Our second installment of the Writers Forum features the popular author and racing journalist Steve Haskin pondering the question of Secretariat racing in today’s high-tech age. An engaging read adding a new perspective to the world’s most famous horse.
By Steve Haskin
If Secretariat were running in this age of the Internet, he would have a section all to himself in the glossary of terms and abbreviations. How many times would “OMG,” also known as Oh My God for the computer challenged, be used? The Secretariat.com website would explode to smithereens from the number of hits. Big Red’s Facebook page would have a larger population than most American cities. There would be a waiting list to become his “friend.”
Secretariat items on Ebay would take up numerous pages, with items going for ridiculous prices — a clump of his tail or mane, straw from his stall, his manure to grow “Big Red Mushrooms.” Winning Triple Crown mutuel tickets and programs would be red-hot items. There would be more photos of Big Red for sale than you’d find in a high school yearbook.
Racing message boards would be inundated with Secretariat poems.
Remember when Secretariat graced the cover of Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated in the same week? Well, you could add People, Us, ESPN The Magazine, and Rolling Stone, and who knows how many more?
You can bet it wouldn’t have taken 36 years to do a movie on him. That deal would have been completed by the fall of 1973.
In this world of Instant Messaging, Twitter, texting, YouTube, Blackberries, IPhones, cell phone cameras and videos, and Flips, Secretariat, in one form or another, would be floating around the world in cyber space like billions of molecules.
Penny Chenery, then Penny Tweedy, would be enticed with offers of $40 million or more from Sheikh Mohammed, who would go after Big Red with the speed of one of his falcons in a full-out dive. If she was on Twitter, you could fill a phone book with the names of her subscribers. “Secretariat has his head in the feed tub; licking it clean.” “Secretariat just took a roll in his straw; feeling chipper.” “Secretariat is walking the shed; Lucien might take him out to graze.” Millions would be engrossed, eagerly awaiting the next report from “Tweedy’s Twitter.”
In summation, Secretariat would be a star of unfathomable proportion. His aura would not be tarnished by salary disputes, domestic altercations, smack talk, and drug positives. After all, giving Secretariat steroids would be like giving growth hormones to The Incredible Hulk. He would be something beautiful and pure.
Chenery would transcend the title of “First Lady of the Turf.” She would be plastered all over Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Ladies Home Journal, Martha Stewart Living Magazine, O. The Oprah Magazine, and Women’s Day. She would inundated with requests to appear on every network’s TV late night and morning news show. And what a spokesperson she would be for racing. TV producers would be hounding her to do a reality series.
And when you have a star of the magnitude of Secretariat, his team members also become stars. So, Ron Turcotte and Lucien Laurin, despite their quiet demeanor, would be rock stars in Canada. Eddie Sweat would be the most quoted, well-known groom since Will Harbut dubbed Man o’ War, “The Mostest Hoss.”
And finally, imagine the barrage of phone calls from racetracks all over the country wanting Big Red to appear, and the huge purses they would offer. His career naturally would conclude with the Breeders’ Cup. It’s not every day when an owner and trainer have to decide whether to run in the BC Classic or Turf. But Secretariat would be the overwhelming favorite in either one.
Running in the Classic, he’d be up against the same horses he defeated all year, although a revenge rematch with Prove Out would be an enticing prospect. However, imagine the implications of running in the Turf to determine “Horse of the World.” The King of America vs. the Queen of Europe: Secretariat vs. Dahlia. They could even try to lure Allez France, Dahlia’s archrival. Now that would have something for everyone.
I think everyone gets the picture by now. Secretariat was so distinctive, so brilliant, so powerful, so handsome, so versatile, so popular, and managed by such classy people, that he would be the most marketable horse of modern times, and would have been the most marketable athlete – equine or human — had they been able to find two pairs of Nikes in his size.
So, in the world of text messaging, chats, and other quick-fingered methods of communication, Secretariat simply would be too good to be true. Oops, I mean 2G2BT.
Brooklyn, NY native Steve Haskin has been the senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse magazine since 1998. Prior to joining The Blood-Horse, Haskin worked at the Daily Racing Form for 29 years, the last seven as national correspondent. He has appeared on The News Hour With Jim Lehrer, NBC Nightly News, ABC, Today in New York (NBC local Today Show) Charlie Rose, A&E Biography, National Public Radio (three times), Cold Pizza, on ESPN, CNN News, and ESPN. Haskin has won numerous turf writing awards, including six Red Smith Awards for Kentucky Derby coverage and the Walter Haight Award from the National Turf Writers Association for Career Excellence.