April 21, 1973 ~ Wood Memorial ~ 1 1/8 mile ~ Aqueduct Race Course
Secretariat had lost his first race, and later was disqualified from a victory, however that was in the past. Few expected Secretariat to EVER lose another race. But in his last big prep for the Kentucky Derby, the Big Red Horse did lose.
In the Wood Memorial, Secretariat’s stablemate Angle Light went straight to the front and never looked back. A new challenger to the supremacy of Secretariat named Sham finished second, and the best Secretariat could do was third.
The Daily Racing Form chart caller noted that Angle Light “settled into the stretch with a clear lead and responded gamely to last over Sham.” The latter, the Form reported, “finished strongly, narrowly missing.”
And Secretariat? The Form said Secretariat was “unhurried early, commenced to rally while racing outside horses on the backstretch, continued wide into the stretch, lugged in slightly nearing the final furlong and failed to seriously menace the top pair.”
Knowledgeable racing fans realize that many races are won by speed horses who are simply not caught by horses who come from behind. But this was the mighty Secretariat, and the casual might feel that things like that just couldn’t happen to a horse that was touted as best beyond all others.
But it did.
Later, trainer Lucien Laurin revealed that an abscess inside Secretariat’s mouth must have caused the horse serious discomfort, possibly accounting for the defeat.
But some hard-boiled handicappers had another theory: they said Secretariat’s problem was his sire wasn’t noted for passing along the kind of stamina needed for distance racing. The Wood was 1 1/8 miles, and the Derby was another furlong farther.
The general public didn’t want to see their hero dismissed that way. Nevertheless, there was that doubt as Secretariat, Angle Light and Sham all headed to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby.