Secretariat

1972 Horse of the Year – A Prelude to Greatness

With the recent announcement of the 2022 Eclipse Award nominees let’s revisit how Secretariat left such a major impact on Thoroughbred racing during his outstanding 2-year-old campaign which seems to have gotten lost in his legacy. But by being voted Horse of the Year it left expectations at 3 so high it surely had to help owner Penny Tweedy and new Claiborne Farm president Seth Hancock attract enough breeders to syndicate the colt for a record $6,080,000. ~ Steve Haskin

1972 Horse of the Year – A Prelude to Greatness

By Steve Haskin

When Meadow Stable groom Eddie Sweat, who rubbed 1971 2-year-old champion Riva Ridge, first saw Secretariat at Hialeah in the winter of 1972, he thought he was too pretty and too fat to be a good horse, and in fact, he didn’t even want to rub him at first. That he would become Horse of the Year that year was so far-fetched it was laughable.

When trainer Lucien Laurin’s own horse Gold Bag used to dust Secretariat every time they worked together and Laurin couldn’t even get Secretariat to work three furlongs faster than :38, his only thought about Horse of Year was that Riva Ridge had a good chance of winning it and he hoped he could get Secretariat to break his maiden. His main image of the colt they considered a clown was “‘Ol’ Hopalong” hoppin’ along well behind Gold Bag.

When Meadow Stable’s jockey Ron Turcotte laid eyes on Secretariat for the first time in January of 1972, he chuckled and asked Laurin, “Hey Lucien, who’s the pretty boy here?  Laurin replied, “That’s the Bold Ruler who just arrived from the Meadow, he’s too good looking to be a racehorse.” Like Laurin, Turcotte’s thoughts of Horse of the Year revolved only around Riva Ridge.

Even when things began to change and the pretty boy’s baby fat began to turn to muscle, and he shocked everyone by working five furlongs in a sizzling :57 3/5, it merely gave them hope that he might be a good horse. Riva Ridge had easily won the Kentucky Derby and had just romped in the Belmont Stakes, so if there were any thoughts of Horse of the Year they were firmly focused on the son of First Landing who had helped pull the declining Meadow Stable and its ailing owner Christopher Chenery out of the abyss and given them new life.

When Daily Racing Form copy editor John Piesen, who was close to Meadow Stable, came into the office one morning early that spring and told everyone that the stable had an unraced 2-year-old named Secretariat who could be something special, not many paid much attention. That he would become Horse of the Year as a 2-year-old was ludicrous, especially after the colt finished fourth in his debut on July 4 despite being bumped soundly coming out of the gate, dropped far back, and rallied in the stretch to be beaten only 1 1/4 lengths.

When a certain head librarian for the Daily Racing Form was having breakfast on the apron at Saratoga in August with a friend and colleague he heard a loud noise growing even louder over his left shoulder. Yes, it was the sound of hooves pounding the ground, but this sounded more like a cavalry charge. He turned around and there flying by him with enormous strides was a one-horse stampede decked out in the blue and white checkered blinkers of Meadow Stable and their blue saddlecloth with white trim. The colt was hitting the ground with such force you had to pay attention. The young man turned to his colleague and said, “That must be that 2-year-old, Secretariat, John Piesen told us about.” He had followed up his fourth-place finish with victories in a maiden and allowance race and was training for his stakes debut in the Sanford. At that time any thoughts of Horse of the Year centered around 3-year-olds Riva Ridge and the up-and-coming star Key to the Mint, who was coming off victories against older horses in the Brooklyn Handicap and Whitney Stakes.

When aspiring racetracker Steve Jordan, who would soon be hired by Lucien Laurin as a hotwalker, attended the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga and watched Secretariat bust through horses in the stretch like a “seasoned older horse” to defeat the three-time stakes winner and track record holder Linda’s Chief going away, his first reaction was, “Holy S__t! Whatever they’re writing about this horse is no exaggeration. This is the real deal.” But it wasn’t until Steve joined the Meadow Stable barn and watched Secretariat pile on one stakes victory after another, compounded by a series of defeats suffered by Riva Ridge, that he said the idea of a Horse of Year title for Secretariat was at least an outside possibility.

Then came Secretariat’s final race of the year on November 18. When Floyd Iuliucci Sr. came home from work that evening he had something he needed to tell his family. As a longtime assistant starter at Garden State Park, he couldn’t stop raving about the colt he had loaded into the starting gate that day for the rich Garden State Stakes for 2-year-olds. “Watch out for the big red horse, he could be something really special,” he said. “He’s just so smart.” Little did he know that that when that big red horse, named Secretariat, crossed the finish line a minute and 44 seconds after he had loaded him it would indeed clinch 1972 Horse of the Year honors for the colt.

Secretariat’s 2-year-old campaign was a major part of his legend and shouldn’t be forgotten. You have just seen that campaign flash by in giant leaps through the eyes of others as it pertained to Horse of the Year. However, there were a number of unforgettable moments that year.

We skimmed over his first four races, culminating with the Sanford Stakes and that impressive victory over Linda’s Chief, a brilliant and established colt in his own right who is the only horse ever to go off as the favorite over Secretariat. That was when Secretariat began opening the eyes of people like Steve Jordan that this colt might have the qualities you look for in young horses.

But it was his next start in the Hopeful Stakes that had those eyes popping for the first time when he made a startling move from ninth and last to first on the far turn in a flash and then drew away to win by five lengths, missing the track record by three-fifths of a second. That is when Eddie Sweat began to think that this one-time clown with nothing but baby fat might be as good as Riva Ridge.

Joe Nichols, writing in the New York Times, said Secretariat won with “contemptuous ease.” I’ll let him describe the race: “The achievement of Secretariat was made most remarkable, even in view of his expected triumph, by his lightning forward thrust. He was shuffled back to last place soon after the start, with the early contention being offered by Sunny South and Branford Court. Secretariat, to all intents and purposes, was not in the hunt as the field hit into the stretch turn. Suddenly, as if activated by coiled springs, Secretariat was up front, enjoying a head advantage over Sunny South. After that the Meadow Stable colt went his own way, extending his lead over his foes with every stride.”

Ron Turcotte added, “He took himself back as he usually does right after the break. I let him settle into stride and he began to pick up on his own as we came to the half‐mile pole. By the time we straightened out, he was in front. Through the stretch he just kept reaching out without pressure.”

His next start two weeks later in the Futurity Stakes at the same 6 1/2-furlong distance as the Hopeful resulted in a more workmanlike 1 3/4-length victory over Greentree Stable’s talented Stop the Music, who he had beaten by 5 1/4 lengths in the Hopeful. But like the Hopeful, Turcotte never asked Secretariat in the stretch and he won in hand, missing the track record by only two-fifths of a second.

That set him up for what looked like sure victory in the one-mile Champagne Stakes, the race that often decided the 2-year-old championship. Secretariat dropped back to 11th in the 12-horse field, more than a dozen lengths off the swift early pace. Again, Turcotte just waited for the explosion he felt in the Hopeful. It came swiftly and suddenly as Secretariat began his big sweeping move. He blew by horses one by one, collared Puntilla and Stop the Music at the eighth pole, and drew off to a two-length victory. The crowd went wild, but had failed to see Secretariat bear in and bump Stop the Music at the three-sixteenths pole. The inquiry sign went up and soon after, Secretariat was disqualified to second place, much to the dissatisfaction of the crowd. But everyone knew who the best horse in the race was.

The year was far from over, and Secretariat came back two weeks later in the Laurel Futurity, his first start around two turns. This race has often gone overlooked, but it was one of the colt’s most impressive races of his career. Running on a sloppy track for the first time, Secretariat dropped back to last in the six-horse field, a dozen lengths off the pace. He was still 10 lengths back after a half-mile. Then he took off and just inhaled his opponents with that powerful sustained run. He burst clear of the field turning for home, opened up by five at the eighth pole and won eased up by nine lengths.

Meanwhile, Riva Ridge’s chances at Horse of the Year had gone steadily downhill since his gut-wrenching victory in the Hollywood Derby. In his showdown with Key to the Mint for the 3-year-old championship in the Woodward Stakes he was soundly beaten by the Rokeby Stable colt on a sloppy track, which pretty much nailed down the title for the son of Graustark. Key to the Mint still had a good chance at Horse of the Year if he could close out the year with another victory, or even come close, in The Jockey Club Gold Cup, which also attracted the slumping Riva Ridge for one last attempt at championship consideration. But the older horse Autobiography, who Key to the Mint had already defeated on several occasions, ran the race of his life to win the Gold Cup by a staggering 15 lengths, leaving the Horse of the Year title up for grabs.

The last big race of the year was the Garden State Stakes and when Secretariat basically went through the motions to defeat his stablemate Angle Light by 3 1/2 lengths it capped off an outstanding 2-year-old campaign that opened the door for Horse of the Year honors that only he seemed to want to go through. And go through he did, taking a chapter in the history books with him. He would become the first 2-year-old ever named Horse of the Year in the Daily Racing Form/Morning Telegraph voting, the most recognized poll in the country since its inception in 1936. And this was a year that saw future Hall of Famers Riva Ridge, Cougar II, Susan’s Girl, and Numbered Account, and champions Key to the Mint, Autobiography and the brilliant 2-year-old filly La Prevoyante, winner of all 12 of her races. 

Secretariat had stolen the spotlight from Riva Ridge, who at one time was the most likely candidate for racing’s highest honor. But that was nothing compared to the following year when he would raise the equine genus to another level and change the entire landscape of Thoroughbred racing by becoming one of the great celebrities of his era, whose name still dominates the Sport of Kings half a century later.

Of course no one had seen it coming. How could they… for any 2-year-old. It was truly an amazing achievement. But Secretariat’s 2-year-old campaign and even his Horse of the Year honors would get somewhat lost in 1973 when the horse affectionately known as Big Red would reach heights never before attained, right up there with Man o’ War, and establish himself as the standard by which future great horses are measured. None would ever come close to equaling the achievements, fame, charisma, and beauty of the horse whose name 50 years later is still part of our vernacular and continues to grow in legend.

Racing historian, author, and award-winning retired journalist for the Daily Racing Form and The Blood-Horse, Steve Haskin was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame’s Media Roll of Honor in 2016. Known for his racing knowledge and insightful prose, he has been an exclusive contributor to Secretariat.com since 2020.


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133 Responses to “1972 Horse of the Year – A Prelude to Greatness”

  1. John B says:

    Steve, I’m beyond thrilled to hear the great news of your upcoming Derby columns! Sincere thanks for doing that. So nice to read the words of someone so well versed in the subject! This is my favorite time of year. I possibly like the preps even better than the actual Derby! So much opportunity! Never give it up!

  2. Matthew W says:

    I don’t have a dozen, but my top two are Forte and Cave Rock, Forte because he battles and wins. .Cave Rock because of the top eight 2yo Beyers of 2022 Cave got four….4 starts 4 good races and he did the wet work in the Breeders Cup, ran into that headwind still held 2nd.

  3. Bill Dawson says:

    I’m looking forward to Steve’s 2023 Derby Dozen, and how they compare to mine, which are as follows:

    1) Forte
    2) Arabian Knight
    3) Dubyuhnell
    4) Havnameltdown
    5) Loggins
    6) Jace’s Road
    7) Reincarnate
    8) Newgate
    9) Practial Move
    10) National Treasure
    11) Victory Formation
    12) Instant Coffee

    I’d like to see some of the other regular contributors to Steve’s blog post their Derby Dozen as well, (before 1-23).

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      Bill: Bravely posted before the results of the Lecomte are known! I have to say your list looks a lot like mine — I had a hard time coming up with a dozen myself.

      Here goes:
      Forte
      Cave Rock
      Reincarnate
      Practical Move
      Giant Mischief
      Corona Bolt
      National Treasure
      Victory Formation
      Hejazi
      Arabian Knight
      Loggins
      Jace’s Road

      • Bill Dawson says:

        Thanks for the reply Ms Blacktype.

        Yes, it’s very early, but having the same 8 (out of 12) is telling. We agree that Forte is at the top. 🙂

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Baffert 5 of the 12? Many people are excluding all his horses until they go to another trainer. All I’ll say is that I will have several surprises. Not an exciting crop so far.

      • Bill Dawson says:

        Hi Steve

        I could have made it 6 out of 12 by including Cave Rock with the other Baffert horses, but I’m not sure if he is cut out for the classic distance. I thought about including Confidence Game in my Derby Dozen, but will wait to see how he does in the Lecomte Stakes on Saturday. He ran almost two seconds faster than Instant Coffee over the same track (CD) on the same day (11-26) at the same distance (8.5 furlongs). Confidence Game’s pedigree is top notch, by Candy Ride, out of a Bernardini mare (Eblouissante) who is a half sister to Zenyatta. Trained by Keith Desormeaux, Confidence Game is my pick in the Lecomte Stakes, and will more than likely point to the Risen Star as his next start.
        Regarding your initial Derby Dozen, I will be surprised if Forte is not ranked at #1.
        Thanks for all you do moving forward on the Derby trail.

      • Ms Blacktype says:

        Steve, it just shows how few breakout performances there have been so far. The Bafferts always come out scorching hot and look like world beaters. The two I really like are Practical Move (there’s just something about his performance in the Los Al — beating several of Bob’s horses — that really impressed me. I’m also high on Reincarnate, who beat his more accomplished stablemates in the Sham. Plus he has adorable spots.

      • Davids says:

        That’s how I see it thus far as well, Steve. There are quite a few with potential that look promising but until they win Stakes races they’re just guesses. Makes the Derby Trail exciting though, a star may explode out of the mist at anytime. Fun times.

    • Matthew W says:

      I expect Havnameltdown and Newgate will stay with Bob…or SHOULD stay with Bob…I don’t think they are Derby timber, I don’t think they will flourish at 10 furlongs ..

  4. STEVE. IS DERBY DOZEN. going to start on Monday 1-23-23. Also has that RICH STRIKE movie been finalized I would have to think it’s not getting into theaters till 2024. THANK YOU. JOE DERBY

  5. Davids says:

    Flightline has just been honored with the accolade of Longines World’s Best Racehorse. IFHA’s panel of international handicappers also added another superlative by ranking Flightline on a par with Frankel. Frankel’s rating of 140 was the highest given to any racehorse since North American trained horses first appeared on the world rankings table in 1995.

    • Matthew W says:

      Well, he was a good horse! None of the differences between the past and present are his fault, he ran in the races they entered him in, and he did his thing….got pinched back at Belmont, caught the big headwind at Keeneland, every race was off the shelf, won his first two turn race by 19……as the phrase goes it is what it is, he was pretty good..

      • Davids says:

        Matthew, Flightline always ran without medication which is not mentioned a great deal in the US but impressed the hell out of the European trainers/breeders. Hence the same rating as Frankel. Aiden O’Brien, John Gosden et al waxed lyrical on Flightline’s attributes and even better were absolute fans of Flightline that says it all. Greatness is in the eye of the beholder, either you see it or you don’t.

        • Matthew W says:

          I saw it—in person twice—I didn’t expect to see anything as good as his Malibu….was fairly shocked, on Sept 3rd….and his widening—first two turn race a Gr1 vs the Dubal Cup winner, whose trainer said was peaking, AND running for 2nd……WHO does that???

  6. STEVE. When is DERBY DOZEN Fire Up. 16. Weeks to payday

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Monday, Jan, 23

      • Ms Blacktype says:

        Thanks, Steve (and thanks Joe Derby for asking!). Can’t wait to see what you have to say about the current bunch, which has been rather slow to develop. Most of the horses on my list could easily be shuffled and/or interchanged with others. Most are barely stakes performers at this point. We definitely need your help!

  7. Pebbles says:

    Well, I have no trouble picking Forego over a horse like Flightline who has been campaigned in bubble wrap, but Secretariat?

    Forego was very fast, setting stakes and track records. But did he set any world records?

    I believe Secretariat set three. One on turf and two on dirt.

    Just saying. I would have loved to have seen the races, though.

  8. Davids says:

    In 1972, the British Horse of the Year was the immortal Brigadier Gerard. Brigadier Gerard won 17 of his 18 races and was the “British Horse of The Century” written in “A Century of Champions” by the highly respected John Randall and Tony Morris.

    • Davids says:

      Randall and Morris gave Brigadier Gerard and Secretariat an equally rating of 144. 1972 was an excellent year the world over for racing, apart from the above, Gunsynd was Horse of the Year in Australia and he had a pop song written about which topped the charts in Australia. “The Goondiwindi Grey” Tex Morton which is on YouTube- sing along…

    • Matthew W says:

      Brigadier Gerard…Roberto…Allen France….Nijinsky….Dahlia (and her punch! She had a kick!)…early 70’s probably the best era for English racing….entire decade the best era for US racing!..

      • Matthew W says:

        Allez France my phone betrayed me!

      • Davids says:

        Yes Matthew, Mill Reef, Alleged, The Minstrel, Three Troikas are other wonderful horses.

        • Matthew W says:

          And Shergar!…..

          • Matthew W says:

            I forgot Mill Reef….(wasn’t he Cal bred? Or was that Alleged? Or SOME California connection….)….one of those top horse’s had a Cali connection..

            • Lynda King says:

              MatthewW, Mill Reef was bred and owned by Paul Mellon at his Upperville,Virginia farm. The horse was trained and raced in England and raced under the Mellon colors.
              I seem to recall some link between Mill Reef and The Meadow but cannot find it at the moment. If I do, I will post.

            • Lynda King says:

              Both Mill Reef’s dam and Secretariat’s were by Princequello. That was the connection I was the connection I was thinking about below.

          • Davids says:

            Shergar won the Epsom Derby & the King George VI+Queen Elizabeth in 1981. What a great horse, who deserved better. If it was in my power…

  9. Bigtex says:

    What would we have seen from Big Red racing at the age of 4??? I guess there wouldn’t be any takers, huh? I know Turcotte said he was even better on turf.

    Thank you, Steve, once again for moving and riveting articles. They are the great escape!

    • Davids says:

      Forego, might argue the point with you. Lol.

      • Bigtex says:

        You raise a good point!

      • Pebbles says:

        Well, I have no trouble picking Forego over a horse like Flightline who has been campaigned in bubble wrap, but Secretariat?

        Forego was very fast, setting stakes and track records. But did he set any world records?

        I believe Secretariat set three. One on turf and two on dirt.

        Just saying. I would have loved to have seen the races, though.

    • Sarah Cole Rowe says:

      That’s why I wish Penny had just sold Secretariat to someone like the Phippses or Whitneys or Mellons for her taxes, but both she and Seth Hancock didn’t think Secretariat could improve off his juvenile season. They knew his sire’s reputation for siring precocious youngsters who failed to move forward and forgot about his grandsire Princequillo, who threw stamina. It’s a real shame but they decided Secretariat would be more valuable at stud (although the old sporting-type families with enough money could have kept him on the track longer). Except for a few good runners and very important broodmares, however, Secretariat didn’t do so great at stud. At least one of his sons had to be rescued from slaughter, I think.

      • Mike Sekulic says:

        SECRETARIAT did do well at stud. He sired 54 black-type winners, for an 8% strike rate from foals, at a time when it was considered that a sire with 10% stakes winners was very good. He also had an AEI (average earnings index) of 2.98, which is actually quite good. Just as a point of comparison, INTO MISCHIEF, has 7% stakes winners and an AEI of 2.03, and the hype and his stud fee are through the roof.

        SECRETARIAT wasn’t as successful as NORTHERN DANCER, NIJINKSY II, BOLD RULER, ROUND TABLE, or ALYDAR in his stud career, but he did well. He was the greatest horse of all time on the racetrack, so to expect him to also be the greatest sire of all time is a bit unrealistic.

      • Pebbles says:

        Riva Ridge was really the horse that saved Meadow Farm.

        Remember, Secretariat and Riva Ridge were syndicated together for over $11 million.

    • Lynda King says:

      Hi BigTex!
      Many of us to this day think what if Secretariat had raced at four, I know I do.

      I recall Penny making a comment something to the effect that she would have liked to have taken him to Europe to race. It was almost like a regret that she had not.

      • Bigtex says:

        Can you imagine his popularity around the globe had he run in Europe at 4 especially since he may have been even better on turf? I remember the way he toyed with Tentam in the Man O’War. Do we know how well Flightline might’ve done on turf?

        • Davids says:

          The British Horse of the Year of 1974 and the US Champion Turf Horse of 1974 was one and the same – Dahlia. In 1974, Allez France was undefeated, including winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s most prestigious horse race. Allez France defeated Dahlia six times in the six times that they met. Allez France, was crowned French Horse of the Year in 1974.

          European tracks are nothing like US turf courses, let alone US dirt tracks. Beating average turf runners Big Spruce, Golden Don, and Tentam on turf tracks in the US is a far cry from facing up to European Champion turf horses on their home ground.

          “Flightline had an incredibly fluent stride and if you watch him it never falters. Even in the final two furlongs it’s the same fluent action. That’s what he shares with Frankel, that incredible stride and the ability to make it look easy.“ – John Gosden Many European trainers say that Flightline’s action would have been perfect on turf. Who knows?

          • Bigtex says:

            But as Lucien Lauren and Turcotte said, “He could run on any surface”

            • Davids says:

              Bigtex, when it comes to racing, seeing is believing. Henry Cecil never implyed Frankel would win the Breeders’ Cup Classic but quite a few knowledgeable chaps have Frankel rated higher than Secretariat.

        • Lynda King says:

          Big Tex, I am of the opinion that Secretariat would have done very well on European Turf.
          I think the best example is his last race which was on “European” turf at Woodbine.
          I am just blown away by that performance everytime I watch it and actually consider it to be one of his best races.

          • Bigtex says:

            That was such an awesome race. Pulling away from Kennedy Road as he did was like being shot out of a cannon! I don’t think he appreciated being bumped by the horse. I can see an early out of the gate disadvantage on the European turf like he was early in races as a 2 year old due to his sheer size and raw power but once he gathers his footing…I guess part of my thinking is being reminded of Eddie Arcaro’s comment on Big Red being the fastest horse he’d ever seen.

  10. Hi Steve! I haven’t gotten to hear from you in a year or two! Of course you are writing about the best horse who ever lived! At the sake of sounding mentally ill I will admit that I watch Secretariat’s races almost every night! My favorites are, of course, The Triple Crown races. I have been trying to call the races along with Chic Anderson. I met him once at the Churchill Inn in Louisville. He was likeable but I think he had had too many drinks that night. I always admired his voice when he called the races at CD. When I was in grade school my school was right down the street from CD. My family were really fans of the horses, so on days when it was hot the teacher, would open the windows and I could hear him calling the races. Anyway I just wanted to say hi! Congratulations on such a successful career! I wish it was still 1973. Susie

    • Steve haskin says:

      Hi Susie, glad you decided to reconnect. I hope you can make it to some of the Secretariat 50th anniversary festivals this year. You sure are a fan.

  11. Greg H says:

    I was 8 years old in 1973, still the best three races I have ever witnessed in the Triple crown. I have the Secretariat DVD it has all his races on it, some without sound, GREAT! Great article Steve!

  12. Greg H says:

    I was 8 years old in 1973, still the best three races I have ever witnessed in the Triple crown. I have the Secretariat DVD it has all his races on it, some without sound, GREAT!

  13. Matthew W says:

    I bought every Saturday Racing Form in 1972, so I was familiar with Secretariat…including his debut at Saratoga, he was the trackman’s choice…..but I had not viewed any of his races….the first time I ever saw him (on TV) was his Wood Memorial loss, to Angle Light and Sham…..there WAS concern, about Secretariat’s stamina, going into the Kentucky Derby, which after the fact is astonishing! His Derby in my opinion was his best race, because he toyed with Sham, and Sham was real good..

  14. Marc Mink says:

    Loved reliving this.. interesting that as his 1973 year eclipsed his 2 year old HOY campaign.. dont wanr to lose the fact that his crop of 1970.. which he towered over ,was one of maybe 3 phenomenal crops in those previous 50 years.. and that such stalwarts as Dahlia, Allez France, Ancient Title,Royal Glint, Mr Prospector, Desert Vixen .. and of course the immortal Forego, who was so good on only 3 spund legs, that he won at 2 miles and was devastating at 7furlongs.. all came in that birth year.
    As Forego took up the mantle after Secretariat’s retirement, remember the day a couple years later, when the NYRA was experiencing a mutual workers strike, they raced anyway with no betting allowed.. coincidence that Forego was coming out of his vacation and was scheduled for a 7f allowance race.. some 7000 fans showed up to watch him knowing there was no betting allowed.. all part of Secretariat’s legacy that resurrected the public’s interest in this sport.

    • Matthew W says:

      And don’t forget Sham, who was 8 lengths clear of 3rd, in The Derby and Preakness….

      • Matthew W says:

        For those not around then….Sham was a New York horse that Wintered at Santa Anita, lots of stables did back then. …Secretariat stayed in NY, lots of NY stables Wintered at Hialeah …

        • Davids says:

          As much as I miss Hollywood Park, I miss Hialeah Park even more. There was something truly magical there and those famous races – Flamingo Stakes, Everglades Stakes, Hibiscus Stakes, Widener Stakes, Bahamas Stakes, Bougainvillea Handicap et al. The days when Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Alydar, Honest Pleasure, among others, stamped themselves as red hot Kentucky Derby contenders. Oh, take me back.

          • Steve Haskin says:

            Great memories, got us thru the winter. My favorrite meet was 69 — Top Knight, Arts and Letters, Ack Ack, Fast Hilarious. in ’67 the year of Damascus, Dr. Fager, and In Reality, few remember the terror of Hialeah Reflected Glory, who came from the clouds to win the an allowance, Everglades, and Flamingo with spectacular stretch runs. Trained by Hirsch Jacobs.

            • Matthew W says:

              And I got my red acingbaptism at the 1972 Santa Anita meet, where I was present for the Sabta Margarita, 5 fillies all multiple gr1 winners finishing within 2 lengths…..and the San Fernando 9 furlongs 5 gr1 winners within a neck….before my time and probably before yours, Steve was Carry Back, with the obscure breeding, who put up a tremendous career, he made Chrome look like a blue blood…..

              • Matthew W says:

                Racing baptism….

                • Matthew W says:

                  Another think about Carry Back, the skinny deep closer….when he earned his $1.2 million back in the early 60’s, THAT was an accomplishment!…

                  • SJ says:

                    Yep, the plain brown wrapper. Made his debut at Hialeah in one of those 3/8 2 year old races out of the chute, and became a Classic winner from out of the clouds. One of my early favorites. His owner-trainer-breeder Jack Price would never miss a dance with him if possible. Even sent him to the Arc.
                    Many years later got to meet John Sellers, and naturally, was glad to talk about his big horse. Classy guy, too.

                    • Davids says:

                      Yes, all true plus there were the flamingos adding something totally unique to a racetrack. The film “Let it Ride” was set at Hialeah Park for those who may not know the track.

                    • Lynda King says:

                      Carry Back is the horse that I remember most from my childhood.
                      He was a leggy, long bodied colt who was remindful, at least to me, of the English Thoroughbreds in paintings from the late 1700’s through the mid 1800’s. He also brings to mind Ruffian.
                      Actually he was not skinny per se. He weighed right at a thousand pounds, about same as Secretariat did when he was racing. He topped out at slightly over 16 hands when fully grown.
                      Over his four year career, he raced 61 times and won at different tracks and won many major races.
                      To this day I think I love closers, especially deep closers because of both Carry Back snd Secretariat.

            • Matthew W says:

              Wasn’t Reflected Glory sire of the sleek black Snow Chief? Snow Chief was truly good at 9 furlongs… won two gr1 10 furlong races but better at 9…..

              • SJ says:

                Correct, and two pretty nice fillies, Hot N Nasty & A Kiss For Luck

                • John Goggin says:

                  Hot N Nasty? The same filly that flew all the way from California to face Ruffian in her own backyard…and yet got her head (Hot N Nasty) in front of Ruffian entering the stretch and yet to have R’s jockey (Vasquez)only to bring out his whip to get Ruffian to win by 2 and a half lengths?

                  • SJ says:

                    Hot N Nasty was never shy in packing her luggage. She was East Coast based, though. Tough, tough filly who is often forgotten. Of course, look who’s shadow she was in.

          • SJ says:

            Oh, I agree. Magical was an accurate description. The fairest racing surface you could find, forgiving to the horses and kind to the horse players. You could feel the history, not just in paddock & frontside, but especially in barn area and walking down Fitzsimmons Lane. Tragedy it’s not a functioning track anymore. Still a state treasure, but a crime the in- fighting for dates became its downfall. Racing lost its Grand Dame.

          • John Goggin says:

            Even though never been there it was still my father’s favorite Florida track was Tropical Park…just the name conjures up images of pina coladas, palm trees, warm breezes and coconut sun tan oil. I also believe that Tropical Park was the first synthetic surface race track in America…sadly closed the same year that Secretariat was a two year old…1972.

            • SJ says:

              Tropical Park was leased by Stephen Calder in mid 60’s until his own track could be constructed on the Dade-Broward line north of Miami. Calder Race Course opened in the summer of ’71 with the first synthetic surface, designed by 3M Corporation of William McKnight, of Tartan Farm fame. It was basically rubber over concrete, the intention being to combat the torrential rainfall that would pass through during summer months. This surface, known as Tartan, would eventually be replaced in early 90’s by conventional dirt.
              You are correct, Tropical conducted its final meet in ’72. I, unfortunately, missed TP, though ’71-72 was my first trip to Florida. I know the alligator was quite famous, as was Santa Claus on Christmas Day.

              • Steve Haskin says:

                The Tartan track was John Nerud’s brainchild. He even put it outsiide his barn at Belmont as his walking ring.

                • SJ says:

                  As you know, there are still remnants of it, though somewhat buried. Unless NYRA also tore that part of history up recently.

                • SJ says:

                  The complaints you hear now from many NFL players referring to some of the synthetic surfaces in stadiums \are the same made by horsemen & riders about the Calder surface. The concussion from the underlying concrete was jarring, and the rubber had hind end effects. Eventually, this rubber covering the concrete began to separate at the seams, causing bubbling. therefore, a dangerous non-uniformity. Any efforts at patchwork corrections, even massive resurfacing, eventually proved fruitless. It was a white elephant and was deservedly replaced.
                  But it was an early marketing tool as the racing surface of the future. One of the very few failures out of the Nerud brain.

        • SJ says:

          Secretariat wintered in Hialeah at 2 & 3.

      • Pebbles says:

        Absolutely. Sham’s trainer Pancho Martin is the grandfather of NY based trainer Carlos Martin. The whole family has been based in NY.

        Sham, like Alydar was born in the wrong year.

        He was still a champion in my eyes.

  15. Kenny says:

    My favorite topic involving horses is the legacy of Secretariat. What a horse. Four of my college friends and I went to the Preakness to see what all of the hype was about and came away life long fans. Certainly one of the all time greats.Thank you Steve. Hard to believe that it was 50 years ago.

  16. Russell Cardenas says:

    Many of his runs as a 2 included wide turns heading into the stretch, sometimes in the 5th or 6th position away from the rail. The ease with which he covered the extra distance showed the speed and stamina he already had which would give him the extra capacity needed to win the Triple the following year. As a 2 he might have been running better than most 3s and more. PS…. Loved your writings on ProveOut, he was a Texas horse, my home state.

  17. Todd Vaughn says:

    I had not seen many of Secretariat’s 2 year old races, so i watched them today. What struck me most was just how physically imposing he was compared to other quality 2 year olds. I also watched his turf races and i saw a horse just enjoying himself. While we usually discuss trips and turn of foot in turf races, Secretariat simply went out and ran a lot faster than anyone else ever could. Looked like the closest earthbound thing to flying.

  18. JobAnne says:

    I was in high school when Big Red raced. Not many but the Triple Crown races were shown during that time, so I saw none of his two year old races. I did get to see him in person in 1977 and all I can remember was that I didn’t know how much to slip the groom. I did get some good pics, yellowed over the years, but in my album.

    Thanks for the recap of his 1972 racing year.

  19. Davids says:

    Steve, keep going with all the intriguing ‘hidden stories’ behind all the great horses they are always fascinating to read. Good stuff.

    Just in passing, do you know why the DRF voters didn’t vote for Native Dancer as Horse of the Year as a 2 year old? Native Dancer was voted Horse of the Year as a 2 year old by a large margin by (TRA) & (TSD) while the DRF voted for One Count which seems odd. Noticeably, Native Dancer was given 130 pounds on the Experimental Free Handicap for 2 year olds which is actually higher than what Secretariat was awarded.

    Of the twelve US Triple Crown winners, seven were the high-weights or co-high-weights of their 2-year-old class: Whirlaway 126, Count Fleet 132, Citation 126, Secretariat 129, Seattle Slew 126, Affirmed 126, American Pharoah 126.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks David. One Count won the Belmont, Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the Gold Cup at Jamaica…all convincingly. No 2 year old is going to get Horse of the Year when you have a year like One Count.

      • Davids says:

        Thanks Steve, you never hear much about One Count these days. You must be gearing up for the 2023 Derby Rankings, champing at the bit to evaluate the 3 year old colts as they progress towards the first Saturday in May. There appears to be quite a few that may be loaded with potential but have yet to prove they are stakes horses let alone serious Derby threats.

        It’s never too early to start discussing the Kentucky Derby; in Europe the two Siyouni colts Paddington and Intinso look interesting but it’s the Siyouni filly, Tahiyra, that looks very special.

  20. Ms Blacktype says:

    Deliciously entertaining, Steve, as was the horse himself. I have vivid memories of the 1973 Preakness and Belmont, both of which were absolutely thrilling, but I don’t think I ever saw any of Big Red’s 2YO races (first semester at college, back when TVs WEREN’T ubiquitous). It will be fun to watch videos of them, preferably in order.

    Can’t wait for your recap of his 3YO campaign. Did you cover all of his races from the Preakness on? Or would that spill the sack of cool beans you have in store for us?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      The DRF had Joe Hirsch, Charlie Hatton et al covering all the races. I was at the Preakness and got some great photos. I was at the Whitney, Marlboro Cup, Woodward, and Man o’War. Earlier I was at the Bay Shore and Wood Memorial.

  21. Steve Haskin says:

    Thank you Lynda. It should be a very nostalgic year.

  22. Lynda King says:

    Steve, just reading this brought a few tears and chills.

    Hard to believe that 2023 is the 50th anniversary of his Triple Crown. Time is just going by too fast!

    How many horses today race as many times as Secretariat did as a two year old? Not many of course and most do not race as many times as he did at three. And in a basic d-ring snaffle racing bit no less!

    Always thought of Secretariat as being a deep closer and your recap of his two year old career seems to confirm that.

    Will be trying to find footage of these races and watch in celebration of the most magnificent of race horses.

    Your last sentence says it all about Secretariat, no one could write a better description of him.

    I cannot imagine how you felt being up close and personal with Secretariat. Must have been pure joy!

    Thsnk you again and what a great way to kick off his anniversary!

  23. Jane Gerber says:

    I never get tired of reading these accounts. Thank you, Steve. This promises to be a year of nostalgia and awe.

  24. Helena says:

    Love this write up! Goosebumps. I only wish I could have seen him “in person”. Such an amazing piece of history. Thanks, Steve

  25. Tetrarch says:

    Those who saw Secretariat live or only on television can never tire of these stories. Thank you.