Today’s Derby winner of the day is Secretariat. He is among the the greatest race horses America has ever known.
Secretariat was born on March 30, 1970 at Meadow Farm in Caroline County, Virginia. Like the famous Man o’War, Secretariat was a large chestnut, and therefore was given the same nickname, “Big Red.”
Secretariat enjoyed great success as a 2-year-old, and was named Horse of the Year at 2, becoming the first horse with that honor. (Since then, another 2-year-old, Favorite Trick, has won that award also). Secretariat also won the Eclipse Award for champion 2 year old.
In the 1973 Derby, Secretariat broke poorly and started out in last place. He gradually moved up on the field in the backstretch, and finally pulled away to win the Derby by 2 ½ lengths. His Derby time is still the record, at 1 minute 59 2/5 seconds. Remarkably, each ¼ mile time was faster than the one before.
We could end here, but Secretariat was such a great horse, I wanted to tell a bit more of his story. In the second jewel of the triple crown, the Preakness Stakes, Secretariat again broke last, but made a huge last-to-first move on the first turn. He won by 2 ½ lengths again.
The Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of the triple crown is another amazing story. Only four other horses joined Secretariat for that race. Secretariat won the mile and a half race by 31 lengths in a time of 2 minutes 24 seconds flat, a world record that still stands to this day.
Secretariat retired from racing in 1974 to stand at stud at the Claiborne farm just outside Paris, Kentucky. He sired as many as 600 foals during his retirement, and many of his offspring have been very successful, though none as great as he.
In the fall of 1989 Secretariat was afflicted with laminitis, and he was euthanized on October 4, of that year. He is buried at Claiborne Farm. Before he was buried he was necropsied (a fancy word for autopsy) at the University of Kentucky where the veterinarian who performed the necropsy found that Secretariat’s heart was the largest he had ever seen on a horse, approximately twice the size of a normal horse’s heart.