Man O’ War
October 8, 1973~ Man o’ War Stakes ~ 1 ½ mile ~ Belmont Park
Secretariat came on to the track for the next-to-last race of his career on Oct. 8, 1973 at Belmont Park – only the track he came onto to race was not the regular dirt track at Belmont, where he had won the Belmont Stakes earlier that year, and the same type of track over all his previous races had been contested. On this day, jockey Ron Turcotte steered Secretariat across the dirt track and on to the inner “turf” track at Belmont, an oval of lush, deep grass. The $100,000 Man o’ War Stakes would be run over the grass, or turf, course, at a stamina-testing distance of 1 1/2 miles.
It was just one more test of Secretariat’s versatility. Though upset in his most recent start, The Big Red horse had proven himself over every distance, from three-quarters-of-a-mile, to a mile-and-a- half. He had proven himself as a two-year-old, as a sprinter, a miler, as a Triple Crown contender at classic distances – and now he would try the turf, the preferred surface of European racing.
How did he do?
Led every step of the way, and won drawing away by five lengths.
“Some people may not believe me,” jockey Ron Turcotte said later,”but I always thought he was an even better horse on grass than dirt.”
Here’s how Secretariat ran the Man o’ War, according to the Daily Racing Form chart:
“SECRETARIAT, away in good order, moved to the fore from between horses nearing the finish (passing the stands for the first time), saved ground after opening a clear lead around the first turn, responded readily to shake off a bid from Tentam after going three-quarters, turned back another bid from that rival approaching the stretch, and drew away under a hand ride.”
After the Man o’ War, just one race was left on Secretariat’s schedule. He would run his final race in Canada, the homeland of both trainer Lucien Laurin and jockey Ron Turcotte. Then Secretariat would be retired to stud in Kentucky – having answered one more question: Could he run on the turf?
The answer was yes.