When I think of Thoroughbred legends, Secretariat is always the first horse that comes to mind. I was training racehorses in Ohio and Pennsylvania at the height of his career and remember the buzz about this horse at the track kitchens. Born on March 30th in 1970, it wasn’t until Secretariat was a three-year old, that he became a household name. Being a contender for the coveted Triple Crown will do that for a horse.
Though the movie trailer portrays Secretariat’s chances of winning the Triple Crown as slim, in my mind’s eye, he was the favorite all along. Sired by Bold Ruler out of the mare Somethingroyal, he was bred to be a champion. Nicknamed “Big Red” reminiscent of Man o’ War, Secretariat was a large horse. He stood 16.2 and weighed 1,175 pounds. He had 75 inch girth and a heart as big as a mountain.
Penny Tweedy (Chenery) believed in this horse, as did his trainer, Lucien Laurin. Looking back it’s hard to imagine that Secretariat’s Triple Crown future as a racehorse wearing the blue and white checkered colors of Tweedy’s Meadow Stable all started with a coin toss. I’ll leave that story for the movie. I hope Diane Ladd does Penny Tweedy (Chenery) proud.
Secretariat won 16 of his 21 career starts and earned a total of $1,316,808 in purse monies. He was named Horse of the Year as a two-year old, and again as a three-year old. He became the first U.S. Triple Crown champion in twenty-five years and set track records for the Kentucky Derby (1:59 2/5) and in the Belmont (2:24) a record that he still holds to this day. Controversy surrounded his running time of the Preakness. Clocked by the racing official at a time of 1:54 2/5, two Daily Racing Form clockers cited the actual time as 1:53 2/5 which would have broken the record.
Scheduled to retire to stud at the end of his three-year old year, Secretariat won his last race in style, on grass for only the second time in his career and bested the field by 6 ½ lengths. I know of many people who were lucky enough to see Secretariat race, and who were in awe of this magnificent horse. To them, there will never be another Secretariat.
As a rule, I shy away from horse movies, particularly racehorse movies. I’m always a little uncomfortable when the jockey looks like he’s riding a mechanical horse, and yelling something silly. Or the fact that I see six different horses portraying one. I’m sorry, I’m a horse person and can recognize one horse from the other. Likewise, a sweating horse in a race, should not be totally dry in the winner’s circle. The jockeys should not be hitting each other with whips down the stretch, and two horse rivals should not be biting each other heading toward the wire.
Thus said, I will be in line the day “Secretariat” the Movie, debuts. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. If it’s sappy, so be it. I’ll have my tissue ready. After all, this is Secretariat we’re talking about, the greatest racehorse of all time. I was there when it all happened. And I’ll be there again. You can bet on it.