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Homeracing

Secretariat's 10 Best Performances

Profile Picture: Jennifer Kelly

February 28th, 2022

One of the most dominant horses of the 20th century, Secretariat raced 21 times in his career, his dynamic wins and surprising losses standout moments in the sport’s long memory. Each time he stepped on a racetrack, his performances made headlines and rightly so, for each trip around the oval was a show in itself.

Whether people were watching at home or at the racetrack, Secretariat’s 21 races left fans with something to talk about each time.

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Here are 10 of his best performances, each a story unto itself.

  1. 1972 Maiden Win

Secretariat made his debut in a crowded maiden special weight race on July 4, 1972, finishing fourth, and returned 11 days later to try again at Aqueduct. In the fourth race on July 15, he broke a step slow, jockey Paul Feliciano hustling the still-green Secretariat to the front to challenge the leaders. Wide around the turn, Big Red shot to the lead in the stretch and drew away to win by six lengths. Secretariat was a maiden no more.

  1. 1972 Hopeful Stakes

The Hopeful Stakes is an aptly named test for two-year-olds, as each horse running with the hopes of their owners, trainers, and others riding on their performance. The 1972 edition was more than just hopeful; it was a sign of things to come. Secretariat broke slowly, taking time to get his massive stride in gear. He circled the field on the turn, hitting the front as they turned into the stretch. From there, Ron Turcotte was just a passenger, the powerful Secretariat pulling away to a five-length victory.

 

  1. 1972 Sanford Stakes

Linda’s Chief came into the Sanford at Saratoga with a perfect record, all in stakes. He went into the gate as the favorite, with Secretariat as second choice. In the six-furlong Sanford, Secretariat would remind observers why he should have been the favorite. Breaking at the back of the field of five, Turcotte waited for the turn to send the big red colt for the lead. Secretariat split horses and took the lead with ease. Linda’s Chief rallied for second, three lengths behind the future Triple Crown winner.

 

  1. 1972 Laurel Futurity

In his first start over a mile, Secretariat faced five others in the Laurel Futurity. On the heels of his disqualification for interference in his previous race, the Champagne, Turcotte kept Secretariat to the outside, carefully avoiding traffic over the sloppy track. Turcotte gave the colt his cue on the far turn, easily taking the lead from Rocket Pocket as they turned into the Laurel stretch. Clearly untroubled by the surface, Secretariat was four lengths in front at the wire, his time just one-fifth of a second off the track record.

  1. 1973 Canadian International

Facing a field of 11, including Queen’s Plate winner Kennedy Road, Secretariat’s last test would come over the turf in the Canadian International. Under jockey Eddie Maple, the Triple Crown winner broke alertly, stalking Kennedy Road for the first 1 1/4 miles. He took the lead on the far turn, opening up a 12-length advantage before Maple powered him down. At the wire, Secretariat was 5 1/2 lengths in front, saying goodbye to the racetrack with a reminder that he was just as good on the grass as he was on the dirt.

 

  1. 1973 Arlington Invitational

For his first race following his tour-de-force in the 1973 Belmont, Secretariat went to Chicago for the Arlington Invitational at Arlington Park, a chance for fans outside of New York to see this phenomenal horse run. Against only three others, the red colt raced to the lead out of the gate, Turcotte wrapping up on Secretariat until they hit the stretch. The jockey relaxed his hold in the stretch, the ninth Triple Crown winner striding out to an easy nine-length win.

  1. 1973 Man o’ War Stakes

Secretariat’s Man o’ War was his first start over turf, the first Triple Crown winner to run on the grass since Omaha’s English season in 1936. At a mile and a half, the race was the same length as the Belmont Stakes, where he had set the American record for that distance. Would he do the same on the turf? Taking an easy lead out of the gate, Secretariat led all the way, running the distance in 2:24 4/5, a course record. 

 

  1. 1973 Kentucky Derby

He was the most popular racehorse in years and everyone wanted to see the big red colt wear roses. Fully recovered from a mouth abscess that had compromised him in the Wood Memorial, the big red colt bided his time early, running toward the back of the pack and picking off horses one by one down the backstretch. Secretariat powered to the lead in the stretch, easily winning in Derby record time

 

  1. 1973 Preakness Stakes

Rather than linger toward the back of the pack and make a late bid for the lead, Ron Turcotte opted to make a bold early move in the Preakness. Sensing a slow pace ahead of them, the jockey sent Secretariat to the outside of horses, circling the field to take the lead on the backstretch. Their gambit worked; Secretariat took a two-length lead and never let it go, easily taking the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

 

  1. 1973 Belmont Stakes

What hasn’t been said about Secretariat’s Belmont Stakes? Nearly 50 years after that victory, Chic Anderson’s call stands out among the indelible moments of that time, the “tremendous machine” moving farther and farther away from the rest of the field. “But Secretariat is all alone,” Anderson said as the ninth Triple Crown winner straightens for home. Indeed, he is alone atop the list of the 13 to win the three races, simply the best of them all.

In a career full of highlights, it can be a challenge to find the 10 best performances of a horse as consistently good as Secretariat. From his record Belmont Stakes win to the maiden victory that started it all, these races show that Secretariat was as perfect as a horse could possibly be, one that could capture hearts as easily as he won races.

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