The Day the Two Big Reds Met

It is odd seeing the Man o’War Stakes run a week after the Kentucky Derby this year. For years this mile and a half event was run in the fall and usually decided the grass championship. One of its most memorable runnings came in 1973 when the great Secretariat broke the course record in his grass debut. An original shoe worn by Big Red in the Man ‘o War Stakes will soon be made available for purchase or auction soon, but in the meantime, here is a look back at one of Secretariat’s most remarkable victories. ~ Steve Haskin

The Day the Two “Big Reds” Met

By Steve Haskin


One of the most important advances in the history of Thoroughbred racing was the emergence of grass racing, which actually took a while to get off the ground. In the beginning, grass racing was dominated by horses who could run well on both dirt and grass, such as Round Table and then T.V. Lark and Mongo. And there were top-class dirt horses like Kelso, Bald Eagle, Damascus, and Roman Brother, who ran in the Washington D.C. International at Laurel Race Course in November.

Through the 1950s there was only one grass race that was considered a prestigious event, the United Nations Handicap at Atlantic City, first run in 1953. The 1 3/16-mile event started to become popular when Round Table won it in 1957 and 1959. Also winning the U.N. in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s were major stars Career Boy, Clem, T.V. Lark, and then Mongo twice in 1962 and ’63. When T.V. Lark won in 1960, he defeated the previous year’s Horse of the Year Sword Dancer.

Unlike the United Nations, the aforementioned Washington D.C. International was by invitation only and included just a few American horses each year who were either champions or championship caliber, mainly on dirt.

Finally, in 1959, the newly formed New York Racing Association decided to join in the growth of grass racing by inaugurating the Man o’War Stakes to be run in the fall at Belmont Park at the European classic distance of a mile and a half. It was hoped that by running it in the fall after the U.N. it would prove to be a championship deciding event. So popular was the race right out of the gate it had to be run in two divisions in its first year. But grass racing was still such a novelty that in the five years from 1960 to 1964, only twice did they even bother to elect a grass champion. There simply were not enough pure grass horses.

People began to take notice of the Man o’War in 1962 when Beau Purple upset champions Kelso and Carry Back. In 1964, the great Gun Bow made his grass debut in the Man o’War, finishing second to Turbo Jet. But, again, these were mostly dirt horses trying for a major score on grass. Then in 1966 the Man o’War Stakes took off, attracting top-class grass horses and establishing itself as the race that decided or helped decide the grass championship. First it was Assagai, coming off four straight grass stakes and three victories, winning in 1966, then runner-up Fort Marcy in 1967, followed by winners Hawaii in ’69, Fort Marcy in ’70, and Run the Gantlet in ’71. All were voted grass champion. Fort Marcy in fact became the first pure grass horse to be voted Horse of the Year.

Then came 1973 and the crowning of Secretariat as arguably the greatest horse of all time, right up there with Man o’War. When racing’s new “Big Red” was sweeping the Triple Crown in spectacular fashion and becoming the idol of sports fans all over the country, there were no thoughts of him as being a grass horse. After all, he was crushing his opponents by as many as 31 lengths in the Belmont Stakes and shattering track records. His stride was something to behold, whether it was at Saratoga, Garden State Park, Aqueduct, Churchill Downs, Pimlico, Belmont Park, or Arlington Park. He just ate up the ground with those humongous strides and could beat you on the lead or coming from last.

After returning to New York following Secretariat’s easy romp in the Arlington Invitational, trainer Lucien Laurin and owner Penny Tweedy began talking about the possibility of running Big Red on the grass in the fall, with the Man o’War Stakes as the likely target.

“They wanted to show people, especially the cynics overseas, that Secretariat was just as good on the grass,” jockey Ron Turcotte recalled.

But first there was the Whitney at Saratoga and the rich Marlboro Cup at Belmont, a $250,000 race sponsored by the Philip Morris Corporation, which morphed from a match race between Secretariat and his stablemate Riva Ridge into an open invitational consisting of the best horses in the country. That nearly fell apart when an ailing Secretariat was upset in the Whitney by a far less inferior Onion and his status became uncertain for the Marlboro Cup. Suffering from a virus and high fever and being forced to miss the Travers Stakes it was touch and go whether he would be able to make the race. But after a sensational work Secretariat did compete in the Marlboro Cup and set a new American record defeating Riva Ridge and the best horses in the country.

Now it was time to start preparing Big Red for his grass debut in the Man o’War Stakes in five weeks. Laurin began his grass training, starting him off with some light work just to get a feel for the grass. Turcotte said he did very little with him, but he could feel how well he was moving over the new surface. “As soon as he stepped on it I knew he loved it,” Turcotte said.

Then came the monkey wrench in the plans. Riva Ridge was intended for the mile and half Woodward Stakes two weeks after the Marlboro Cup, but with rain in the forecast and Riva’s dislike for a wet track, it was decided to enter both horses in the Woodward with the possibility of Secretariat subbing for his stablemate in case of a sloppy track.

“I was stunned when I saw they entered Secretariat and were considering running him cold turkey off virtually no training,” Turcotte said. “Secretariat ate so much you had to burn it off with fast works, but I hadn’t done anything with him. I asked Lucien, ‘You’re not going to run him, are you?’ He said they were just talking about it in case it rained.”

When it did rain and the track was listed as sloppy, Riva Ridge was scratched leaving an unprepared and undertrained Secretariat to come back only two weeks after running the fastest mile and an eighth ever on dirt and having to stretch out to a mile and half. That was a lot to ask from a horse who just weeks before was sick with a virus and trying to rush back to make the Marlboro Cup. It was a recipe for disaster.

“When Lucien told me ‘the boss wants to run’ and they were leaving him in it killed me,” Turcotte said. “I knew he wasn’t ready for this race.”

Although Secretariat put in a tremendous effort, finishing 11 lengths ahead of the top-class Cougar II and running the mile and a half in 2:26 3/5, second only to his other-worldly time in the Belmont Stakes, he ran into a tiger in the Allen Jerkens-trained Prove Out, who ran the race of his life to defeat Big Red and then would come right back and crush Riva Ridge in the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup in 3:20 flat. Only the great Kelso has ever run a faster two miles. Prove Out was so good after moving to Jerkens’ barn he had the distinction of defeating four future Hall of Famers – Secretariat, Riva Ridge, Forego, and Cougar II — in a little over two months.

So Secretariat had set a new American record at a mile and an eighth after being seriously ill, came back in two weeks to run one of the fastest mile and a half races in history on a sloppy track off no training, and now had to run another mile and a half race on a new surface only nine days later.

With such an arduous task ahead of him, several trainers, who normally wanted no part of Secretariat, decided this would be the perfect time to take him on while he might be vulnerable. One of those trainers was Mack Miller, who had the plucky little Tentam, one of the most versatile horses in the country, riding an impressive three-race winning streak and sitting on another big race. After winning a division of the mile and an eighth Bernard Baruch Handicap on grass at Saratoga in a course-record 1:45 2/5, he returned to the dirt to win the mile and an eighth Governor Stakes at Belmont in 1:46 4/5, which was only three-fifths of a second off the track record that Secretariat would shatter the following week in the Marlboro Cup. He then returned to the grass and ran off with the United Nations Handicap defeating the Brighton Beach Handicap winner Star Envoy by four lengths. Earlier in the year, Tentam had won the six-furlong Toboggan Handicap in 1:09 2/5 and the Metropolitan Handicap, defeating Key to the Mint, Riva Ridge, and King’s Bishop, so he was dangerous at any distance and over any surface.

Miller had no intention of running against Secretariat until the Woodward and seeing how far the Meadow Stable colt had deviated from his original plans. Had Big Red remained on his original schedule and gone straight into the Man o’War there was no way Miller would have run Tentam. “I wanted no part of running my horse against Secretariat, but this seems to be the season for changing plans,” he told reporters. “Now you can say I joined the club.”

Of course, Allen Jerkens, with two upset victories already over Secretariat with Onion and Prove Out, wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass by and ran his hard-knocking grass specialist Triangular, who was coming off a third-place finish in the Manhattan Handicap behind London Company and Big Spruce, both of whom would also be taking on Secretariat. The Leroy Jolley-trained London Company had won four grass stakes before the Manhattan and would win another four the following winter and spring.

Big Spruce had won the Lexington Handicap on grass the year before, and in 1973 won the San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita by 10 lengths before getting beat a head in the 1 ¾-mile San Juan Capistrano. He would gain recognition the following year by defeating Forego in the Governor Stakes and Marlboro Cup on dirt before finishing a fast-closing second to the great European filly Dahlia in the Canadian International on grass. Also in the Man o’War field, trying to make a name for himself on grass, was Gulfstream Park Handicap and Amory Haskell Handicap winner West Coast Scout.

So this was not going to be easy for Secretariat, especially considering what he was being asked to do in such a short period of time. Whatever optimism Mack Miller had going into the race was tempered when he watched Secretariat work on the grass for the first time several days before the race. With Turcotte aboard, Big Red sizzled five furlongs in an incredible :56 4/5, the fastest five-furlong work ever recorded on the grass.

Turcotte couldn’t believe what he felt under him. “I came back and told Lucien he was 10 to 15 lengths better on the grass,” he recalled. “He was a completely different horse. He would pound the dirt, but he was like a deer on the grass. He just skipped over it.”

Even Miller was astounded by the work, saying afterward, “My horse worked well and I was fully satisfied, but Secretariat’s work almost floored me. At times he is frightening. I’ve never seen a colt with more fluid, marvelous action.” Miller admitted he was looking for Tentam to get consideration for grass champion and that wouldn’t happen if he stayed in the barn.

Despite his defeat in the Woodward, facing such a tough field in his grass debut, and even having New York’s leading tip sheet “Lawton’s” picking the pure grass horse London Company to win off his impressive score in the Manhattan Handicap, Secretariat still was sent off as the 1-2 favorite. That work obviously told the bettors all they needed to know. Tentam was next at 7-2, with Big Spruce 6-1 and London Company 8-1 in the seven-horse field.

The break was clean with no one appearing to want the lead. Secretariat was back in third and seemed to take a few strides to find his rhythm, as Tentam established a short lead from the inside. The field was well bunched when Secretariat split horses and quickly shot to the lead, appearing to be leaping off the turf. It was apparent he was loving the new surface, as he bounced over it with those long fluid strides while opening a length advantage, which he increased to two lengths going around the first turn through an opening quarter in :23 4/5.

Down the backstretch, the lead was now almost three lengths, but Tentam, under Jorge Velasquez, finally made his move along the hedge and narrowed Big Red’s lead to a length through a half in :47 flat. Turcotte then let out a notch on Secretariat and opened up again, drawing clear by two and then three lengths. No one behind Tentam was doing anything, and just when it looked as if Secretariat was in complete control, Tentam made another run at him to close to within a length nearing the head of stretch. No one knew for sure how Secretariat would handle that final quarter, running in his third race in 23 days, never having run on grass, and having a tough, experienced older horse who had run brilliantly on grass breathing down his neck, while opening eight lengths on the rest of the field.

They turned for home after a mile and a quarter in 2:00 flat, which was almost four full seconds faster than the course record for 10 furlongs. But Turcotte could feel he still had a ton of horse under him and never went to the whip. He continued to hand-ride Secretariat, just briefly waving the stick at him. Big Red opened up by three lengths at the eighth and was five in front at the wire, still under a hand ride. His time of 2:24 4/5 established a new course record. He had built up so much momentum going past the wire he was timed galloping out a mile and five-eighths in 2:37 4/5, which equaled the world record…on any surface. The two horses who shared the world record carried eight and 11 fewer pounds than Secretariat, and he was just galloping out. Tentam finished 7 1/2 lengths ahead of Big Spruce, who had closed belatedly from last.

“I was just playing with Tentam the whole way,” said Turcotte. Mack Miller had seen enough. “I saw today the greatest horse I’ve seen in my lifetime…on dirt or grass,” he said. “I must say I don’t ever want to run against him again.”

Two horses from the Man o’War field who dared to run against him again were Big Spruce and Triangular. Because Laurin and Turcotte were Canadian, it was decided to use the Canadian International Championship as Secretariat’s farewell race. The connections of Big Spruce and Triangular felt the mile and five-eighths distance would be to their advantage. Unfortunately for Turcotte, the Man o’War Stakes would be his final ride aboard Secretariat. A suspension cost him the mount at Woodbine and he was replaced by Eddie Maple. All Turcotte told Maple was, “Just drop his head and don’t pick it up.”

Once again, Secretariat showed how much he loved the grass, bounding away to a huge lead and then coasting home to score by 6 1/2 lengths over Big Spruce. That was more than enough to earn him the grass championship to go along with Champion 3-Year-Old and Horse of the Year.

Big Red had left an indelible legacy on dirt and on grass, but he also left a lot of what-ifs. What amazing feats would we have seen had he continued to race as an older horse?

“We never saw the true Secretariat,” Turcotte said. “He wasn’t even fully mature at 3. He was still maturing and one can only imagine what he would have done at 4 and even 5. People don’t realize what a tough horse he was with all he had to overcome.”

But even retiring early, the name Secretariat remains not only a symbol of greatness, but a part of our vocabulary. As heroic a figure as he had become throughout his spectacular Triple Crown sweep, it took a record-breaking performance in the Man o’War Stakes, in which he was confronted with numerous obstacles, to elevate him to an even higher plateau. It is a plateau no one has reached in more than half a century. Big Red had “met” his namesake on the Belmont Park turf course and they now reign together in racing’s highest pantheon.


Photographs courtesy of Bob Coglianese, New York Racing Association


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146 Responses to “The Day the Two Big Reds Met”

  1. Steve Haskin says: and Steve Haskin will host the Steve Cannon Preakness Picks Contest this week with a very special opportunity for fans to win some great prizes. Look for entry information tomorrow.

  2. Profsdottir says:

    Thank you for this marvelous romp down memory lane. It is wonderful to relive this moment of wonder and vindication. I always have thought, too, that his Woodward was a whole lot better than he got credit for at the time, and it was good to read your words to that effect. I have sometimes wondered how some of his offspring would have done on the turf if they had had a chance. I believe General Assembly could have been formidable, as could perhaps Risen Star, although it’s all idle speculation. Academy Award and Super Staff did well in injury-shortened careers. Athyka was quite good, although she never managed a G1, and Bluebook, who won a G3 managed a 4th in the G1 Prix de l’Abbaye. Dactylographer got him his first G1 at Doncaster, although that one race was the pinnacle of his career. Sorry to go on so! Thank you again!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      No apologies needed here. That was very informative, thank you! We at least know now that he has sired graded stakes horses on the grass.

  3. Davids says:

    Steve, Secretariat has always been an enigma for me having never been at a track to watch the colt actually win or lose races. I saw Allez France though, during the same period of time. Would you gauge that Secretariat’s success would have been replicated on the European tracks? Both fast and bog conditions?

    Thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining, and informative as always, Steve. Thank you.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks David. Its so hard to say because of the difference in turf courses, but I always envisioned Secretariat doing what Frankel did. Go to the front and run them off their feet American style, much like what Roberto did to Brigadier Gerard. Im just not sure how he would handle real sift going over there. I saw Allez France win the Arc and that was really thrilling

      • Davids says:

        Thanks Steve. Dr. Fager, I’m convinced would have been just as invincible anywhere, any track, any conditions but with Secretariat the undulating surfaces and bog tracks in Europe ‘may’ have been of concern in preventing the fluid extension but then again, great horses tend to overcome everything.

        • Deacon says:

          I totally agree Davids. Go to You Tube and watch his 1968 Californian Stakes win at Hollywood Park. I believe Nerud got him off the plane on Friday, he ran on Saturday and flew out on Sunday. Typical businessman’s style.
          He beat Gamely, one of the all time great mares, plus Rising Market, Kissin George (great sprinter) to name threee. The Californian was a real big race back in those days.

          • Davids says:

            Thanks Deacon, the 1968 Californian Stakes won by Dr. Fager is one of mr favorite races, along with Seattle Slew’s Flamingo Stakes, for pure exhilaration. Absolute awe. Gamely, I loved as well.

  4. Bill Dawson says:

    Hi Steve

    Any thoughts on Churchill suspending Bob Baffert for Medina Spirit’s positive drug test. Here we go again.

    • Laura L Lanham says:

      Exactly here we go again. So haven’t made it to the other sites to read more yet. That if I understand correctly strips the win. Literally just found out about it. I don’t see Churchill having a choice but to suspend Bob. Sure most of his stable races in Cali but they ship to race all over the place. We sure didn’t this to happen, again.

      • Laura L Lanham says:

        So just watched the interview Bob gave on this. As he said not the first time they have flagged one of his horses for threshold violation. He will be turning over all vet record and has already started asking for the split sample test, had them pull hair for DNA testing. There won’t be any type of disqualification until after all the tests have been done which will take several weeks.

        Now when Princess of Slymar was racing got flagged in Delaware for it years ago but Todd Pletcher at the time protested and it was over ruled. This according to the BH article. This year the new rules tightened things up but this certain med, used for joint inflamation can’t be present at all.

        Something Bob touched on in the interview is something is wrong and I agree. For one thing why is it taking so long for the test results to get back? Having worked in factories have had more then one drug screen and have always trusted the people doing it. Those are done in a bathroom wash your hands, pee in the cup, they grab it with gloves, label it and you sign off on it. So what is the chain of custody with these samples? As the vet pulls the sample who else is there to sign off? Then what happens to them? Should get shipped to a lab and testing started. So when do they start the testing, before or after a race? How tight is the control of samples in the labs?

        This is an old sport and over the centuries many crooks have found ways to cheat. Gotten harder for them to do so. Was somebody able to get to a horse before the race?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Something very fishy is going on here. But I really dont want to comment right now especially on this column which has nothing to do with Baffert

      • Laura Lanham says:

        Just posted my thoughts and looking forward to whatever you might want to post later on the Preakness. You are the best.

      • Just another vet says:

        Ok so first of all, Steve, thank you for all you have written these last few months about the Derby trail. I’ve been reading, the whole time, but I’m not much on commenting. The drugging issue does enough to frustrate me to come out of hiding.

        This article on Secretariat’s grass races was enlightening to me. I am not old enough to have seen him in person, so I can old live through the videos and the stories and this really added a lot to his legend for me.

        As for MS/Baffert and the drug testing, I agree there is definitely something very strange going on here. I haven’t listened to his press conference yet, but the way in which his horses are coming up positive, the levels at which they are testing, the races they are testing positive in, the chain of custody, and the methodology of testing are all concerning to me. The tests seem most likely to be positive when the spotlight is shining the brightest on Bob. Todd Pletcher did bring up issues with the testing that have not been address adequately to move forward with this level of testing. There is variability in every person’s, horses’s, dog’s, etc metabolism of every drug, so to say it will be at this level at 14 days is always an average.

        Why did MS win? He he controlled the pace and did not allow the closers to beat him. Why did we not see this coming? Personally, in his most recent prep races he seems like he tired in the stretches and let horses go by him, so I didn’t think he was fast enough and could carry it over the distance. Do I think this level of betamethoasone would fix that? Absolutely not. We are talking about a difference between anabolic steroids and corticosteroids. Anabolic steroids are steroids that are considered performance enhancing in many human sports due to the effects on the respiratory tract, skeletal system, and muscles. Corticosteroids are primarily used for their anti-inflammatory effects-ie lameness. With no indication that MS was lame or off at any time and with such a low concentration I see no reason to have suspicion that this drug played a role in his performance.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          Thank you very much for your well thought out comments and the info on steroids. It certainly is something to think about. This doesnt make sense to me

          • Jeff says:

            Baffert has his own Vet to control all activities and documents everything. MS has never been administered that drug. Be careful as I be would suing Churchill big time, defamation to start…You could sense bafferts emotions in the video. This sample seemed to tampered with.

            • Laura Lanham says:

              The one thing that Baffert did keep insisting on was something is off. Another site I visited last night a poster insisted cross contamination was probably the cause.

              As for lawsuits way too early to be thinking about that. Too many questions need to be answered. There is much I am not sure about like if they are pulling hair for DNA testing where are they pulling it from, coat or mane? I would hope the longer hair that does not shed seasonally. I know in humans drug testing done on hair follicles reveals more then a pee test for example.

              Even if the test turns out to be flawed, contaminated I would be after the labs not the race track. Not letting Jimmy continue to run the other horses there does seem over the top. Frankly I would not blame Bob for getting a bit paranoid right now as it does seem he has a target painted on him.

              So let this play out and see what happens after they ship to Baltimore. They go after him again there based on this they are going to try to make him quit and he just does not strike me as the kind of guy to do that.

            • Mike Relva says:

              You’re sure of that? What about all the other instances?

              • Rachael says:

                I’m with you Mike. I’ve read a few articles now and this isn’t the first rodeo Bob’s been in.

              • Lanham Laura says:

                Sure there have been others like Justify that was traced to hay. He is not the only trainer though to have this happen either. Even the Queen one year at Ascot had a horse test positive and it got traced back to feed. Bob does have a very large operation and he has to trust the people he hires to follow his directives.

                He has stated quite clearly every vet record will be turned over. No I am not a huge fan of Bob but respect what he has done over the years. I don’t like bullies either or a person not getting a chance to prove themselves not guilty. Of all the horses that he ran that weekend just the Derby winner comes up with a failed screen. Even the mainstream news is after him right now and most of them wouldn’t know the difference between a gelding or a ridgling! You have to go back a long ways to find a Derby winner failing a drug screen in the Derby.

                Something is not right here. The investigation needs to continue.

                • Bruce says:

                  Well said Laura!! Great point about his other horses that raced that day, no positive tests on those, just the one that the spotlight was on, just doesn’t make sense!

        • Davids says:

          Would you say that Authentic’s Kentucky Derby win replicated Medina Spirit’s Kentucky Derby win in that both colts, in their prep races, gave the distinct impression that 10f was way beyond their natural abilities?

          • Steve Haskin says:

            More so Authentic. Medina was bred for distance. With him it was a question whether he was fast enough

            • Davids says:

              Agree, nonetheless, in both cases John Velasquez showed what a great jockey he is, perfection.

            • perimeister says:

              Richard Migliore predicted Medina Spirit would improve outside California, without the recent crop
              use restrictions. That prediction came true, when Johnny V. ride him hard and found the horse had found another gear he didn’t know that he had.

              Love how the Giant’s Causeway and Tiznow progeny are inheriting their competitive spirit. I think we see Midnight Bourbon and Medina Spirit battling it out in the Preakness.

              • Davids says:

                At this stage, the Preakness field appears extremely ‘fluid’ – there could be a sudden reversal of previous decisions.

                • perimeister says:

                  To keep more bad things from coming to pass, I’ve decided assume The foetal position and quietly mumble “Stradivarius,” over and over, for the next two days.

        • Deacon says:

          I loved what you said and your explanation. Lots of stuff to sort out. I don’t buy into a mob mentality, lets lynch the guy first, ask questions later. Steve is very smart I believe he will find out a lot of the facts involving this.
          Respectfully, not to put him on the spot.

    • Mike Relva says:

      Yeah, “here we go again”. Viewed this movie way too many times!

    • SoloSolo says:

      I don’t think this fairy tale story of Medina Spirit is going to have a happy ending. I feel so bad for the breeder, owners, & for Baffert if his claims are true. Puts a pall over MS’s magical Derby win, no matter the outcome.

    • Deacon says:

      According to ESPN, Churchill Downs has suspended Baffert. I watched Jeremy Schaap’s piece on Baffert this morning.

  5. Discopartner says:

    The 1973 Belmont Stakes was the greatest horse race ever according to the public and guess what, they were right! No railbird or bettor knows better, on here or anywhere else.

    • EddieF says:

      Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. I think I covered everything. You now have an opportunity to amend your statement.

      • Discopartner says:

        What? You didn’t even see the race in living black and white when it was live. I bet you like art films more than real classics.

        • Discopartner says:

          I assumed the first part because you wrote down below that you’ve only seen Secretariat’s races in grainy videos of varying quality.

        • EddieF says:

          Art films/classics? That’s a weird response. A 31-length win is a great performance, not a great race. You should amend your remark to Secretariat’s performance. Great races are the ’78 Belmont and the ’89 Preakness.

          • Discopartner says:

            You write “wrong” four times as a response and you call my post weird? You weren’t around when Secretariat won this race, you don’t know the impact it made in real time. Mincing words about race vs. performance is typical “horse player” BS, the public knows better.

    • Deacon says:

      I tend to disagree that that was the greatest race ever. He basically beat 4 horses and Sham broke down in the race and never ran again. Other then Sham who was hurt who did he beat, nobody. I thought his Woodward Stakes win was a better performance.
      No argument Secretariat was a great horse only a fool wouldn’t see that but Man O’ War had a 28 foot stride and Secretariat had a 26 foot stride. I would also say that Spectacular Bid and Dr. Fager were better, just my opinion.

  6. Matthew K W says:

    HEY there’s one more similarity with Tom Brady—they hate Tom, and they hate Bob—if only my Quarter Horse could break out of the gate like the negative posters can, with their vitriol!

    • Laval says:

      Lance Armstrong had supporters too.

      • Matthew W says:

        Has? or HAD?….are you one of those posters–like a guy who calls himself “lawyer”—who says Bob is a JUICER? Do you consider a jimson weed pos, or a rash med overage–is the same as what Lance Armstrong did? Lance Armstrong injected STEROIDS, do you consider Bob having done the same as Lance?

        • Mike Relva says:

          Well, his go-to excuse is always the same. “did nothing wrong”.

          • Deacon says:

            You are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty in this country. A trainer like Bob Baffert must have a large staff, grooms, horse walkers, etc. He can’t be everywhere at once. Something is amiss here. I don’t believe Baffert is dumb enough to shoot a horse up with betamethasone (steroids) before a big race like the Derby. That goes way beyond arrogance for him to do something like this. I am pretty sure many other connections have it in for him. Lots of stuff goes on behind closed doors. I spent a good 20 years at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park & Del Mar with my dad. I learned a lot about what goes on. I can tell some stories about this another time.
            Personally, I choose to wait and see on this.

            • Mike Relva says:

              Yes, it should be allowed to come to conclusion for sure. My problem is this isn’t the first time and it’s always same tune-“I didn’t do anything wrong”. Catchy go-to line!

              • Deacon says:

                Mike, your point is valid but unless I am incorrect he has been vindicated multiple times before. The media is quick to break a story and convict someone without a trial or hearing, thus starting a rumor mill. This whole thing smells funny to me. He is the silver fox, he gets many of the best horses and wins big races. He blows into town, wins a major race & then leaves. Who knows how much jealousy is out there.
                I guess when you break a story you become a legend in the reporting business.
                Like I said, he can’t be that dumb knowing that he is under scrutiny to dope a horse, especially in the Derby.
                I am not pointing any fingers at anyone, I say lets get all facts first.
                One thing I will conclude, whether he is guilty of any priors or not he seems be the one who always gets the finger pointed at himself.

                • Mike Relva says:

                  No doubt jealousy is product of success for sure. As for vindicated, for the situation in Arkansas- he paid fines. Say what you will,but it’s always someone’s fault other than his. Have great respect always for your comments.which illustrates unique knowledge in racing. One point which can’t be argued is when seven horses died for a drug they never required under his watch. No way of getting around that!

                  • Deacon says:

                    I am not aware of 7 horses dying under his watch, unless of course you are speaking of on the track breakdowns. I know his excellent 2 year old “What A Song” died while training at Del Mar some years ago. At least I think it was Del Mar.
                    Like I said Mike, I do not believe Baffert could be that stupid to administer a drug to a horse that he knowingly knows is illegal.
                    So today we think we found out the reason. A dermatitis ointment with traces of Betamethasone in it.
                    An ointment to treat the area…….. drug prescribed by a veterinarian as well.

                    I stand by Baffert, he is good for horse racing.

                    • Mike Relva says:

                      Stand by him! Don’t take my word regarding the seven dead horses, check it out. Obviously others as well as some industry insiders seem to have a different opinion. Amazing you never heard about the horses. Tell me,do you think Spendthrift will be the only one pulling horses from his barn? Doubt it!

                • Jeff says:

                  No way he jeopardizes his entire career on MS!!! Are you people kidding me……smells like an old school jealousy of a west coaster dominating their race. Or more than likely a PETA individual infiltrated to cast a dark shadow on industry.

                  • Mike Relva says:

                    “Dark shadow on industry” lol FYI, that ship sailed long ago. So,was it a PETA individual for the other times as well? Unreal!

                  • Deacon says:

                    I agree with you Jeff, Baffert has built an incredible legacy he would not jeopardize that.
                    In horse racing you are always guilty until proven innocent.

                    • Mike Relva says:

                      Yes, agree regarding guilty/innocent concept. Five violations in less than a yr. Have you read Barry Irwin’s comments? He’s on point! Don’t believe in looking the other way. Racing’s on a downward trajectory, honestly do you think this will continue? I don’t.

  7. SoloSolo says:

    Steve, this relatively new blog of yours is more than wonderful! In addition to your great articles, I so enjoy the posts by all the veteran railbirds, handicappers, pedigree buffs, horsemen, cowboys, comedians (think EddieF) and have learned so much be reading their posts. The repartee between you all is priceless. Hats off to Steve and this merry band of horselovers!

  8. Steve Haskin says:

    Sorry, I was away all weekend and wasnt able to respond to comments.

  9. DavidD says:

    Steve, thanks so much for bringing back great memories. I remember watching those races on TV. So many top horses in those days had big races on both dirt and grass: Secretariat, Tentam, Cougar II; Typecast raced against the boys on both surfaces.

    I had doubted that Tentam could stretch out to 12 furlongs, but did he ever.

  10. Dutch says:

    Thanks for another great trip down memory lane. As for that five furlong work in :56 4/5 before the race: wow!

  11. dan marconi says:

    Steve , take a look at what the GREAT GALERIO did yesterday in the 8th at pimlico, what a race , wanted to go in the Pimilico Special but what a smart move to get his confidence back , take a look at his resume , what a horse!!! I know my dad is so proud, I am so glad I named him after my late father, WW!! war hero, South Pacific!!

  12. DES says:

    The Breeders Cup diminished all the great Fall races, like the DC International and Lrl Futurity. Dahlia won the ’73 International, beating Tentam and Big Spruce. Her trainer, Maurice Zilber, claimed Dahlia could beat Secretariat on the grass. She was a chestnut too, but i don’t think she was “red”.

  13. CLOWNSKILL says:

    I will go to my grave thinking Secretariat’s Preakness was the better than his Belmont. I have seen other horses runoff to win by big margins. Never have I seen another horse go from last to first around the FIRST turn, sweeping by them all, to take the lead and keep going to the wire.

  14. Lynda B King says:

    Could not help but shed a few tears as I read this. He would have been amazing on the turf in Europe had he come back at 4. There is just no other racehorse that compares to him in my mind. Thank you Steve!

  15. Mary Lou says:

    As much as I can appreciate some of the contemporary stars, I read this column and am immediately brought back to how I felt watching the Saturday race of the week in the 60s and 70s. Secretariat represents true greatness in horse racing and, while not ever seeing him at the track, I knew that he was special. Thank you for a fitting tribute.
    On another note, I seem to remember reading in the NY Daily News that Penny Tweedy and Lucien Laurin were thinking of going to the Arc with him.

  16. Deacon says:

    When I first saw the opening of this story I thought your 2 Big Reds would be Dr. Fager & Secretariat. Dr. Fager was also called Big Red but I wonder who remembers that. I am sure you do as you are a Encyclopedia of knowledge and information.
    Just reading about about all those greats from our past gave me goosebumps. Well written Steve.
    These are the back stories I really love. Thank you

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks Deacon, but I have never heard Dr. Fager called Big Red, especially since he was a bay.

      • Deacon says:

        Readers Digest published an article on Dr. Fager soon after his retirement, he was referred to as Big Red in that article, assuming my memory is working. I can scan the article and email it to you if you like.
        The article was about Dr. Fager being called the greatest race horse of all time. Of course this was before Secretariat, Ruffian, Forego, Seattle Slew, Affirmed & Spectacular Bid.
        I realize I am bias with regards to the Doc but I hung around some great handicappers & racing experts and they all told me that carrying weight matters. Citation as great as he was never won a race carrying 130 lbs & he coundn’t beat Noor.
        I remember all the stories my dad would talk to me about. The rivalry between Noor & Citation

        • Deacon says:

          Many folks won’t remember this but Noor held the world record for 10 furlongs of 1:58 1/5 until Spectacular Bid came along.
          Two records stand out to me above all others, The Doc’s mile world record carrying that much weight and Spectacular Bids 10 furlong world record. I believe he also carried 130 lbs or more in that race. I was at Santa Anita the day he set that record.
          We always say poor Sham because he lost to Secretariat in the 3 Triple Crown races. But he did beat him in the Wood Memorial.
          I always felt bad for Flying Paster. Poor horse would have been a legend if not for the “Bid”.
          I can and so can you make all day, horses for courses.. Lastly I believe I read where Man O’ War had a longer stride then Secretariat, 28 feet compared to 26 feet.
          I will say this Secretariat is mostly responsible for bringing in a ton of new fans and putting horse racing back on the map.
          Have a wonderful Mothers Day weekend

          • Matthew W says:

            I also was there for Bid’s Strub, saw it from Clocker’s Corner, and when ‘Paster split horses at the 1/4 pole, I thought I was about to witness him finally beat Bid—also, there was a preakness-like early move by Spectacular Bid, who was 12 lengths behind after the opening quarter, he flew down the backstretch and came to the lead going into the far turn, having gone 1:32 4/5, with Paster moving fast I thought it was a done deal….but Shoe and The Bid had more.

      • Mike Relva says:

        Mr. Haskin,

        Your writing never grows stale- always captivating. Continually illustrates you’re at height of your powers. Thanks!

  17. Ms Black Type says:

    To quote Bob Hope, thanks for the memories, Steve. Reading through the story, I got the strangest feeling that Secretariat actually got in enough starts after the Triple Crown to count as a full four-year-old campaign. These days, it would be! And those horses he ran against weren’t pikers, either. All memorable and accomplished horses.

    I’ve never seen either of his grass races (nor the ignominious defeats at Saratoga). I’ll look the grass races up. Thanks!

  18. Matthew W says:

    After his blowout win in the special Arlington Park race….they went in the Whitney, and not the Jim Dandy….I was in shock about not only Onion’s easy win, but also Rule By Reason rolling past Big Red at the finish line! But you just tossed Secretariat’s duds, because when he won it was like Arrogate–SUPER.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      There was a legitimate reason for this his three losses. Forget Onion and Rule by Reason. Secretariat was a sick horse going into the Whitney and Turcotte begged them not to run. But they felt committed. He came out of it with a 105 fever. A healthy Secretariat would have beaten Onion and Rule by Reason by 10 lengths or more. Look what he did ti Onion in the Marlboro Cup

    • Discopartner says:

      Arrogate couldn’t hold a candle to Secretariat. I bet you never saw any of Secretariat’s races, and certainly not the Whitney, which wasn’t widely televized, your fake statement about being in shock, is total BS.

      • Mike Relva says:

        Correct! Absurd to mention him with Secretariat.

      • Matthew W says:

        OK that’s uncalled for! I saw the stretch run of the 1973 Whitney on my grandma’s green chair, whatever was it that I wrote that upset you so much? Arrogate? He ran FOUR super races, give me a break—wasn’t saying he was better than Secretariat, sheesh!

        • Mike Relva says:

          Excuse me! Arrogate illustrated greatness for sure,but after Dubai…… not so much. Tank was empty. CA Chrome,while bashed by so many. won after Dubai. Big Red -in a different area code!

    • Profsdottir says:

      Lest anyone misunderstand, Rule by Reason didn’t “roll past” until after the wire. And I don’t want to start a scrum here, but Secretariat had two full racing seasons of phenomenal performances, minus two races where he was compromised(Wood and Whitney). As Steve pointed out, even his Woodward was pretty amazing. Running back two weeks after he set a world record on dirt in the Marlboro Cup (and where he was clocked galloping out 10 furlongs in 1:57 and 4/5ths), travelling wide the whole way in the slop, and he still managed to equal the former track record that he had broken in the Belmont. Prove Out just had his amazing race ready that day. Secretariat was consistent and durable at the highest level of the game. He did things no other horse could. If you want to compare Arrogate to a horse from that era, it would be more fitting to compare him to Prove Out, not because anyone thinks he could have beaten Secretariat, but because like Prove Out, he had a few spectacular races in him, shone briefly, and then was gone.

  19. Tetrarch says:

    Two if the most tantalizing “what ifs” in all racing– what marvels would either Big Red have performed at four?

  20. EddieF says:

    All I’ve ever seen of Secretariat are videos of varying quality. Thanks for bringing his final races to life. Turcotte’s reaction to hearing that Big Red would be entered in the Marlboro Cup was most interesting.

    Trivia for the Haskin readers: Secretariat won 7 graded stakes as a 3 year old. He won 7 races as a 2 year old. How many of his 2yo wins were in graded stakes?

  21. EDWARD VOMACKA says:

    Drove 6 hours from Albany NY to Woodbine to see his final race. Also saw him live in the Belmont, Marlboro and Woodward. Great experiences all even the Woodward loss. Canadian Intl was awesome. Still have the winning ticket which had the tote code “BIG RED”

  22. Ellie says:

    I love hearing about all the build up to secretariats three last races. Thank you

  23. Sheila L says:

    We will never know but it makes you wonder how he would have handled synthetic.

  24. Lanie Feldman says:

    I was working the backside when Red ran the BELMONT. He came around the last turn to the stretch and he was GONE ❣ I’LL NEVER FORGET THAT DAY and the horse I loved most. I’m all in til the end. Thanks for the memories.I LOVE YOU ❣

  25. Matthew W says:

    I remember the picture of Secretariat pulling away from Tentam, it looked like he was jumping, such power…..and I recall the 1972 Man O War, the scrawny mare Typecast–a forgotten mare of much class–took care of business, like she out finished Cougar II in the Hollywood Turf Invitational, the biggest turf race in the west.