue materializing to that of a superhorse by the grace of God.  As a Virginia-bred, I do have a bias towards him, but in spite of such favoritism, Secretariat stirs the imagination and such powerful emotions that pour forth a waterfall of tears.  No horse could possibly capture my heart in that way.  Tiznow came close with his breathtaking, all-heart performances, but no horse surpasses the brilliant spectacle as Secretariat.

I do have to say that you should come down to the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs next year.  During that time, the Secretariat movie might be out, of which I’m most eager to see on the silver screen.  That’ll be as close as I can get to see the real thing and even the movies falls short to the truth.

Needler in Virginia, thank you for telling us when, where, and at what time Mr. Bill Nack will be in Virginia.  I am just as excited as you about the film honoring Big Red.  I appreciate you telling us; unfortunately, I can’t participate because family are coming in today for my oldest brother’s birthday.  We’ll be quite busy this weekend.  Who knows…I might be able to spare some free time and get an autograph.  Again, thank you for your information!

25 Jul 2008 1:51 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you all very much for your commnts. I appreciate it. I am up in Saratoga and it's difficult using my back-up computer, so I will address some of your comments when I return. I was only able to skim over most of them. Thank you again.

25 Jul 2008 3:32 PM
shamfan49

I do not understand the knock on Secretariat as a stallion. He sired Hall of Famer Lady's Secret, General Assembly, who last time I checked still holds the record for 10 furlongs at Saratoga, 1988 Belmont and Preakness Champion Risen Star who's Belmont clocking was 2nd only to his Dad's at that time (since bettered by Point Given and grandson A.P. Indy), Melbourne Cup Champion Kingston Rule, 1978 Canadian Champion 2 year old Medaille D'Or, the speedy Pancho Villa, Japanese millionaire Secre Faster, Grade I winning filly Super Staff and Tinner's Way who won a French G-1 at 3, the G-1 Pacific Classic at 4 and 5, and the G-1 Californian at 6. In all, According to Bill Nack, Secretariat sired "53 stakes winners out of a total of 663 named foals" (8%). But as charles brought up in his post at 9:50 AM today, Secretariat truly made his mark as a broodmare sire. Just like Discovery, his paternal dam sire, but also like his damsire Princequillo. All any doubters need to know is that he sired the following notable dams: I'm Pretty (Judge T C), Lady Winborne (Al Mamoon, Lost Soldier), Terlingua (Storm Cat, Pioneering, Wheaton), Weekend Surprise (A.P. Indy, Honor Grades, Summer Squall), Sister Dot (Dehere, Defrere), Betty's Secret (Secreto), Secretame (Gone West, Demidoff), Six Crowns (Chief's Crown) and Athyka (Atticus). More information is available in Churchill, Reichard and Roger's really heavy book "Great Thoroughbred Sires of the World" plus at www.pedigreequery.com.

25 Jul 2008 4:44 PM
JudiO

Thanks for the memoirs - love reading anything about Secretariat and that time.  I have a granddaughter of his and sometimes am awed that those marvelous bloodlines are in my sweet mare.

25 Jul 2008 5:59 PM
Karen2

Lance Guranovich: I loved your post as much as I loved this story. Thank you for sharing it with us. I also agree there will never be another Secretariat and I am in full agreement there shouldn't be. He deserves to stand as the legend he is. You are so lucky to have the memory of spending 15 minutes with him. I know people who dream of meeting celebritys. I also dream of meeting a celebrity, but not a human one. No Way. Take me to the barn any day of the week. There is one exception though. I wouldn't mind meeting Steve Haskin and following him around a track for a day. Now that would be an experience. No, I'm not sucking up. Just telling it like it is.

25 Jul 2008 6:56 PM
Plenilune

Thank you, Steve. I absolutely love your historical pieces. I was introduced to horse racing before Secretariat but when I watched him win the Triple Crown on TV, I was head over heals in love with him, and racing. Just a kid, but it was all so wonderful. Thank you for recording the grooms' oral histories of Secretariat's early days and their memories of the farm and family who bred, raised and raced such legendary horses. I really need to get you some peach salsa, whatever it takes, LOL! Have fun in Saratoga. :-)

25 Jul 2008 7:06 PM
Grandefan

Thank you, Mr. Haskins, for reviving some great memories.  Secretariat was and will always be the "one and only." His legacy lives on to inspire us. Thank you for bringing the vivid memories back.

25 Jul 2008 7:53 PM
Matthew W

Secretariat's Triple Crown was the greatest of them all by a long ways! He always missed the break by several lengths and it didn't matter--against real good ones--like Sham, who was just that--a very strong crop whom he dominated--and he dominated them all---of corse he failed sometimes but you just threw that out he was so good....and that alone is saying something and if you were there you know what I mean....more than a horse of a lifetime, truly more.....

25 Jul 2008 8:59 PM
Suzanne

I thought I'd share some trivia about Secretariat that most of you probably don't know. His first foal was an Appaloosa colt named First Secretary! As a long time breeder of Apps, I remember seeing the birth on TV and wondering what all that stuff was on his hips, it turned out to be a spotted white blanket on a beautiful chestnut colt. His dam was a fine App mare named Leola, owned by Sahaptin Farm in Winona,Minn. There was a beautiful picture on the cover of the Appaloosa News in Feb. 1975. I still have that issue.

25 Jul 2008 9:44 PM
Suzanne

By the way, I wasn't comparing Man O'War to Secretariat, I was just referring to a historical nickname.

25 Jul 2008 9:48 PM
Matthew W

BTW.....HWH--ROCKS!!!!

25 Jul 2008 10:04 PM
For Big Red

I had the wonderful privilege of spending a day at the races with Lucien Laurin at Santa Anita in the early 1990's. We spent the day talking about Red and other horses Lucien had trained. He blamed himself for each of the races Red lost as a 3-yr-old, and the jockeys for Red's two losses as a 2-yr-old (one not an actual loss, but a controversial disqualification in the Champagne Stakes). Lucien always said that Secretariat should never have been beaten, but that it was human error which caused his defeats. Lucien had a long career, starting out as a jockey in 1929, then as a trainer starting in 1945. He was born in 1912, so he was old enough to remember Man o'War. There was no doubt whatsoever in Lucien's mind that Secretariat was the greatest horse to ever look through a bridle. This is taking nothing away from Man o'War, by the way. The eras in which the two Big Reds raced were vastly different. Both deserve their places at the very top of the sport. They should have been named co-number one on the list of the greatest horses of the 20th Century. Secretariat was second in greatness to no other horse, not even Man o'War.

26 Jul 2008 1:02 AM
ozzie8820

Big Red is as much of an American icon as the Bald Eagle,Star Spangled Banner and the American Flag! Although there have been many great's to grace the track's none of them have ever been equal to Secretariat.

26 Jul 2008 4:25 AM
ozzie8820

I doubt that anyone will recall Straight Flush...half brother to the great Secretariat. Straight Flush was sired by Riva Ride out of somethingroyal. He had a dismal career as a racehorse and he didn't fair any better as a Stud. He was rescued from a feed lot in Texas and given a new lease on life with Neal Arave. He lived out the rest of his life in Hemet,California with a bunch of other retired "MILLION AIR" race horses. Straight Flush passed on September 3rd,2007 He was affectionately know as "daddy"

26 Jul 2008 4:44 AM
Jim Gaffney

Hi Steve,

Thank you for Secretariat's farm history in the early years.  I read things in your article that I had never known of the big guy.  Hopefully the Walt Disney people will take some notes for the upcoming movie.  Secretariat was such a grand horse to be around and it was also my pleasure to work with a groom like Eddie (Shorty) Sweat.  I had worked with Shorty in 1963 and again in 1972-73.  He had such a way of getting along with horses.  A book title "The Horse That God Built" is a story of Sweat and his early years with horses and his love for Secretariat.  William Nack also has a book titled "Secretariat, The Making Of A Champion" and both books are in all major book stores.  Steve's stories are a great addition to the Secretariat history and want to thank him for  doing his research and putting together a wonderful story.

Turcotte, Gaffney and Davis will be signing pictures at the track in Saratoga Springs Saturday and Sunday, August 2nd and 3rd, 2008.

Do drop by and say hello...we are always happy to meet Secretariat fans or all horse lovers in general...:o)

Jim Gaffney

26 Jul 2008 5:25 AM
For Big Red

ozzie8820 -- That is both a sad and an uplifting story about Straight Flush. Thanks for sharing it with us. I'm glad he had a good life in retirement. It's a subject for another thread someday, but the sport needs to do more for horses like Straight Flush.

26 Jul 2008 1:54 PM
Old Gray Mare

Thanks for the memories..

I look forward to the pictures. There is little left of Meadow Farm but VA -did- put yp a roadside historical marker.

Cold Comfort

26 Jul 2008 2:42 PM
For Big Red

Steve and Jim, while we're remembering Red's early days, do you know whatever happened to his stable pony, Billy Silver? If memory serves, he was a roan Appaloosa gelding. Here's a nice YouTube video memorial to him. www.youtube.com/watch

26 Jul 2008 7:07 PM
Racefan66

Thanks so much for another beautiful walk through history.  It makes me cry to think how many farms that hold important pieces of racing history have gone to ruins (or worse, developers).  I'm glad that we at least have the stories of those who knew him best preserved.

I hope that you can find someone to post those pictures of Red, they sound amazing.

26 Jul 2008 11:32 PM
Elaine Tillery

Thanks 'For Big Red' for the video of Billy silver. He looks like he enjoyed the attention. Does anyone know where he is buried?

27 Jul 2008 1:35 PM
janet

could you please help me locate this one photo of secretariat. The Kentucky Derby when they hit the first turn and secretariat is dead last. Thank You.

27 Jul 2008 10:08 PM
Kelly E.

Steve, you are the Master at bringing life and emotion to these stories of the glory days.  I am forever grateful to you and, of course, to all those connected to the great champion Secretariat.

28 Jul 2008 1:32 PM
Monica V

Wanda!

You and I are kindred spirits!  So happy to see you again.  Secretariat was my all-time favorite and when he died, I cried and was sent a sympathy card by a friend for my loss.  How sweet is that?  I haven't posted much in the blogs as I cannot seem to keep from fighting with Draynay and I just don't want to do that anymore.  It's like pounding your head against the wall.  August 3 will be interesting.  My feeling is BB will come in 3rd.  I could be wrong but it's just a feeling.

Hope all is well with you.

28 Jul 2008 3:00 PM
shamfan49

Suzanne, On 7/252008 at 9:44 PM you posted a comment about Secretariat's first foal. In it you wrote, "I remember seeing the birth on TV". Did you by chance tape that show? What show was it? Thanks for the information.

28 Jul 2008 8:14 PM
Matthew W

"For Big Red"--I absolutely agree with you that Secretariat should not have lost--and he was beaten four times---whether it was Lucien or just Big Red himself just loafing---if you were there you KNEW he was SO GOOD....that the sound beatings he did endure just did not matter..and still don't....I loved Lucien Lauren and I loved Penny Tweedy and all her class and nervousness about Big Red of Meadow Stable....I remember the special race they set up at Arlington for him vs Our Native and My Gallant right after the Belmont---ABC's Chris Shenkel interviewed Penny and Lucien AS THE RACE WENT ON---there was no televised "call" just Lucien talking about why he always broke a step slow (didn't matter!!)and the precious Mrs Tweedy gettin' all antsy about My Gallant coming "close" to Red---yeah, like within eight lengths or so but that was Penny----my God, even I'M tearing up, I was a fourteen year old paperboy, yearning to work at the A&W, where the sign read "Secretariat Drinks A&W Rootbeer"---there was no horse of all time who shadows Big Red Of Meadow Stable---his Triple Crown has never been approached--he missed the break in The Derby and Preakness and was handridden in record time---and then came the three week "lull" for The Belmont, when Secretariat was put on the covers of Time and Newsweek, labeled "Superhorse"---that preceeded his historic Belmont, racing's all-time tour de force----the fact is, all three of Secretariat's wins were epic---his Derby AND Preakness runs are to be compared favorably with all others, that is why I think Secretariat is more, much more than a horse of a lifetime....

28 Jul 2008 10:58 PM
Alan

Nice write, Steve.

A story Ron Turcotte told about a conversation he once had with Eddie Arcaro, and worth repeating here:

Turcotte: "Eddie, which was the best horse you ever rode?"

Arcaro: "Kelso."

Turcotte: "Better than Citation?"

Arcaro: "Yeah...and that big, red SOB you ride is the best there's ever been!"

Some trivia that some might not be aware of:

Works: three furlongs--32:3

      five furlongs--57:1

      one mile--133 (and change)

In addition to the still current K. Derby and Belmont S. (World) Records, his 11/8 mile Belmont Park track record on dirt (1:45 and something) is also still the record.

Imagine if he'd actually been asked to run, how many more records would have been broken.

He faced twice the number of horses that Man O' War did, in the same number of races, and against much stiffer competition.

Eclipse Champions and future HOF members defeated: Forgo, Riva Ridge, Cougar II, Shecky Greene, Key To the Mint (all but Forgo were older). And poor Sham would have been a Champion most any year, but for "you-know-who."

Very first race on grass, broke Belmont's 11/2 mile course record (2:24:4) and defeated the best turf horses in N.A. Like Lucian Laurin had said on another occasion, "It's unbelievable, isn't it?"

29 Jul 2008 4:00 AM
Wanda

Shamfan49 I remember reading about that in a horse magazine. Horse and Rider I believe it was. It was a big article two pages at least. Hope that helps you.

29 Jul 2008 10:55 AM
mooks2k

Steve, thanks for the nice article. I look forward to the others. I was 15 when SECRETARIAT won the triple crown and have never seen anything close to his brilliance and don't think I ever will. I wish CBS would release the entire broadcasts(about 50 min each) of all 3 of his triple crown races (digitally enhanced and commercial free) on DVD. I  e-mailed CBS requesting this months ago and also secretariat . com and have not received any reply as to the chances of that happening. I think they would be big sellers. Any chance you could get this to happen?  Anyway, can't wait for more on Big Red.

29 Jul 2008 1:59 PM
Steve Haskin

I doubt I could get that to happen, but I do have a VHS tape of all three CBS telecasts, the same as you're requesting. It's amazing how different those old telecasts are compared to now. There were no features or taped interviews. It was all live as it happened. Sometimes it got a bit tedious, with little flow, but there was something great about seeing things as they happen. The cheers that resounded from the grandstand when Secretariat returned after the Belmont and Turcotte took off his cap and saluted the crowd was quite stirring to say the least.

29 Jul 2008 4:35 PM
ozzie8820

For Big Red.

Thanks for the accolades on Straight Flush. He was one of the lucky few that got a repreve in the 11th hour. Although there are a few in the racing industry that do the right thing by their horses every day there are many more that don't. There are some programs in place that give exracehorses a new role in life,but there certainly are not enough people takeing advantage of it. As for Big Red...well he was just a PHENOM! He was truely an incredible horse that came along when we need him. He brought more people in to the sport of horseracing and got them excited about the sport all over again! Big Red accomplished just as much off the track as he did on it. I would love to see another horse like Big Red come along in my life time, but I think that is just a pipe dream for now. But who know's, unexpected thing's happen every day!

29 Jul 2008 5:01 PM
Buster08

Great articles about Secretariat - never tire of reading about him.

Can someone please provide a little more information regarding the Disney / Secretariat film project ? I keep searching the internet, but only find vague references to it, nothing definite about times, dates, progress, etc.  Also, intrested in the comment about the "Secretariat Festival on September 20th".

30 Jul 2008 2:54 PM
Redchriscam2

I was thrilled to read the comments from 'Suzanne' regarding the birth of Secretariat's first colt foal. I moved over from Arabians to Appaloosas as my age increased. My first mare was a great, great granddaughter of Secretariat. She was a wonderful, willing, fun horse I had as a two year old until her death in 2007. Her daughter is chestnut with a white blanket, and her daughter in turn, is chestnut with a white spotted bottom. She is the double of Secretariat, although smaller. We now have her half brother,bay, four white stockings, white blaze and a full spotted blanket with a white thin blaze. I NEVER sell my horses, we have two Arabians out on loan and even my son's twenty five year old Shetland with the same farming family teaching grandchildren. My ancient Arabian mare was put to sleep at home after developing bad arthritis aged twenty six. I cross breed my Apps to my friends' beautiful Arabian, I have the daughter of my first Appy, ten year old, near leopard like her mother, marvellous temperament, but is very jealous of me touching other horses! It moved me very much to read the story of Straight Flush; here in the UK we are fighting the transportation of horses across Europe, in awful conditions,for slaughter in France/Italy.Why can we not treasure all animals particularly horses which often have close contact with humans?

01 Sep 2008 12:54 PM
Keith

Suzanne wrote a comment about Secretariat's first foal being features on the cover of the Apalossa News Feb 1975 . If she would be so nice to try to send me a scanned photo I would appreciate it. We have been blessed with a miracle colt with what has been described as First Secretary's markings. I worked security for the Preakness in 1973 and was at the finish line when Secretariat won. I would look forward to any pictures any one has of the finish line, winners circle etc.. as I was there as well. I walked Secretariat back to the paddocks too.

05 Nov 2008 7:41 AM
WhiteCamry

Anyone who remembers LILCO will not be surprised by this:

I was 12.  I lived in Merrick, some 30 minutes drive from Belmont, though I wouldn't go there until my 40s.  The day was in the 90s.  My head was filled with media hype about the upcoming Belmont.  My father and I set up a portable television out on the back porch - out house had no a/c.  Just as Big Red II stepped onto the track for the post parade ...

Blackout!

And the sickest thing was, we weren't at all surprised.

My father scrambled to get his Sony portable AM Radio.  He tuned it to 1500 AM, the CBS Radio station, still his favorite to this day.  He sat back and listened like the child of radio he was.  Television brat that I was, I stared at the Time magazine cover and cursed the twisted fates.

Then Chic Andersen started counting 'em off ...

27 Jul 2009 12:22 PM
Lady Kafca

Somebody better scoop these guys up and bring them to the opening of the Secretariat Movie red carpet event...someone better find out who is responsible for the red carpet preview and get them (grooms) to the viewing.  God shame us all if they aren't invited.

06 Sep 2010 11:12 PM
Darlene

I will always cherish the day I met Secretariat July 1989 I didnt know that I would never see him again but I am so thankful that I did His groom gave me a lock of his hair which still hangs on my wall along with his picture. There will never be another like him I still cant believe he is gone every time I am in Ky. I visit his grave at Claiborne farm  I hope Secretariat and his stable mate Riva Ridge the two champions of Meadow stable that now rests together at Claiborne will never be forgotten.  

22 Sep 2010 2:03 PM
"SPEC"

have visited meadow recently as va. state fair location.

but had  several occasions to ramble about the acreage remaining while owner prior to fair ownership lived in new brick home built on foundation of original chenery home.

thhat owner had collected great amonuts of information and memrobilia about  meadow horse operations and had interviewed chenery' able aging lady secretary up north.

she had provided great experiences.

farm manager gentry had also.

so with those opportunities to finger through cards.files and records i became closer to big red.

just saw prevue of disney movie SECRETARIAT.

 they did ample human interest job in the production.

several years ago. raymie woolfe and penny had anopportunity to get movie produced ,but some scenes were not acceptable in the script.

thanks for your compilationespeciqally of the grooms and hard working dedicated employees that respected the chenerys because of their respect for their family of employees.

04 Oct 2010 12:43 AM

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