Sunday, June 9, 2013

June 9 - Secretariat's Triple Crown

40 years ago: On June 9, 1973, Thoroughbred racehorse Secretariat won the Triple Crown of horseracing in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, Long Island. The large chestnut stallion, nicknamed “Big Red,” set records that stand today in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont. In the Derby, he ran each quarter-mile segment faster than the one before it, winning by 2½ lengths. In the Preakness, he made an amazing, last-to-first move on the first turn and won unchallenged by 2½ lengths. In the running of the Belmont, with only four horses competing against him, Secretariat opened a gaping lead (1/16 mile) in the stretch and won by 31 lengths, a record-breaking margin-of-victory (pictured). He had run the fastest 1½ miles on dirt in history (2:24 flat). In 1989, afflicted with laminitis, a hoof condition, he was euthanized and afforded the rare honor of being buried whole (usually only the head, heart and hooves of a winning race horse are buried). A necropsy showed that Secretariat had one of the largest hearts ever known in a racehorse (estimated at 22 pounds).

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  1. People who watched these 2nd and 3rd races still very likely believe they have seen the most beautiful animal ever to run, and certainly the most awesome moments they can ever expect to see in this sport. This was not a statistical contemplation at the time, of course, although the numbers are always some crutch for comprehension. This horse's victory at Belmont Park was an occasion for tears from the instant the gate was sprung; I imagine, a video would capture some large measure of this excitement, but in the moment one was cognizant that nothing like this could ever happen again. All comparisons are odious, all analogies are vain. Nothing else that can be done, in the concert hall, the bedroom, the chess board or on canvas, can be likened to his conduct, per se, much less his triumph. I'm glad to be remembering it; I don't mind being human.

  2. It was a triumph, indeed. What a horse!