What may be one of the most important coin tosses in sports history, is the entire reason Secretariat exists. In 1969, Penny Chenery and Ogden Phipps met in the New York Racing Association for the coin toss. The winner would get a foal from sire Bold Ruler and mare Hasty Matelda and the loser would receive the foal from sire Bold Ruler and mare Somethingroyal. Penny Chenery lost the coin toss, but she won something better. On March 30th, 1970, Somethingroyal foaled a bright red chestnut colt with three white socks and a narrow blaze. This small colt would bring Penny Chenery's name to fame.
Secretariat began his racing career when he was two years old. His trainer was Lucien Laurin and his jockey was Ron Turcotte. His career started off on a low note finishing in fourth place. But after that, he won five consecutive races. Once he turned three, he began preparing for the Kentucky Derby. Penny was confident her Big Red horse had a shot at the Triple Crown.
When asked who is favorite mount was, jockey Ron Turcotte didn't miss a beat, "Riva Ridge" What about Secretariat, the legend, the hero the dream? "Riva Ridge was my favorite because I felt like I had done something to enhance his racing.
Secretariat, he had it all.
He was everything."
OUT OF THE GATES
AND INTO HISTORY
At three years of age, Secretariat was led onto the field of the 1973 Kentucky Derby. Fans were worried because he had lost his previous race, but the Big Red horse snuffed out doubt and settled at the gate. When the gates opened, he fell into the back at 11th place, his usual spot, with Sham, his challenger, in the lead. But as always, he broke away during the final turn and finished first in record breaking time. He set the new record at 1:59 ⅖ for a 1 ¼mile track. He was the first to run a sub 2:00 Derby.
Two weeks later at the Preakness, Secretariat once again left the crowd astonished with his victory. This time though, he started last, but moved to the front rather early in the race. He finished first with a 2 ½lengths back to Sham, timed 1:53 for a 1/ 3/16 mile race. This was also a new record for the Preakness track.
The final race for Secretariat to beat to become the Triple Crown winner was the Belmont Stakes. Only four other horse dared to challenge the Big Red horse that day. Secretariat moved into the lead early in the race, settling next to Sham. These two horses moved down the track in parity, each refusing to yield to their rival. The spectators knew that no horse could take this pace for such a distance. The race seemed to be a disaster. But as Sham tired, Secretariat only seemed to gather energy and around the final turn, he sprinted away.
"They're on the turn, and Secretariat is blazing along! The first ¾ of a mile in 1:09 and four fifths. Secretariat is widening now!
He's moving like a tremendous machine!
Secretariat by twelve, Secretariat by fourteen lengths on the turn!"
-track announcer Chic Anderson
Down the homestretch, jockey Ron Turcotte did not ease the horse. Most would have been pulling up, saving something for another day. But this was the day. This was the day to show the world what he could do. All that power, balance, heart and speed, Secretariat was ready to roll, and the margin kept widening and widening. By mid-stretch, he was 28 lengths ahead and still he did not slow. Coming down the homestretch the crowd saw the horse for the first time. Before they were watching how close the margins between Secretariat and the other hoses were. Thats how you watch horse races. You watch to see which one seems to be pulling ahead or falling back, the gap. They saw the closeness melt and the margin spread. No longer did they see the margin; all they saw the The Horse. He was longer racing the other horses, only himself and history.
A moment of true greatness
He finished with a time of 2:24 flat, shattering the previous record by more than 2 seconds.
He became the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 25 years.
In the 44 years since he won that race, his time and margin of victory have never been approached.
Secretariat truly ran out of the gates and into history. Each race during the Triple Crown, Secretariat broke the previous record, and left records that still stand today.
The Kentucky Derby was 1:59 2/5 seconds a still standing track record.
The Preakness was 1:53 seconds, another still standing track record.
The Belmont Stakes was 2:24 flat with a 31 length margin of victory, a still standing world record.
He was the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 25 years
His average speed during the Belmont was 37.5 mph, the fastest ever recorded.
He made the covers of Sports Illustrated, Times and Newsweek magazines, something that's never been done before or repeated since.
He was inducted into the Horse Racing Hall of fame.
There was a stamp made in his honor, the first horse to ever do so.
ESPN even listed him 35 on the 100 greatest athletes of the 20th century
Sadly, at age 19, Secretariat developed laminitis. A painful hoof disease that is treatable but not curable. The 19-year-old champion was euthanized to save him the suffering. When they did a necropsy on Secretariat, they found his heart to be much larger than that of an average horse's heart. The average weight for a horse heart is 8.5 pounds. Secretariat's heart weighed 22 lbs., the largest ever recorded.
True champions step outside the boundaries. Secretariat crossed every boundary set in front of him.
His imprint was burned into history.
To this day, his record stands alone, ahead of the pack, just as he was on that special day, when an unknowing crowd watched a Big Red Horse race against the ages.