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1973 Preakness Time

On June 19, 2012, the Maryland Racing Commission officially changed Secretariat’s winning time in the 1973 Preakness Stakes from 1:54 2/5 to 1:53 for the 1 3/16 miles distance – establishing that Secretariat had, as many believed, broken the Pimlico Race Course track record existing at that time. The correction gives Secretariat the lasting distinction of breaking the track records for all three Triple Crown races of that year — Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes and the the ruling resolves a controversy 39-years in the making…

Click here to read more about the history and controversy of the 1973 Preakness time.

Did you know..

  • The June 19th hearing was actually the third time this issue has been considered by the Maryland Racing Commission. The first was in 1973, when CBS presented evidence which suggested that Secretariat had run the race in a time faster than track record holder Canonero II.  The Commission then ruled that it was bound by regulation which stated that, in the event of an “extenuating circumstance” regarding the electronic timing device, the time of the official hand-clocker must serve as the official time. The second occasion was in 1999, following a revision to the regulation that the official time of the race could be “provided by method considered reliable and accurate.” At that time Pimlico presented an informal argument to the Commission which decided there was insufficient basis to justify any change.
  • Three generations of the Chenery/Tweedy family were present at the June hearing: Penny Chenery, son John Tweedy, and granddaughter Alice McGrath. Also present was renowned Secretariat biographer Bill Nack. The presentation to the commission was organized and orchestrated by Secretariat.com President, Leonard Lusky. The process to build the case actually began nearly three years prior when Mr. Lusky served as a technical advisor for Disney to assist the studio in acquiring the original CBS video footage for use in the feature film.
  • The presentation to the commission contained four basic premises: 1) Proof that the official time or 1:54 2/5 could not be accurate; 2) Actual digital measurement and timing of the 1973 race; 3) fractional split time analysis, 4) side by side video comparison analysis with race footage from both the 1985 and 1996 Preakness Stakes and their respective officially recorded time of 1:53 2/5.
  • The five timing experts assembled to analyze the 1973 video footage were unanimous in their collective conclusion. Their conservative analysis was that the final time was 1:53 flat, however at least two of the five suggested the actual time may have been as fast as 1:52 4/5.
  • Although the new official time of 1:53 surprised many considering the general notion has always been a time of 1:53 2/5 as recorded by the Daily Racing Form, however, the 1:53 time had been alluded to or mentioned twice previously. In 1973, CBS showed that Secretariat’s Preakness video footage contained 26 less frames than the footage from Canonero II’s 1971 performance. (Doing the math based on a film rate of nearly 30 frame per second, it represented a time differential of .867 of a second. Canonero’s official time of 1:54 less .867 = 1:53.133 (or 1:53 flat in the parlance of the 1/5 timing system of 1973). Additionally, in 1999, Pimlico also maintained the actual time to be 1:53.12 in their independent findings.
  • As well as proving Secretariat’s time to be 1:53, the video analysis showed that second place finisher Sham covered the Preakness distance in the time of 1:53 3/5, which also would have broken Canonero II’s existing track record at the time.

As a closing statement to the commission to articulate why the time change is important, the Secretariat camp offered the following:

Although the change now allows Secretariat to hold the Stakes record for each of the Triple Crown races, this correction in time was not necessary to further glorify Secretariat and his Triple Crown achievements. His legacy remains unchanged and intact with or without the time change. The significance of the Preakness time change impacts the broader scope of the sport in several ways.

While we are talking about an incident that will not impact anyone’s wallet, or change the pari-mutual results, correcting the record is not such a small matter, it is simply the right thing to do.

Consider that racing invariably relies upon accurate past performance details and precise time standards which often go down to fifths or even hundredths of a second. Consider also, how or why any sport would willingly settle for ambiguity in its statistics.

Just as DNA evidence can prove someone’s innocence in a criminal matter, likewise, in racing, should we not utilize the available compelling technological advances to get the right information, and isn’t it our obligation to do so, especially when there is every reason to believe the “facts” are wrong?

This wasn’t a Tuesday claiming race at an obscure track. This was Secretariat at the Preakness, going for the Triple Crown; a track record was at stake and millions were watching around the world. It mattered then, and it matters now. It is time to correct the error. And if racing can’t get it right on this one, then those past performances documenting those Tuesday claiming races become a little less trustworthy.

In a game that claims that it has the fans at heart, how could the sport of racing be willing to accept less than the truth about a most spectacular, unprecedented achievement? In our judgment, it definitely mattered then whether Secretariat was given his proper due… and it still does now.

Witness List Providing Testimony at the Hearing:
Karin DeFrancis
Karin is the former co-owner of the Maryland Jockey Club and current consultant based at Pimlico (testified as to the provenance of the beta tapes, not the technical aspects)
Sandy Grossman – CBS Director
Sandy enjoyed an illustrious career at CBS as a director for 30 years and is, without question, one of the most highly decorated executives in the sports media industry. Sandy also was an integral part of the 1973 commission hearing and has a tremendous familiarity with details of the original broadcast.
Wyndham Hannaway – Founder GWH&A
For over 30 years, Wyndham’s company GWH&A has been at the forefront of emerging technologies in the imaging and multi-media marketplace with clients such as Sprint, Lockheed Martin, and Hallmark Entertainment.
Jack Harmon – Official Timer for Maryland Racetracks
With over 42 years of experience, Jack has been timing across the Maryland racing circuit since 1972 and specifically at Pimlico since 1976. Jack’s familiarity and experience with every phase of electronic timing and hand-clocking at Pimlico makes him the leading expert in all matters relating to race-timing at the historic race course.
Jamie Pence – President and Sr. Editor Videobred, Inc.
A technology maven, and President of Videobred since 2003, Jamie is widely regarded as one of the premiere video editors in the midwest, and a go-to resource for post-production technology solutions. Videobred’s high profile clients include General Electric, Papa John’s, McDonald’s, ESPN, Maker’s Mark, and the NTRA.
Thomas M. Westenburg – Linear Technology Corporation
Thomas Westenburg (Tom) has 35 years of engineering experience, in a variety of disciplines including designing and analyzing timing systems.  He has worked for the US Olympic Committee (USOC), and Salt Lake Organizing Committee to insure timing system accuracy at all the Olympic venues, implementing protocols to resolve missed times due to system failures. It was common place for Tom to review video to determine race times or splits to a precise degree of accuracy. Tom and his projects have been written about in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Design News, IEEE Spectrum, MIT Technology Review, and on Discovery, ABC Sports, PBS, NPR, and many others.
Amy Zimmerman – Executive Producer HRTV
Amy J. Zimmerman has been the Executive Producer of the HRTV network since its inception in 2002. She has won every major award associated with horse racing and television and her reputation is such that, in addition to her role at HRTV, Amy has worked with all four major networks as a horse racing producer. She is currently on staff for both NBC and ESPN/ABC, which includes serving as a producer on all three Triple Crown races since 2001, and as a producer for every Breeders’ Cup telecast since 1988
In addition to the Maryland Racing Commission and the Maryland Jockey Club, the Secretariat team would like to thank the panel of experts for their time and testimony as well as the following: Eric Stemen, Joanne and Charlie Owen, Georganne Hale, Steve Davidowitz, Andy Beyer, and Dale Austin.

Read more about the Commission ruling at the following national media links:

New York Times Article

Baltimore Sun Article


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