Big Red and the Winter of '73

It’s hard to believe 40 years have passed since the winter of 1973. Racing’s two hubs as usual were Hialeah and Gulfstream in Florida and Santa Anita in California. The only sounds that were heard at Aqueduct were the winds howling off Jamaica Bay and the squawking of the seagulls.

Soon, track workers would begin preparation for opening day on March 1 when the grays and whites of winter would be replaced by colorful beds of tulips and a kaleidoscope of jockey silks. The sounds of horses thundering down the stretch would again resound throughout the grandstand that had been hushed for two months.

Although there was plenty to excite racing fans elsewhere, with the brilliant Linda’s Chief, trained by a young transplanted New Yorker, Bobby Frankel, and the budding star Sham dominating the 3-year-old scene in California and names like Our Native, My Gallant, Royal and Regal, and a late-developing mountain of a horse named Forego sharing the glory in Florida.

But they were all merely opening acts for the eagerly anticipated debut of racing’s $6 million horse and reigning Horse of the Year, Secretariat. What made Secretariat’s record $6,080,000 syndication price so remarkable was the fact that he had not even raced at 3. No horse had swept racing’s Triple Crown since Citation in 1948, and the buzz was already in the air that Secretariat was unbeatable, even though there were stamina questions concerning his sire, Bold Ruler, perhaps the most dominant sire of 2-year-olds ever .

So, here was this newly turned 3-year-old, who had not run beyond 1 1/16 miles, already valued at $1.8 million more than the great Buckpasser, $2.8 million more than Dr. Fager, and $3.5 million more than Damascus.

His owner, Penny Tweedy, who only a couple of years earlier was a housewife in Colorado, and Claiborne Farm president Seth Hancock, who took over the farm after the death of his father “Bull” Hancock,” had pulled off one the great coups in the art of horse trading, and selling their product as a must-have commodity. The fear of missing out on a sure thing and not being part of the next Triple Crown winner had the sport’s top breeders and shrewdest businessmen calling Tweedy and Hancock to obtain a piece of her four-legged gold mine.

On Feb. 26, 1973, the record syndication was announced. Tweedy’s late father, Christopher Chenery, who founded Meadow Stud and had died a short time earlier, on Jan. 3, would have been proud. His daughter, who knew little about the intricacies of the Sport of Kings, had kept the farm alive, despite the urging of her family to sell.

What helped give her credibility in the business was the way she stepped in and managed the career of Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Riva Ridge the year before. But even Riva’s accomplishments had to take a back seat to the stable’s 2-year-old phenom, whose near-perfect comformation, muscular physique, and glistening chestnut coat earned him the title “Big Red.”  

But with Tweedy’s financial conquest came the pressure of now having to fulfill the high expectations and heavy investments. Tweedy had already won the Derby, and she and many others felt anything short of a Triple Crown sweep would be a disappointment, considering the heavy financial burden the colt carried.

Tweedy and trainer Lucien Lauren had an immediate scare when Secretariat developed a small splint in his foreleg while stabled at Hialeah. But it was still early in the year. The leg was pinfired and he soon returned to training. He was nearing his debut, but when Tweedy encountered delays in settling her father’s estate, it was decided to wait until the seven-furlong Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct.

Secretariat’s arrival at Barn 5 at Belmont Park brought a steady stream of reporters, photographers, and TV cameramen, who waited patiently outside the barn for racing’s biggest star to emerge.

Because of his hulking physique, which had carried layers of baby fat when he was younger, Secretariat needed to work fast in order to get him sharp and fit. One would never get the impression by looking at him that he was capable of blazing fast works. But as he matured, his baby fat was replaced my muscle, his neck rippled as he lowered it and stretched it to the limit, and his stride grew to mammoth proportions. And what no one was able to see was the abnormally large heart that enabled him to do things other horses couldn’t.

As the Bay Shore neared, you could feel the tension building. Were we going to see the same Secretariat we saw the year before or something even more phenomenal? Of course, there is always the slight chance you could see a regression from 2, but that didn’t seem likely, especially when Secretariat had onlookers gasping in disbelief when he blew out three furlongs the Wednesday before the race in :32 3/5.

But there are always a number of factors that can contribute to a horse’s defeat, as Secretariat showed in his career debut, when he was knocked sideways coming out of the gate, and in the Champagne Stakes when he was disqualified from first. Heavy rains the day before the Bay Shore turned the track sloppy, and it remained muddy on race day, which dawned gray and ugly and stayed that way all afternoon.

I walked the three long blocks to Flatlands Avenue, where I would take the Pioneer bus to Aqueduct, as I had been doing since 1967. Through the cloud of cigar smoke that permeated the bus came the constant chatter of Daily Double talk, who had what winners the day before, and of course, the Bay Shore.

Instead of watching the race from the grandstand, as I normally did, I decided to stand at the rail with my trusty Canon F1 in the hope of getting a good shot of Secretariat as he came charging by me.

At the start, Secretariat, as expected, dropped back in the field of six. He moved up steadily along the rail with the hard-knocking Champagne Charlie lapped on him. There was a feeling of trepidation, as Secretariat was running up behind a wall of horses with no escape route. Turcotte kept pushing on him around the far turn and was able to ease out when Champagne Charlie left him and moved up to challenge the leaders.

As they hit the head of the stretch, Turcotte had the option of going outside Champagne Charlie and Impecunious, but when a small opening appeared inside Impecunious and outside Actuality, who had snuck through on the rail, he decided to go for it. It was a major risk to put Secretariat in such a precarious spot, and for a brief instant it looked as Turcotte had made a colossal mistake. As soon as he went for the inside route, the hole closed and Secretariat and Turcotte found themselves in what looked like a compromising situation. If they had gotten shut off badly and somehow lost the race, the uproar would have been heard round the racing world, especially in his own camp.

But despite the risk involved, Turcotte didn’t hesitate. He knew what was at stake and just aimed the big battering ram beneath him at the shrinking hole and let him bull his way through. Big Red eased everyone’s mind by bursting through in a flash, despite taking a bump or two. He quickly opened up and drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths as everyone, especially Tweedy and Laurin, breathed a sigh of relief.

I did manage to get one decent shot of Secretariat jogging by with his neck arched before the race, but I didn’t even bother to take anything of the stretch run. I was too caught up in the drama that was unfolding, and it was enough just watching.

The Bay Shore was an important race for Secretariat. In addition to showing he had made progress from 2 to 3, it also proved to everyone he was not just another pretty face, but a horse who could handle the heat of battle and use his brute strength if the going got rough.

In the Gotham Stakes three weeks later, Secretariat gave everyone an even bigger scare by reversing tactics and going to the front, setting blistering fractions of :45 1/5 and 1:08 3/5, while opening a two-length lead turning for home. But nearing the eighth pole, Champagne Charlie came flying up alongside him and pulled on even terms. It looked as if the gray had the momentum, but Secretariat had a lot more in the tank. He surged back in front and drew clear to win by three lengths, equaling the track record of 1:33 2/5 for the mile.

Morning Telegraph/DRF columnist Charlie Hatton wrote; “Secretariat couldn’t have gone any faster had they thrown him off the grandstand roof.”

The Wood Memorial was supposed to be just a stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby and there was no one left to fear in New York. Then came word that trainer Pancho Martin was doing the unconventional and sending his Santa Anita Derby winner Sham to New York for the Wood instead of heading directly to Louisville.

Leading New York owner Sigmund Sommer had purchased the maiden Sham over the winter for a then hefty $200,000 at the late Bull Hancock’s dispersal. Sham, coming off a pair of seconds and a third, won his first start for Sommer and Martin by six lengths at Aqueduct on Dec. 9, leading every step of the way going a flat mile. Sent to Santa Anita, he opened a lot of eyes with a 15-length romp in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race, and then followed that up with another six-length score in allowance company before winning the Santa Catalina Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths. So, did we have another phenom out west who could test Secretariat?

Just when people were beginning to think that, Sham was upset in the San Felipe Handicap by Linda’s Chief after a troubled trip, finishing a distant fourth. In the Santa Anita Derby, Martin entered Sham along with stablemate Knightly Dawn. With Knightly Dawn drawn directly outside Linda’s Chief, it was the perfect opportunity for Martin use his second-stringer as a hit man and take out Linda’s Chief. At the break, Knightly Dawn veered in sharply and all but wiped out Linda’s Chief. Sham was able to get position on his rival, and when Laffit Pincay asked him nearing the head of the stretch, Sham shot to the lead and never looked back, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Linda’s Chief. Frankel was incensed over the flagrant double team and never stopped talking about it until the day he died. Just the mention of Knightly Dawn would set him off.

The addition of Sham to the Wood field added to the intrigue and provided a sneak preview of the battle everyone was expecting in the Kentucky Derby. The closer the race got, the more Martin would exude confidence in his colt and assure everyone he had no fear of Secretariat, which is why he deviated from the norm and sent Sham to New York to face Secretariat. But as brash as Martin could be, he bore no resemblance to the thug-like character that was portrayed in the movie “Secretariat.”

It was obvious that Martin was targeting Secretariat, just as he had targeted Linda’s Chief, but this time he took it one step farther. He announced he was going to run not only his main assassin, Knightly Dawn, but a fast colt named Beautiful Music, who had romped by 10 lengths in his only start at Santa Anita.

That brought some scathing words and a forewarning of chicanery from Charlie Hatton, who had an admitted love affair with Secretariat, whom he called the greatest he had seen since Man o’War. He was the horse Hatton had been waiting for since the first Big Red, and he prepared everyone for the likelihood of roughhouse tactics.

Not only would Secretariat have to contend with the Martin marauders, he also would be confronted by his own stable Angle Light, who Laurin decided to run following a neck defeat in the Flamingo Stakes, a 10-length romp in an Aqueduct allowance race, and a solid third in the Louisiana Derby. Tweedy was not crazy about Laurin having another horse in the race, but he felt an obligation to Angle Light’s owner Edwin Whittaker.

On April 17, Lauren scheduled a mile work for Secretariat, with Turcotte aboard. I couldn’t resist and headed to Belmont with my trusty cameras. I was surprised at the absence of media around. In fact, it was me and my colleague, DRF photographer Ray Woolfe Jr., who was chronicling Secretariat’s career for a potential book.

Secretariat looked calm, but was slightly on his toes walking around the ring before heading to the track along the path behind the barns. It was me, Ray, Laurin, Tweedy, and two visitors whom I didn’t know. Big Red’s groom, Eddie Sweat, walked the colt to the path and then headed back to the barn.

As a little sidelight, Ray rushed ahead and turned back to photograph Secretariat. Ray had a pretty volatile temper and could fly off the handle very easily. Although I was well to the side of everyone, leaving him with plenty of room to crop me out of the picture, he started shouting at me to “Get out of the way.” I told him I had nowhere to go and to just crop me out. Well, he took the shot, and later that day after developing the film (his dark room was part of the library, where I worked, so we were always very close), he called me in and said he liked me in the picture with me in it and was going to use it in his book, which surprisingly he did. He even made me up an 8x10 print of it.

I stood by the rail, so I didn’t get to see a lot of the work. All I saw was Secretariat reaching out with those magnificent strides, his neck muscles rippling. Sham had worked earlier that morning, blazing five furlongs in :58 flat, so it was expected that Secretariat would have a pretty sharp mile, even though Laurin wasn’t looking for too much speed and would be happy with a 1:37 or even 1:38 work, which was pedestrian for Big Red.

Well, you can imagine the surprise when we found out he had worked in 1:42 2/5. Lauren and Tweedy weren’t expecting that and didn’t know what to make of it.

In the days leading up to the race, Hatton kept writing about Martin’s tactics. If finally got to the fiery Cuban-born trainer, who decided to show the world Sham could beat Secretariat on his own. He scratched both horses the morning of the race, removing the bullseye on Secretariat’s back.

History will show that it was Angle Light who shocked the world by stealing the Wood on the front end. Pincay had been tracking him the whole way, but was more interested in having something left for Secretariat in the stretch and never went after him until it was too late. Although Secretariat was far back and moving into contention slower than usual, I, like many, felt he was unbeatable and kept waiting for him to pull off some miraculous closing burst from well out in the middle of the track. But it never came. I stood there stunned watching Secretariat plod home in third, beaten four lengths.

When Pincay, who was a length and a half behind at the eighth pole, finally realized Secretariat was no threat he went after Angle Light, but his run fell a head short. You could hear a pin drop. You never saw a less happy person in the winner’s circle than Laurin, who knew the verbal assaults from all sides were about to come.

Just like that, Secretariat’s mystique and $6 million price tag took a dramatic tumble. Critics again brought up the Bold Ruler factor, citing the horse’s inability to sire a classic mile and a quarter horse.

No one knew about the abscess in Secretariat’s mouth, supposedly not even Turcotte. Whether or not it was the reason Secretariat ran such a dull race we’ll never know for certain. Once the colt arrived in Louisville, the abscess cleared up and Big Red would  ride into legend.

It was his spectacular  record-breaking Triple Crown sweep, his photo on the covers of Newsweek, Time, and Sports Illustrated, his shocking upsets at the hand of The Giant Killer Allen Jerkens, and his magnificent fall victories in the Marlboro Cup, Man  o’War Stakes, and Canadian International that would define Secretariat’s career.

But the legend was born in the winter of 1973, when Secretariat evolved into Big Red and took those important first steps that would lead him into the pantheon of immortals. It was there he would become the standard by which greatness is measured.

All photos are by Steve Haskin, please do not take without permission. 

The infamous Ray Woolfe photo that appeared in his book, which I've used here in the past. Please excuse the 1970s look of that weird guy on the right. 

There were few if any who had a stride like Secretariat, and those rippling neck muscles. Hard to believe he was working some five seconds too slow.


Leave a Comment:

Ted from LA

Ron did not know about the abscess.  He told me so.  Happy New Year horse fans.

21 Jan 2013 4:24 PM

What a wonderful article, as usual.  But, this one is about my favorite horse of all time.  I have to tell you that the 40 year old Time magazine cover (mentioned above) is framed and on my office wall. I am looking at it now: "Super Horse, Secretariat".

21 Jan 2013 4:42 PM
Thoroughbreds are the best

Oh the memories!  He was the most incredible horse.  I've never seen another horse move like him. Raw power and extreme speed. The hindquarters stepping way under and catapulting him forward, his forelegs would just snap out in front of him to eat the ground. I have goose bumps to this day just thinking about it.

21 Jan 2013 4:58 PM

I remember that spring.

1973 will always be first and foremost about Secretariat.

Thank you Steve.

21 Jan 2013 5:36 PM

So hard to believe that its been 40 years! Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

21 Jan 2013 5:49 PM

MWill - ME, TOO!!! One of my most treasured possessions.:) I have no memory of cutting the cover off the magazine, putting it inside a plastic sleeve, and storing it in a dresser drawer, but that's exactly what I did... about fifteen years ago I had it nicely framed. Been hanging in my current office for almost a year, and I find it sad that no one, not one person, at work has ever commented on it. Hello? Even non-horse people have heard of the immortal Secretariat, if only because they made a movie about him!

Steve, funny that you wrote this. I was just contemplating the fact that the Year of Big Red was forty years ago. Ugh, sure makes me feel old... But talk about a legend that will NEVER die. That's our Red. Thanks for the memories, as always!

21 Jan 2013 6:04 PM

I never got tired of the Secretariat blogs.  I loved this horse when he was racing and have been one of his biggest fan forever.  I follow horse racing now only because of him.  Every good horse running today I look to see if he is in their pedigrees and he is in so many good horse's of today including Horse of the Year Wise Dan, 2 year old male and female, Shanghi Bobby and Beholder.  He still lives on in so many beautiful Thoroughbreds of today.  Thanks so much for the great memories.  I was 13 when he won the Triple Crown and have every article from his 3 year old year and beyond in a photo album.  I cried when he died in 1989.

21 Jan 2013 6:14 PM

Ah,1973, I still remember that Belmont. My Dad and I watched it in TV.  He said he never saw a horse run like that.  Years later,many in fact, I stood at his grave at Claiborne and thanked Big Red for those wonderful memories.  Those were the days!!!  

21 Jan 2013 6:58 PM

Thanks Steve. I still wish they would have taken the blinkers off Big Red for the head shot magazine photos.

21 Jan 2013 7:12 PM

I teared up in several places, and then smiled in others.  Loved the Frankel bit. And, I laughed out loud at Charlie Hatton's comment about Red's equaling the track record in the Gotham! Even the "great one" himself seemed to toy with the emotions with his change in tactics in the Gotham, and his uncharacteristic slow workout time on that April day you wrote about! As if to say, "I'm in charge here!"

That was an amazing time! Thank you for sharing this retrospective. I felt almost like I was there and was definitely wishing I had been!

21 Jan 2013 7:22 PM
Steel Dragon

Tremendous, Steve. Nothing like having 2 months to handicap the Paumonok. I wonder if non-Brooklynites think the Pioneer bus was some sort of stagecoach. Anyway a few random thoughts:

1) La Prevoyante should've been 1972 HOTY.

2) The portrayal of Pancho was one of about 500 problems I had with the Secretariat movie. It was simply dreadful from gate to wire.

3) Why does EVERYONE look at old pictures of themselves and say "what was I thinking?" Does everyone believe they look that much better now?

4) I think people would be surprised at the attendance figures on days Secretariat raced. I don't recall the track being especially packed for that time. Of course, these days 4,000 on a Saturday is a dream.

5) Is that when you became acquainted with Bill Nack?

21 Jan 2013 8:06 PM
Bill Rinker

Thanks again Steve for sharing your reminiscences, they are absolutely first rate. While reading the account of those events I felt like I had transcended back 40 years in time, and the power evoked in that work out picture is almost surreal. I always look forward to your work, it's a real treat.

21 Jan 2013 8:18 PM

I wish I still had the scrapbook I kept that year.  I was 13, and while many childhood memories have faded, the day of the Belmont, at 13 I knew I was seeing something historic.

21 Jan 2013 8:25 PM

Secretariat had a European classic stride. American horses, as a rule, bunny hop. They plant their rear legs and lunge forward onto their forehands.

Secretariat planted one hind leg and did the splits, taking a huge step forward onto the second hind leg. Canadian science guru David Suzuki likened his stride to the spokes of a wheel.

21 Jan 2013 8:39 PM
anita b

Hi Steve,

Thank you so very much--that year was happy and sad for me: big Red making me happy. Two close relatives dying (Jan. + Sept).

But Belmont day I will never forget. My youngest daughter (6 years old) and I sat watching the Belmont. "Come on Secretariat--come on---" my daughter called out. I was Whispering "please don't stumble, please don't stumble"---and it seems like it was yesterday. Thanks again. Anita

21 Jan 2013 8:57 PM
marilyn braudrick

Thanks, Steve, for this wonderful article and the great photos--Lucky You!! to have been there and Lucky all of  us to be able to be there too by reading these marvelous articles that you share with us. Skip and Marilyn Braudrick.

21 Jan 2013 9:08 PM

Steve, thanks so very much for your wonderful reminiscences of Secretariat (and so many other horses). Love comes in many forms, as we all know. I've loved Secretariat since first laying eyes on him in 1972. It's a love that only gets stronger and more burnished with time.

I also check pedigrees for his name, and am so delighted to find a lot of cross-breeding to him through his grandsons and, occasionally, through his daughters. Wise Dan is a wonderful example, being from the Storm Cat sire line out of a granddaughter of Big Red from his own daughter, Askmysecretary. I only wish Wise Dan was a stallion, and that I had the money to buy a really good mare to send to him. Sigh. Wishes can't make it so, but Red's place in history and bloodlines is secure, so I'm content.

21 Jan 2013 9:47 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, what a great piece!!! This brought back so many memories. Secretariat was the most beautiful looking male horse I have ever seen and Zenyatta his female equivalent. His head, neck and shoulders were just perfection. I laughed when I read "Martin's marauders." That was a great description. I have read that Paco Martin was actually a nice man and not anything like the character in the movie. I felt very bad that they made him seem so unpleasant. I have always felt bad for Sham too. He was a great horse that had the misfortune to run at the same time as Secretariat. Any other time, he would have been a Triple Crown winner. As for Lucien Lauren racing Angle Light and winning against Secretariat, I would have given a year's pay to have heard what Penny Chenery Tweedy had to say to him after that. I guess the Disney writer couldn't include that in the film LOL. But who in a million years thought that Angle Light would beat Secretariat.

21 Jan 2013 9:52 PM

Reading about Secretariat never gets old. I feel very fortunate that I was around in 1973 and have such wonderful memories of the great one. I am also fortunate to have one of his granddaughters in my family. Thanks so much, Steve, for the reminiscing and for the great photos.

21 Jan 2013 10:08 PM

Thanks for a wonderful trip to the past to remember Secretariat--my "Big

Red" will always be Man-o-War, but then I'm older than dirt! Secretariat was a once in a couple hundred years horse--it was a privilege to see him in action!

21 Jan 2013 10:23 PM

I wasn't extremely impressed with the movie...the only part they did well was the Belmont stretch run.I remember watching that Belmont with my dad. We were both speechless..neither of us said a was just one of those moments in time when you knew you were seeing a legend that most likely would never be equaled.In my mind's eye it's as fresh today..40 years it was that day...same as the Kennedy assassination...the Space Shuttle disaster...9/11.I've heard he shook the ground beneath spectators..not much else to be said.

21 Jan 2013 10:33 PM

This looks like a great article Steve and I cannot wait to read it but please forgive me just now, my sister passed away on Saturday and I am exhausted, services are this Wednesday.  I'll be back blogging when I can and love that 70's photo.  Big Red knows he has that "little entourage" right behind him and it's so cute.

Be well all.  Thanks for your support.  Losing a father and then a sister eight months later is not easy.  What a year this has been.  I do remember that when Paynter was so ill and so was my sister, talking to God and asking him to save Paynter, he was only three and there was much life left and no hope of Alzheimer's recovery for my sister ever and no quality of life left other than an almost vegetative state.  He made the right choice.

21 Jan 2013 10:41 PM

I have the book Secretariat, The Horse That God Built. It is aptly named. None other than the Almighty himself could have thrown those genes together. I LOVE the Secretariat stories as I was a teenager back in the day and remember now the excitement buzzing around as each race was accomplished. They just don't build 'em like that any more.

Secretariat himself would be pleased to see his foaling shed still standing at The Meadow Event's a shame that place is now an "event park" when the biggest event(s) of all took place on that property involving not only the horse but his backstory.

Any event there now pales in comparison.

As March 30 rolls around each year I think about Big Red and the synchronicity of all that went on at the time to get Big Red to Triple Crown eminence. An amazing feat for 1973. Steve if I ever meet you, take notice of Big Red's birthstone this Virginian wears on her ring finger in honor of "another Virginian" born so long ago now, just up the road.

21 Jan 2013 10:47 PM
Steel Dragon

That workout photo reminds me of the statue at Belmont. Or the other way around...

21 Jan 2013 10:49 PM

A sad note on this wonderful story of back in the day, with a champion beyond measure.  To think that this wonderful horse died at only 19 years of age, supposedly of laminitis is a travesty and always will be.  There was no hoopla and hourly updates as with Barbaro (another great one), as we just didn't do that sort of thing in '89. Guess we'll never know what befell The Great One, that is, the real story.

21 Jan 2013 10:51 PM

An infatuation with Mark Spitz of 1972 Olympic fame led me to Secretariat via Sports Illustrated.  I was lapping up everything I could find about Mark Spitz until one day a horse appeared on the cover.  I was enthralled.  I know I had at least one magazine (Sports Illustrated)with Secretariat on the cover and may have gotten the other two from my high school library the start of school after summer break because the magazines were old.  Sadly, a fire destroyed my parents home and along with it my cherished copies.

Thank you for the walk down Memory Lane, Steve.  No one tells a story like you do.

22 Jan 2013 1:46 AM

Wonderful! One of the most exciting moments of my life was seeing Secretariat's Belmont--my anguish at seeing him take the lead "Too early" (I thought), and then watching him go on and on; ch and hearing the resounding pandelmonium (sp) of the fans as he came through the stretch. Truly unforgetable.  But in so far as Paco Martin: I do not think he got a bad rap: I will never forget his comment about knowing the "Bitch would crack" after Ruffian broke down in her match race against Foolish Pleasure.

22 Jan 2013 8:09 AM

Mr. Steve Haskin, this was fantastic. One question for you. Did you ever do an article on Secretariat/Easy Goer and Timing(Great timing vs. Not so great timing)? If not, what do you think about how much timing means: Secretariat lost the Woodward,Whitney & Wood Memorial(we all know the races he won and how brilliantly fast he was in many of them).  Easy Goer(we all know what races he lost, 2 of them by nose and neck margins. Obviously, caused by a great Sunday S & some trouble,bad luck,etc) won the Whitney,Woodward,Wood Memorial,Belmont Stakes,Travers,Jockey Club Gold Cup,Gotham,Swale,Cowdin,Champagne,Suburban) and running brilliantly fast in many of them. Timing is everything.

22 Jan 2013 9:09 AM

With Wise Dan sweeping the Eclpise Awards, it is very appropriate to recall his magnificent great great grandisire, the magnificent Secretariat, being crowned the King of Racing 40 years ago. Thanks for such a brilliantly written article.Steve, I wonder if you have ever seen a relative of Secretariat who has had his powerful muscular build or his conformation approaching perfection? Wise Dan reminds me so much of Big Red that it is freaky.

I met Charlie Lopressi and Morton Fink after their Horse of the Year Award and I hope they don't think I'm nuts. I told them they have Secretariat in their barn.

If Wise Dan is Secretariat reincarnated, he doesn't have to worry about be retired to stud. He can continue to run as long as his legs can carry him. And as he has already been the King of the Belmont, he's content to run a mile in this lifetime.

And if Wise Dan were a stallion, can you begin to imagine the international bidding war for his breeding rights? Seth Hancock might be tempted to mortgage the farm.

22 Jan 2013 10:01 AM
lunar spook

The spring of 73 is my greatest horse racing memory , only the affirmed/alydar battles come close and they pale by comparison , thanks for the story and pics !!!

22 Jan 2013 10:02 AM

To Alex's Big Fan, I am so sorry for the loss of your sister. I know when you have time, reading Steve's wonderful story about Big Red will be a help. For I think horses and their wonderful stories are a source of comfort and joy.

Also, whenever I feel sad or down, I watch Big Red and Zenyatta videos on You Tube.

To me, Zenyatta is a 7 1/2 million dollar therapy horse.

Wishing you all the best.          

22 Jan 2013 10:17 AM

Ah, thank you Steve for another wonderful story! And thank you for mentioning that Pancho Martinwas not the thug Disney portrayed him as. I'm glad the movie brought Big Red and horse racing to the attention of the general public; I just wish the story had been told more accurately and less Disney-ized. I love your writing, I'm sharing this one on my Facebook page.

22 Jan 2013 10:30 AM
Pedigree Ann

Steve, my Great-Aunt Sadie (high school English teacher of the old school) has a message for you:

"Really, Steven, I expected better of you. 'Moving into contention slower than usual?' What was slow? The moving. What is moving? A verb. How do you describe a verb? With an adverb, not an adjective. So he was moving 'more slowly,' not 'slower.' Now write that sentence twenty times in you best Spencerian script, correctly."

Great-Aunt Sadie nags me a lot, too.

Oh, and Owlbet. I went to high school with Mark Spitz's cousin; he was on our Quiz Bowl team with me and did not have a high opinion of Mark's intelligence. Also he said Mark was a jerk (not unlike a lot of fawned-upon athletes, I might add). Yeah, but was good-looking, wasn't he?

22 Jan 2013 10:32 AM
Senator L

I think the last picture is one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen of a race horse...breath taking.

22 Jan 2013 10:35 AM
Senator L

I think the last picture is one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen of a race horse...breath taking.

22 Jan 2013 10:37 AM

Wonderful story--thank Steve for  your memories of this wonderful horse. Sure wish I could have seen him in person.

22 Jan 2013 10:48 AM

Thanks Steve for your first-hand account. How blessed we all were to folllow this great champion.  As soon as you mentioned Ray Woolfe Jr.'s book, I pulled out my copy, still with the paper jacket around it though quite frayed, and opened to his shot of you and Big Red.  Thanks for including the shot.  By the way, as Steel Dragon noted, your shot of his stride does resemble the statue in the Belmont paddock.

During our honeymoon in Lexington in March 1984, Claiborne Farm was gracious enough to allow my wife and I a tour. We were able to get some nice shots of Big Red as he came over to my wife at the fence and draped his head next to her shoulder, looked at me for a few seconds and posed for the camera.  He knew who he was.

I also have, tucked away in my wallet, my uncashed $2 across the board ticket on Big Red winning the Canadian International on that cold and rainy day at Woodbine, the only time I saw him run in person.

Thanks again Steve, you keep the memories alive.


My prayers and thoughts are with you.  It has been a trying and stressful last eight months for you.  We lost my father-in-law on Dec. 13th. after a long battle with congestive heart falure.  We had his memorial service on Jan. 5.  Three days later we had to euthanize our cat 'Angel' who had developed a tumor in her mouth.  This has been a long, dark winter for you, but articles like Steve's help us remember that hope springs eternal.  May the days, weeks and months ahead bring you healing and peace.          

22 Jan 2013 10:54 AM

Thank you for this wonderful article of my favorite horses!  And thanks, too, for stating that the much-maligned Pancho Martin did not deserve the thug-treatment in Disney's fantasy movie.  Every generation deserves a great horse and a decent movie to tell a true story.

22 Jan 2013 11:18 AM
Abigail Anderson

Thank you for this,Steve! In the depths of post-holidays it was great to take a trip back in time with you and the big, red horse. In fact, it sent me back to a scrapbook that I made of Secretariat's Triple Crown campaign at the ripe old age of 23, and all my memories of falling in love with Big Red. Must have been a true love, because all these years later I love him still. And even though it's minus 40 degrees here in Montreal today, I was warmed by your narrative and a chance to re-visit 1973.

22 Jan 2013 11:50 AM

I have to agree with Senator L and Kelso1966 about how much they love their memories of Secretariat.  I still remember his Triple Crown wins and crying tears of joy after each one; and I still have those tears after I read or see anything about him.  I also want to ask you if there is any way we can buy that picture of him all stretched out running; I love those kind of pictures; especially the ones with one front foot on the ground and reaching with all the others.  Sure hope you see this message and let us know.  And again thank you for all your stories about him and Zenyatta too!  She's another Great One.  I wish they would have used your interpretations of Secretariat in the movie.  They did not do him justice.  Thanks, Steve!  You are a Great One too!  Sending you a big hug from Texas!

22 Jan 2013 12:57 PM
Melissa P

Absolutely LOVED this (as usual), Steve. I'm working on my own blog about Secretariat and this really helped jog my memory. (Don't tell anyone, but my memory isn't what it used to be.) I'm going to focus on Big Red II as I knew him - after his racing days were done. What an amazing individual he was! He was one of the most charming beings (equine or otherwise) I've ever known. Secretariat knew his worth. He was gracious and kind - even toward the end of his life when the laminitis was starting to be debilitating. Thank you, for remembering and sharing the amazing creature that completely stole my heart so many years ago. (BTW, Steve, I recognize the garb on that "weird" guy in the first photo.)

22 Jan 2013 12:59 PM
Karen in Indiana

Love the article and the photos.

If you had to pick which was more intense, which would it have been - Secretariat's Wood or Zenyatta's Classic at Churchill?

22 Jan 2013 1:29 PM
Steve Haskin

Cheryl, I'm so sorry to hear about your sister. I hope you're doing OK.

Pedigree Ann, Aunt Sadie was the name of the matriarch of the extended family that worked for Christopher Chenery at Meadow Stud, as did her descendants. I'm sure, like me, she was not as schooled as your great-aunt :)

ThoroGreats, I did do a column on the fall of 1973 and covered Secretariat's losses. But I've never combined a story about Secretariat and Easy Goer. If Easy Goer didnt have ankle problems and have trouble on the turns, unlike Sunday Silence, who was at his best on the turns, who knows what would have happened.

Steel Dragon and Tackjack, the Belmont statue actually was designed from a photo that Ray Woolfe took from the Preakness that is in the book (see page 111).

Thank you, Abigail, but, at minus 40, it sounds like it didnt take much to warm you up :)

Thank you very much, Dovie. That is kind of you to say. If you go to my Facebook page, you will see an album titled Secretariat. That photo is one of many. If you save the photo on to your Desktop I'm sure you can make a print of it or have one made up. If you have trouble let me know and I'll try to get one made up for you. I never charge for my photos. But lifting it off Facebook yourself would be much quicker.

Melissa, I have a photo on the Facebook album I just referred to that shows the playful character of Secretariat. It is one of my favorites.

Karen in Indiana, definitely Zenyatta's Classic. That was gut-wrenching. Secretariat still hadnt proven his greatness at that point. Much more intense was his loss to Onion in the Whitney. I was at Saratoga for that race. The crowd and atmosphere was electric, and what a shock when he get beat.

22 Jan 2013 2:14 PM
Deborah Childs

I was 14 in 1973 & count myself so very lucky to have been able to watch Secretariat's Triple Crown. I truly love all things Secretariat, but must confess that I was pulling for Sham throughout that season. If you have any stories or trivia concerning Sham (& I know you must) it would be so wonderful to hear them too.

22 Jan 2013 2:17 PM

I think the Secretariat statue was sculpted from the well-circulated picture of Secretariat deciding it's time to circle his field in the Preakness. "Rebreak" doesn't begin to describe it.

Shortly after Secretariat was retired, someone tried to make a bloodstock advisory business out of electronic analysis of young horses looking for those with a stride like Secretariat's. They found it didn't separate the good horses from the bad ones: the good ones found various ways to do it, but did it faster and longer.

22 Jan 2013 2:27 PM

Only saw him once-on the weekend of his last race. Have great pic of Turcotte's last up the day before at the morning workout. Groom and pony right next to him. Can hear him snort to this day Thanks for the blog.

22 Jan 2013 2:56 PM
Ida Lee

In my home I have what my husband calls my Secretariat's all about Big Red. I never get tired of reading about him or looking at his photos since to me no horse has ever come close to his beauty and talent. Thank you for taking me back to '73 one of the most exciting years in sports since the '69 Mets.

22 Jan 2013 3:32 PM
Steve Haskin

Deborah, I wrote a tribute column on Sham in July, 2009. Here is the link

CassandraSays, it was indeed from Ray Woolfe's photo going past the stands in the Preakness. I mentioned that in my last comment. The photo is in his book.

22 Jan 2013 3:35 PM
Bill Two

I wish the NYRA would revive the series of preps leading up to the Ky Derby.  It started with the Swift at 6F, then the Bay Shore at 7F, next came the Gotham at a mile and finally culminating in the Wood at a mile and an eighth.  Now days, horses begin their 3 yr. old campaigns going around 2 turns. A couple of preps and on to Kentucky.  Just doesn't seem like adequate preparation for the Derby, much less the Triple Crown.  Call me old school.

22 Jan 2013 4:14 PM
Bill Two

That mile in 33 and change in the Gotham might have dulled his edge a little.  Not saying it did, but you never know.  I remember when Proud Appeal and Cure The Blues hooked up in a memorable renewal of the Gotham.  They ding-donged it down the stretch in roughly the same time as Secretariat and neither horse was ever the same afterwards. I do think that shifting Cure The Blues to Jolley might have had something to do with that.  Bernie Bond trained the horse as a 2yr. old and he was a force to be reckoned with.  Bernie was getting pretty old at the time, however, and wasn't up to taking the horse on the Triple Crown trail, hence, the horse changed barns.  I just wonder what the Firestones were thinking at the time and afterwards.  What could have been....


22 Jan 2013 4:20 PM

Again, the tears of happiness and joy flow gently down my cheek after reading your article.  

You see, on that beautiful day at Belmont, when "The Horse" ran his third leg of the Tripple Crown that year, I, along with my oldest, then 1 year old, daughteer, atop my shoulders,stood at the fence directly on the finish line and witnessed the most spactular race that I have ever seen to this day.

My "Big Red" scrapbook sits on my desk, as it has over the years, in order that I can easily reflect on that wonderful day.  

I know deep in my heart that he was the greatest horse that ever lived.

22 Jan 2013 4:21 PM
Karen in Indiana

Alex'sBigFan, my thoughts & prayers will be with you tomorrow. Having a grandmother who died of Alzheimers at 92 and a sister who died at 29, I understand your prayer.

22 Jan 2013 6:20 PM
Tiz Herself

The best as always Steve :) Never tire of hearing of Big Red!

What do you think of Oxbow, Steve? Awesome Again - Tizamazing (full sis to Tiznow)... love it since Paynter is an Awesome Again out of another full sis to Tiznow in Tizso...

Is easy to cheer for Oxbow based on his family, let alone his Lecomte effort

22 Jan 2013 6:39 PM

Steve, was there for the "jaunt in June"...we ran out of the track to beat the traffic[at the time Bridgeport was home]...I remember throwing a "twinkie" on Forego a few races before. It was a day to remember. Even remember riding the escalator w/ the late Dave Debuscher[sp?]. Quite a day...any chance I can get a print of those "flair" trousers?lol...thanks Steve for the memories, and a reminder of why the Wood was not "Big Reds" day

22 Jan 2013 7:26 PM
Steel Dragon

If not for an erratic young jockey and a safety pin we might be discussing Spectacular Bid in the same breath as Big Red. Some very knowledgable people think SB was the better horse. One of them is John Nerud (who turns 100 in a couple of weeks).

22 Jan 2013 7:28 PM

Steve!   Once again a GREAT article about one of my favorites!   I never realized how big a deal his syndication price was until I saw it compared to 3 of my other favorites here in your think a (then) 2 yr old was valued more than the Mighty Dr. Fager, Buckpasser and Damascus....just boggles my mind and makes me realize what a wonderful creature we got to see in his prime.

I you think our generation is now like Man O' War's generation was......looking for the next "Big Red"?   I wonder if we'll ever come close to that perfection again.    With the big "business farms" and the dwindling of the "family" operations, probably not.  (Sigh!)

22 Jan 2013 7:51 PM

Alex Big Fan;

I am so sorry for your loss.   Back in 2003 I lost 2 of my horses and then my much loved Sister in law all within a couple months of each other.   I had specifically bought my beloved stallion, Copy after visiting the farm that bred him and my husband said he looked like Secretartiat.   That kind of decided the sale right there.    In 2007 my Mom took ill and dementia has taken over her life.   She no longer knows who I am but she is still with us at 89 yrs.    I remember how excited she was watching Big Red pounding down the stretch at Belmont.   She's a Kentucky girl, born & the KY Derby was pretty much "religion" in our household.   Just know that your loved one is in a better place and out of pain.    (Maybe you should send her a prayer and tell her to pat the big red horse for you!)   Prayers and good thoughts go out to you.

22 Jan 2013 8:03 PM

I remember being a teenager who was obsessed by horses and watching horse racing on tv. There was this gorgeous horse called "Big Red"- only I couldn't tell if he was red, brown, green or purple as we only had a black and white TV & newspaper photos were only black and white. I remember watching the TC races screaming and cheering for Secretariat, while my mom kept insisting I was just going through "a phase" and would grow out of it.  I never did grow out of that phase, and I still get chills watching videos of his races & hearing the call.

22 Jan 2013 8:03 PM
Linda in Texas

Alex'sBigFan - Heartfelt thoughts of you once again so soon after losing your father in June. I was re reading some notes in my daily notebook of races just on Saturday where i had noted your dad had died in June.

ABF, I know my son Edward will be waiting for your sister, as there is a special place in Heaven for all, but especially for those with Down Syndrome since they are so often alike in their kind mannerisms and many sweet ways. Be strong once again and know we are with you in spirit.  


22 Jan 2013 8:30 PM
Paula Higgins

Alex'sBigFan I am so sorry baout the loss of your father and now your sister. I know this is a very sad time for you. Please accept my sincere condolences and sympathy.

Trackjack, I am sorry for your losses as well. Hang in there and know that out there is another kitty who needs a home when you are ready.

Steve, interesting that you picked Zenyatta's Churchill race as the most gut wrenching. You know, I wanted her to win as much as anyone, but the way she finished that race was just mindblowing to me. It was so phenomenal I kept saying to my husband "I can't believe what she just did." The fact that she lost, really didn't register at first because I was in shock over the way she finished, after being so far back in the race. An Australian trainer (can't remember his name) said it was the greatest race he had ever seen by a horse that didn't win. It was her greatest race IMO and yes, gut wrenching ultimately.

22 Jan 2013 8:46 PM

Steve, thanks so much for letting us know about your Facebook page. I'm on my way to FB now to "friend" you, or subscribe to your page, or whatever I have to do to connect with your photos of Red (and any other horses you have up there).

Red...Red...Red...where did the time go, boy? Whatever the hereafter holds for all of us, I hope somewhere your immense spirit still runs. Somehow, I hope you know that your fans still love you as much as they did those long-ago days when we were all young. Forty years this spring, Red, and they'll be racing once again at your Triple Crown stakes/track records. If they're ever broken, I hope it's by some strapping young colt with your blood coursing through his veins.

22 Jan 2013 10:18 PM

Steve, TerriZ, trackjack, etc. thank you all, and Linda in T and Karen and Dr D., Paula, I know you're out there too with sympathy wishes.

Trackjack, I am so sorry for the loss of your father-in-law and your cat, Angel.  Animals are family members to me as well and it is just as devastating losing them.  I love your saying that "hope springs eternal."  I will remember that.

I'll be back in a week or so blogging.  I'm counting on Dr. D. to give me a "Holy Cow!!!" after the Holy Bull this weekend!

22 Jan 2013 10:34 PM
Steel Dragon

Can only wonder how many pounds the 4 y.o. Secretariat would've spotted the 4 y.o. Forego in handicap races and how those races would've turned out.  

22 Jan 2013 10:54 PM

Steve, I love everything that you write, but my favs are always about Secretariat.  He was my first great love and hero and I love him just as much as I did then.  I was 9 when he won his triple crown and his Belmont is burned into my memory.  I just remember watching it with my mother and saying over and over "oh my God, oh my God."  There have been other good horses since him and some I think are great (Zenyatta would be my first pick) and I love them also, but no other horse will take his place in my heart.  He will forever be THE GREATEST.  I live in a small town in Wisconsin and when the movie came out I found out about a great nephew of Secretariat's that lived in the town next to mine.  I was able to go with my husband, daughter, and brother-in-law and go meet this horse.  I have a photo with him hanging right next to a photo of his uncle.  Buddy looks nothing like his famous uncle, but just being able to touch him was almost as good as if I had touched Red himself.  And reading your stories makes me feel almost like I was there myself.  Thank you for sharing all of this with us.  Steve, could you tell me one thing that I have always wondered about?  What ever happened to Angle Light?  I always felt that he kind of got overlooked and I always felt bad for him.

To Alex's Big Fan, my thoughts and prayers are with you.  I am so sorry for your losses.

To jill786, I also had read somewhere that Pancho made that remark about Ruffian.  Maybe he was vilified in the movie, but to make a remark like that about the greatest filly to ever race is just terribly cruel and I agree with what you wrote.  I can only imagine how the Janney family felt.

22 Jan 2013 11:03 PM

Trackjack, I am sorry for your losses.  I have four cats of my own and I love them as much as I do my daughter.  They are my 4-legged children.  Angel is now making friends with Secretariat, Slew, Bid, Lassie and all the other beautiful animals that have gone before.  I truly believe that God has a special place in Heaven for all of our animal friends because they have uncondition love for us (especially to those of us humans that didn't deserve it).  Your father and my father are watching over us.  You will be in my prayers.

22 Jan 2013 11:15 PM
Karen in Texas


I did not read the comments on this thread until this P.M., and am sorry to be so late to offer condolences for the loss of your sister. I know her services will be special tomorrow just because you  have had a part in their planning. Please stay strong.

22 Jan 2013 11:41 PM

Nice Work Steve!!!...One day (before I Croak)I hope two things come to pass...#1/One more Immortal Amercian Race Horse comes our way be "IT" a "Secretariat"/"Man O' War"/"Seabiscuit"/"John Henry" to EXPOSE "THE GAME" to the Amercian Public as a "NATIONAL TREASURE" that it is & bring it back to the top of the sports world where it RIGHTFULLY BELONGS!!!...#2/Somebody please get the movie right about Secretariat as "HE" & "THE GAME" deserve BETTER!!!...ty...

23 Jan 2013 10:22 AM
Linda in Texas

Wonderful read about Secretariat Steve, and all the inserts from your personal remembrances that add so much. The photo you included and referred to showed your enthusiasm then, extra large/long range cameras hanging at the ready from your shoulder, with the other one for close up shots in hand.  

To me you are so lucky and we along with you, that you have been able to follow your dream, thanks to your dad's suggestion and insistence to follow your heart and dreams.

You also possess a voluminous ability to remember little 'Dearly Precious' tidbits when you recall and speak of your personal experiences. They are the ties that bind us to feel through your writings, such great never to be forgotten extraordinary actions of some magnificent horses. I just say thank you from the bottom of my heart and i know i can speak for thousands of others when i do.

We appreciate you Steve.

I simply cannot imagine not having you as their Senior Editor and so glad you realized that Wall Street was not your forte. It was not only your gain and our's but mostly the wonderful creatures about which you write. They too would say thank you if they could i am sure.

23 Jan 2013 11:59 AM
Mike Relva


I'm very sorry for your loss. Always enjoy your insights.

23 Jan 2013 12:21 PM
Mike Relva

Paula Higgens

Agree w/ you regarding th "Zenyatta moment". Just returned home last nite from a weekend in AZ. Worked on Sunday at Heart of Tucson horse rescue and rehab farm. The president,Judy Glore had been seriously ill since last yr but seems to be on the road to recovery. She's wonderful and I enjoyed every moment there.

23 Jan 2013 12:26 PM

Thank you for a wonderful article on one of my favorite subjects (Secretariat). I was too young to appreciate Big Red in '73. If I could go back in time to any place or time period it would be to see Secretariat's '73 campaign.

You wrote: "I didn’t even bother to take anything of the stretch run. I was too caught up in the drama that was unfolding, and it was enough just watching."  I have made that same decision many times when at a track for a big race.

23 Jan 2013 12:56 PM
Linda in Texas

jill786 - Some people unfortunately speak before they think. To say anything so cruel after a horse has gone down as Ruffian did was why i quit watching racing for many years. I mailed a small donation to the Janney's after Ruffian died but it was returned with a wonderful photo of Ruffian and signed along with a handwritten note. I still have the check i wrote and the lovely photo of Ruffian and the note from the Janney's. Makes me want to apologize for Mr. Martin but hopefully he did later.

Bitch refers to dogs. Obviously he had her in the wrong sport. I adored Ruffian. Woke up for the couple of days she was still alive hoping she could be saved and was devastated when she could not be calmed. Her dam and sire both were euthanized as i remember. The proclivity for a breakdown was no doubt in her genetics, both her dam and her sire were euthanized and her damsire was Northern Dancer. But then so it is with many many horses who race to this day. But before she died she had won many many races. She was a phenom in my eyes and i will defend her to my death.

23 Jan 2013 2:04 PM


Thanks for your thoughts.


Agree with your list.  

#1: is a hope we all have.

#2: is doable.  Disney's producers, early on, made it clear they were going to tell the story of Penny Chenery.  Nothing wrong with that and they did a good job with it.  However, they did a woefully inadequate job of what Secretariat meant to thoroughbred racing, racing fans and this country.

If anyone ever does secure the rights to do another movie about Secretariat, their first move should be to hire Steve Haskin as their thoroughbred consultant and storyteller.  In my opinion, no one has the ability to bring this story to film better than Steve.  

23 Jan 2013 4:21 PM
Steve Haskin

Linda in Texas, thank you so much for those beautiful words. They mean a great deal to me.

Trackjack, I'm sorry for your losses. Thank you for the thought, but I'm afraid that ship has sailed.

Bellwether, amen.

23 Jan 2013 5:48 PM

A question -

this comment that's been attributed here to Pancho Martin after Ruffian's death - I don't remember him being the one who said it.  I heard it was attributed to LeRoy Jolley (Foolish Pleasure's trainer) but I never thought he'd say such a thing.  Anybody who trained great mares like Cicada and, later, Genuine Risk, seems far above such a thought, let alone a comment.

I've also seen it attributed to Jolley's father and to Foolish Pleasure's owner.

Does anybody really know who said it?

Also, Steve, I'm sorry, but you must be wrong.  It cannot possibly be 4 decades since Secretariat blazed his way through the Triple Crown.  Because, you know, if it was really 40 years, then, {GASP}, I'd be almost 60 years old, and, well, that can't possibly be true!  :-)

23 Jan 2013 5:49 PM
Steve Haskin

If I remember correctly, I think the derogatory comment about Ruffian was said by Leroy's father, Moody Jolley, who was a trainer himself.

23 Jan 2013 5:52 PM

If it was not Mr. Martin that made the comment then I apologize to his family.  But to whomever that did say it, I think it was terribly cruel and, like Linda in Texas, I also will defend Ruffian until the day that I die.

23 Jan 2013 6:36 PM

Beautifully done, Steve.  And that comes from a (apparently only) fan of Sham. A beautiful colt just born in the wrong year. And Sham had the 2nd largest heart on record...again, second only to Secretariat. However, I could never lack in respect and admiration for Big Red.  (I still think he came from another planet.)

The photos are stunning.

Yeah...I was a big Alydar fan too.

The movie "Secretariat" was just never about the horse; it was always about Penny.  I haven't recommended it to my friends.  Maybe the horse was just toooo big for them to be able to handle his story, which is actually pretty amazing.  

I have some new friends who seem to be gaining an interest in racing...since they watched Eblouissante run last week.  I loaned them my Zenyatta DVD, and now they're eager to go to the local track.  After years of my kids covering their ears whenever I talked about horses, it's nice to find others who really want to hear.

Alex and Trackjack: I'm so sorry to hear of your losses.  I suppose we just have to realize it's just another stage of life, and our loved ones have simply climbed another step to something better.

Trackjack: Steve knows I'd rather see him involved in a movie about Seattle Slew....oh what he could bring to that convoluted story.

23 Jan 2013 6:55 PM
Dawn in MN

Mr. Haskin,

You did look pretty 70's dorky.  Would I lie to you?  Not me, it takes one to know one you know.

I haven't been spending much time reading Bloodhorse lately, so it was a real treat to read this.  I did what I always do, I read a few stories.  I look at bloodlines, and I noticed that King David and Will Take Charge both have Secretariat in their blood lines.  I always look for that.  To read this chapter from the magical year of 1973 is to remember the bell bottoms, clunky shoes, the styles of the time and a horse for all time.

23 Jan 2013 7:18 PM
Thoroughbreds are the best

It is really too bad Disney didn't stick closer to Bill Nack's book.  The real story was much better than the fictionalized version.  BTW, Bill Nack's book is one of the best books I've I had a copy of the original but loaned it to someone with my Thoroughbred Record insert on Secretariat and the one on Ruffian.  They were never returned.  However, I've read the more recent addition with it's look at Secretariat's later life.  It is still by far the best book I've ever read on the subject.  I learned an incredible amount of information on racing from reading the book right after Secretariat's domination of the racing world in 1973.  If you've not read it, I highly recommend it...the book is MUCH better than the movie!

23 Jan 2013 8:27 PM
Paula Higgins

Karen in Indiana and Linda in Texas, I am very sorry for your losses as well. I think these horses provide us with alot of joy and comfort during tough times in our lives.

Steve, you need to write a book about Zenyatta. Youw ould be the very best person to do that. I hope a movie is made about her someday. As for the comment about Ruffian, I do not believe Pancho Martin would ever say anything like that. I consider Ruffian to be the only other filly/mare who was comparable to Zenyatta. She was pure speed. I believe if she had lived, she could have set the same record for wins as Zenyatta and maybe more.

Mike Relva, you are a kind soul to help them at the horse rescue. Yes, we do feel the same way about Zenyatta.

23 Jan 2013 11:37 PM

In an agreement with Ogden Phipps, who owned Bold Ruler at the time, Somethingroyal was bred with a stipulation that she would be covered by this stallion until two foals were produced, one to be owned by Chenery and the other by Phipps. It was decided that by the toss of a coin, the winner should have right of refusal for the first foal. Phipps won the toss but, wishing for a filly, refused the first foal, a colt, which turned out to be Secretariat.

24 Jan 2013 12:14 AM

I was a young teen living on Long Island back then and I remember the winter of 1973 well. The exciting memories of watching this great horse, I cannot help but to feel bad for today's younger generation of race fans who missed out on witnessing what I believe to be the greatest race horse this world will ever see just as I believe he would have been even better as a 4 year old had he stayed in training for another year.Obviously, I won't live forever to confirm my statement.When have we ever seen another horse quite like him in the past 40 years.  I have never seen another horse with his stride, as Bill Nack described in his book, "Secretariat: The Making of a Champion." Something like, He propelled himself with his hind quarter and reached up into the air with his front legs in a snapping motion...his stride was really quite unique. His feats of athleticism continue to amaze me to this day...3 Grade I wins in 5 weeks time, ALL in stakes record time and one World record still in the books today. I feel blessed to have witnessed this horse. I still have the full-page photo of Big Red, in full stride with Turcott looking back, that I took out of a 1973 June edition of Life magazine...had it framed and it's been with me ever since. Just as someone would keep a portrait of Jesus over their dresser....I keep a photo of Secretariat. Not only is he part of horse racing history...he is part of American history. I can't think of the 1970s without thinking of Secretariat...he held the entire nation's attention, and always will.

24 Jan 2013 12:41 AM

Thank You Steve!

Ah, the memories .... Secretariat has been a constant star in the constellation of my life .... a sight to marvel at, a light to inspire....  and to comfort too... thank you, Big Red!

24 Jan 2013 12:55 AM
The Deacon

Alex'sBigFan:  So very sorry for your loss, my heart goes out to you.

I just got back and was catching up on my blog reading.

Ruffian, in my opinion the greatest filly that ever stepped on a racetrack. Wasn't it Lucian Lauren who said that Ruffian was better then Secretariat......

Excellent writing Steve as always, As a whole, the 1960's and 1970's argueably produced the greatest race horses in history.

Kelso, Graustark, Damascus, Dr. Fager, Affirmed, Ruffian, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Majestic Prince, Northern Dancer, Susan's Girl, Fort Marcy, Forego,Ack Ack, Arts and Letters and the list is endless.

24 Jan 2013 4:37 AM

I did forget to mention that Secretariat is the only horse to have won Horse of the Year at age 2.  His main rival for the honor at the time was another 2 year old...a filly, La Prevoyante.

24 Jan 2013 7:08 AM
Pedigree Ann

"Heavy rains the day before the Bay Shore turned the track sloppy, and it remained muddy on race day, which dawned gray and ugly and stayed that way all afternoon."

Notice no sealing was done in those days. If the track was off, you dealt with it and found out if your horse could handle mud. If you knew your horse didn't handle it, you scratched and aimed for a race next week or out of town. No prima donna business then; you had to take what Mother Nature gave you and move on, without worrying about how a loss would look on a colt's stallion page.

24 Jan 2013 9:42 AM

To Slew, you are by no means the only fan of Sham. He was a wonderful horse with a fine lifetime record of 5w, 5p, 1s from 13 starts. Like Secretariat, Sham was out of a mare sired by Princequillo. So, although not in horse pedigree terms, in human terms the two colts had the same maternal grandfather and were first cousins. This might explain why they both had large hearts. While not a top tier stallion, Sham had a reasonably successful career at stud. He died April 3, 1993, aged 23, having lived three years and six months longer than Big Red. Sham died just shy of 20 years to the day after the only time he finished ahead of Secretariat. He was 2nd in the Wood Memorial with Red finishing 3rd on April 21, 1973. I think Sham lives on in the hearts of many racing fans who realize that Secretariat might not have raced on to that incredible Belmont win if he didn't have a horse the quality of Sham pushing him through those mind-blowing first six furlongs. Maybe somewhere those two old racing legends are running together again. I like to imagine they are. Hope is made of such dreams. :)

24 Jan 2013 11:39 AM
A Horsey Canuck

Steve, I watched all of Secretariat's races over again after you first posted this blog. I was lucky enough to watch them first hand, albeit on TV; he looks as great then as he does 40yrs later. There will never be another like him. I had the privilege of standing over his grave, wishing that I had not put off visiting him while he was alive. Lesson learned...make a bucket list and stick to it. I've now been to KY twice. Thanks so much for the great memories. This, including all of the comments, will go into my Big Red binder. Thank you again.

24 Jan 2013 2:53 PM

Linda in Texas:

Whoa, there. Ruffian's sire Reviewer had three leg fractures at different times. Not racing injuries, in the paddock.

But Northern Dancer? He was a tough little mutt. In his daddy's first crop, he was raced to advertise his old man. The Kentucky Derby, in which he set the track and stakes record, was his 15th start, and he was a late May foal. And, of course, he emerged from that race, with its stretch-long challenge from Hill Rise, ready to win the Preakness laughing.

24 Jan 2013 4:15 PM

Somebody did a retrospective of Secretariat's training regimen in the Thoroughbred Record many moons ago, and pointed out that Secretariat ran to his pre-race blowout. All his losses were preceded by uncharacteristically slow final works. Either he really needed a bullet work going into a race, or something was off with him (once it was an abcess, I remember) whenever he threw a clunker. I think Prove Out was the better horse going two miles in the mud, but other than that no horse that beat him was ever regarded as his equal.

24 Jan 2013 4:35 PM
Paula Higgins

Big_Red_Forever, you are so right about Sham. Sham was a very special horse and great horse. He was crucial to the legend of Secretariat.

24 Jan 2013 5:01 PM


Actually, the filly Phipps took, The Bride, was the first born. I've read that story so often, Phipps struck down by the savage hand of fate, and it never could bring me to tears.

I mean, really, we're talking about a full sister to Secretariat and Syrian Sea, half to Sir Gaylord.

"Hey, over here! I'll take her."

While not a dynastic mare, The Bride was a multiple stakes producer.

24 Jan 2013 5:10 PM
Lammtarra's Arc

I am hoping very much that Hialeah will become that special hub in the winter like she used to be.  Having the Historic Flamingo stakes back would truely be wonderful.  As for the 72 HOTY Both contenders were rightfully deserving, and La Prevoyante was a tremendous Canadian Bred Filly, like so many after her in 73 would have won races, or Awards had it not been for Big Red and his superior talent.

24 Jan 2013 8:28 PM

Coming late to this again so only time for random comments:

ABF, I can't even think about losing one of my sisters, even tho we spend a lot of time screeching at each other or walking around in a (silent) huff.  Still love 'em.  Remember that your sister will never be truly gone -- she'll always be in your heart (or in the back of your head, sniggering at you when you do something stupid and making you snort at yourself too.  

Slew, I always thought La Prevoyante deserved that HOY.  After all, SHE was undefeated that year.

Steve: I think everyone looked dorky in the '70's.  didn't some of us actually even wear hot pants?

Finally:   Ack!  40 years!

24 Jan 2013 10:38 PM

Sorry forgot one more thing:

Favourite Trick won HOY as a 2yo

24 Jan 2013 10:40 PM

Deacon, all the Karens, Mike Relva, Paula, Slew, MZ, TCKaren, Linda in Texas, thank you one and all for your heartfelt thoughts.

Linda I am sure your son, Edward has greeted my sister, Jennifer, and they are frolicking up there enjoying all the animals, for they loved them so.  TCKaren, I will send up that prayer, maybe they can go and pat Barbaro and Big Red.  Edward and Jennifer exist now with no disabilities and it must be amazing.  Her tribute was indeed very special, yes, I saw to that.  She looked like a little princess angel at peace, she was beautiful.  I gave a speech at the service and she was buried with her stuffed animal doggie like our Betsy at her side with a floral bouquet in the shape of a dog bone.  I know I will miss her dearly but her suffering is over and she is in a better place.

Thank you all.

Cheryl   (or Alex'sBigFan)  

24 Jan 2013 11:47 PM

And Steve, help me here

Wasn't Mocassin picked as HOY in 1965 by one of the three groups picking year end honourees instead of Roman Brother?  Another 2YO and a filly to boot

25 Jan 2013 12:50 AM
Steve Haskin

mz, yes, Moccasin was named Horse of the Year by the TRA in 1965. Roman Brother was the recognized Horse of the Year in the DRF/Morning Telegaph poll

25 Jan 2013 10:12 AM
Linda in Texas

Cassandra.Says - i don't believe i said Ruffian's sire broke down on a track while racing. I did say he was euthanized because of an injury. However, Reviewer did sustain 3 injuries in his racing career and was retired to stud and the 4th and final injury that led to his euthanization happened in his paddock when he broke one of his leg's again for the fourth time. You are correct about the paddock incident and i never said it was or wasn't.

Perhaps you can enlighten me. I would not purposely make a statement especially derogatory to any horse if i indeed knew it was false.

Further explanation: Ruffian's Dam Shenanigans also did not end her life on a track racing. She broke 2 of her legs when she awoke from intestinal surgery and had to be euthanized. Not unlike her daughter Ruffian who awoke from her sleep after her surgery and thought she was still running or attempting to and tore the surgery that was just completed and sustained more injuries. Those words were quoted as i listened to the sad report that she was euthanized and i turned off racing until my hero or one of many of them, the one and only Seattle Slew won the 1977 Kentucky Derby, The 1977 Preakness and the 1977 Belmont, becoming the ONLY undefeated Triple Crown Winner including Secretariat. I personally felt and thought that Seattle Slew was honoring Ruffian by his extraordinary thrilling wins. Just saying. I am an empath.

Our fellow blogger Slew is lead professor when it comes to Slew. And of course Steve.

Thanks for letting me explain to Cassandra.Says. I mean no disrespect Cassandra.Says. Just clarifying my statement since you seemed to misunderstand what i wrote.

25 Jan 2013 12:24 PM
Linda in Texas

Steve's article is about Big Red, so Big Red allow me to digress once again.

Now i read that Ruffian's dam Shenanigans broke her legs before her intestinal surgery not during or after as i read elsewhere. Suffice it to say, weak bones were prevalent in Ruffian's Pedigree. I am safe with that statement. In reading articles, determining actual times of a past event many years back can be misinterpreted by the wrong placement of a comma to the top or to the bottom!    

Apologies offered where needed, especially to Shenanigans.

25 Jan 2013 5:18 PM

On a brighter note than discussions of who said what about Ruffian, I'd like to say a word about the magnificent foal crop of 1970. In addition to Secretariat and Sham, that foal crop included Forego, Ancient Title, Mr. Prospector, Allez France, Bel Sheba (dam of Alysheba), Dhalia, Desert Vixen, La Prevoyante, Stop the Music, Thatch and Star Appeal. I'm sure there are other notable horses from that crop, but this list, alone, makes the 1970 group one of the great foal crops of all time.

25 Jan 2013 8:55 PM
Pedigree Ann

Linda in Texas -

Shenanigans raced 22 times in two seasons, winning a Maryland-bred stakes at 2; he had a half-brother who won 22 of 122 starts. Soft she was not, nor was her family.

She was also an old-fashioned 100% - every one of her foals raced and won. To wit - Icecapade won 13 of 32 starts; Laughter won 4 of 12; On to Glory won 2 of 7; Buckfinder won 9 or 21; Near East won 14 of 54; and Ruffian won 10 of 10 before she broke down. She was the only foal of Shenanigans who broke down on the track.

26 Jan 2013 10:30 AM

Speaking of Shenanigans, Orb looked very impressive wining the 5 at Gulfstream Park today.

26 Jan 2013 3:06 PM

my mare ruffaroundtheedges ( graddaughter of secretariat) had her first foal bred to ryan' thunder ( out of Lil.E.tee ) It' a boy. She is being bred back to Hansen this spring can not wait to see my new foal.

29 Jan 2013 5:32 PM

Secretariat IS the standard for which we measure greatness! I am so proud to own a grand daughter of his. Her name is Cousin Sara out of Jazz Session by Secretariat. It is a thrill to go out to the pasture each day and pet a part of history. She is a beautiful, big red horse also but you can still see the magic in her eyes!

29 Jan 2013 6:02 PM
Mike Monarchos

Great article Steve! I loved Secretariat. He was my favorite. I'll never forget Chick Anderson's calls of the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont. Chick lived a few miles from me in my home town of Evansville, Indiana. I'll always regret not going to see Big Red while he was at stud at Claiborne though. I do have many paintings of him that I've done on my walls though. He was a picture of perfection though, and it's very hard to paint perfect!

29 Jan 2013 7:23 PM

It may be 40 years but Secretariat never gets old.  I never tire of these stories of him.  It's amazing to hear the emotion in all of these posts. 40 years later and we are still brought to tears, awestruck by his very name.  Never stop writing about him, Steve

01 Feb 2013 9:25 PM

Thank you for the Secretariat article and photo.  I too always enjoy stories and photos of him.  He was the simply the best.  I'm a forever fan.

08 Feb 2013 4:00 PM
Tiara Terces

As with so many, Secretariat was my all-time favorite, followed closely by Native Dancer. My display name is Secretariat spelled backwards. . . except it is Tiara not Taira.

I only saw those two legends on TV.  However, I had all of the magazines with Secretariat on the cover and the NY Times sports page coverage of his astounding Belmont.  They were destroyed in a basement office fire.

Anyway, why hasn't there been any who can approach him since?

I had high hopes for one of his look-alike descendents, Charismatic, who had a less than illustrious early racing career, (like Seabiscuit), but came close to a Triple Crown. I honestly was going to bet him the day he won the Derby and I will never forgive my ride for not showing up. They lost their money at Fox Woods and I would have made them a fortune.

I wonder if Charismatic's jockey would have lived longer had he won that day in Belmont. He may have saved the horse's life by quickly pulling up and jumping off when the horse injured himself and lost the Triple Crown.

I had not realized Syrian Sea was Secretariat's full sister until much later as she was a bit older.  

Why has his progeny never been closely inbred as with so many other stallions, such as Mr. Prospector?

13 Feb 2013 9:50 AM
Tiara Terces

Secretariat, as with many, is my all time favorite.  My display name is almost his name spelled backwards.  Why has he never had any close inbreeding from among his descendents like Mr. Prospector, his contemporary?

13 Feb 2013 9:55 AM

I'll never forget Secretariat, I first fell in love with Man o' War, and always felt Secretariat was him reborn. I remember my mother crying that she was never going to see a Triple Crown winner, I turned around and showed her the BloodHorse photo and said "here is your Triple Crown winner", a picture of Secretariat winning the Belmont Futurity. I remember her crying also that he was going too fast in the Belmont Stakes, I told her he wasn't, they were going too slow. I never had any doubts, Man o' War was denied the KD, but with Secretariat's KD win I knew he would not be denied this time.

02 Jul 2014 8:25 PM

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