Secretariat

Fan Club

#TurcotteTuesday


Secretariat’s Hall of Fame jockey Ron Turcotte has been answering fan questions and writing about his first-hand knowledge of the 1973 Triple Crown champion through our #TurcotteTuesday social media posts. We have compiled those posts below for easy reference. Ron’s detailed memories and horsemanship color this historical treasure trove, and he is looking forward to sharing more about that magical season. Look for #TurcotteTuesday on our Facebook page at @secretariatofficial. You can also find us on Instagram at @secretariatofficial and Twitter at @SECRETARIATofcl
.

****************

5/21/19 Preakness: Part II

I arrived later than usual for the races on Saturday, May 19, 1973. I went to the Preakness barn first to see how the big horse, who happened to be sleeping, was doing before going to the Jockey’s Room. I wanted to chat with Eddie “Shorty” Sweat and Charlie Davis to find out how Secretariat ate his breakfast and noon meal. I also wanted to know how he was feeling. They told me that his last blow out through the stretch and his fast galloping out around the turn on Friday morning really put him on his toes. After Secretariat woke up and stretched, I walked in the stall to see him; he wanted to play a little so I grabbed his halter and planted a kiss on his nose and talked to him a little bit before I walked to the jock’s room.

Once in the room, I got dressed in my riding pants, boots, and T-shirt. I sat down and played a few hands of cards (Racehorse Rummy) and watched some races run before the Preakness. I talked to members of the press, then all Preakness jockeys had to tape interviews with Chic Anderson, who was working for CBS. He was trying to pry out strategies from each jockey on how he liked his chances and how he intended to ride his mount.

After checking in for the race, we all walked to the turf course where the horses were being saddled out in the open air, and we talked to our trainers. Some were receiving orders on how to ride their mount in the race. After telling me for the last two days that he wanted me to ride Secretariat the same way I had ridden him in the Derby, Lucien only said, “Forget what I said before, use ton propre jugement,” which is French for “use your best judgment.”

Once all the horses were on the track, the band started playing “Maryland My Maryland,” and again our horses started to prance to the beat of the music under us. That is always a great feeling. It always felt that way to me at least.

Once the music stopped, we warmed our horses as was needed, then lined up behind the gate to be loaded. Once we were all in the gate and standing good, the starter Eddie Blind squeezed the starter button and we were off. George Cusimano, riding the speed horse Ecole Etage, sped to the lead from the outside sending him really hard to clear the field so he could drop in next to the inside fence to save ground, and the riders on the other horses were jockeying for position at a good clip because Pimlico is known as a speed favoring track.

Meanwhile, my horse bobbled as he slipped over the starting gate tracks. I gathered him up and gave him time to find his stride. We were last passing the wire the first time around but that was alright because the other horses had run the first quarter of a mile in a swift 23 seconds. Then all of a sudden, they started coming back to me as I was about to drop in close to the fence to save ground. When I looked up at George Cusimano on the lead with Ecole Etage, I saw his horse’s head go up. That meant he had taken a stronger hold of his horse to slow down the pace and all the other riders had a good hold on their horses, thinking that I may ride Secretariat the same way I had ridden him the Derby, holding him for a late closing run.

Sometimes jockeys can get surprised by the moves of other riders during a race. In the Preakness, I was the one who did the surprising and caught the rest of the field with their pants down when I reacted instinctively and took my horse to the outside. I didn’t want to be boxed in like a fool with no place to go and no chance to get out. I would then have the front horses backing up in my face all around the first turn. It may have been an unconventional move but one I had to make.

Sure it looked like a very dramatic move, but it was nothing that any other experienced jockey wouldn’t have done if he had the guts to take the chance and suffer the consequences if he got beat. I also knew my horse well. I knew what he was capable of, and I knew he was physically fit and more than ready for the race. I didn’t worry about the consequences. I had no doubt I was making the right move. I knew I could move with him early and then get him to relax. I could make more than one move with him so it didn’t matter how the race came up, I could ride him accordingly. It made it a lot harder for the other jockeys to predict what I was going to do.

After passing the whole field around the first turn, we took the lead and control of the race. I steered him to the inside and eased up on the reins, which was a way of telling him to relax and fall back into a long galloping stride. If anyone wanted to challenge me I still had plenty of horse under me. I knew I could tighten up on the reins and chirp to him to accelerate away from any challenges because that big dude could gallop away from any 3 year olds by then, and that is exactly what I did when Sham took a run at us at the 5/16th pole. When we crossed the wire, I honestly felt that we could have won that race by 10 lengths and more. That’s what I told Lucien then, and I am saying the same thing today 46 years later. Then I got off the scale and went through the trophy presentation and the rerun of the race with Jack Whitaker.

After that I was asked to go up to the Press Box to meet the sports writers. The first one I met at the door was none other than Mr. Joe Hirsch, senior Daily Racing Form columnist, who asked me if I thought that the time on the infield board was right. My answer to him was “HELL NO!” He then preceded to tell me that he had clocked Secretariat in 1:53 2/5. He said that was the same time that the Form’s chief of clockers Gene “Frenchy” Schwartz and Frank Robinson, the Form’s chief clocker at Pimlico, had timed him. I told him that his time made a lot more sense.

Today I am very thankful for all of Leonard Lusky’s perseverance and hard work with the experts he brought with him to the 2012 hearing that left the Maryland Racing Commission with no choice but to look into it, and in the end they saw the proof that Secretariat had actually ran the 1 3/16th mile in 1:53 flat so that Secretariat rightfully was credited with his corrected official time.

I’ve always maintained that Secretariat held the record for all three Triple Crown races, and it took nearly 40 years later, but he finally got the official recognition he so richly deserved.

When asked if we could have run faster, I used the words that Horatio Luro used to tell me when winning a race before another big race coming up. I could have, but in his words, “Ronnie, do not squeeze zee lemon dry.” 

****************

5/14/19 – Preakness: Part I

On Thursday evening, Lucien Laurin called me to tell me that he had changed his mind about working Secretariat six furlongs on Saturday morning as we had planned. Instead he wanted to work him a good 5/8 of a mile on Sunday morning after the track had closed for training. He had obtained permission to work on a freshly arrowed track from Chick Lang, the Pimlico racetrack manager, because there was a contingent that included a New York photographer, sport writers, and of course Dr. Manuel Gilman, who were to be there to measure the length of Secretariat’s stride in comparison to Man o War’s.

Lucien asked me to be there no later than 8:30 or 9 a.m. and to bring his Mercedes down, so I left early Sunday morning. While driving south on the Jersey Turnpike, I looked back in the rearview mirror and I saw a blinking light behind me. I looked at the speedometer, and noticed that I was going over 90 miles an hour. I slowed down, and the trooper, Officer Moos, pulled me over, and said “Lovely morning to you. Where are you going”?

“Pimlico Racetrack — I have to work a horse there this morning and I am running late,” I said.

“Well, get going but back off the pedal, Ron, you’re not on Secretariat this morning,” he said. I just couldn’t remember ever meeting that man before and wondered if he was related to trainer Joe Moos. I found out while at a barbecue later that summer that he was in fact Joe’s brother.

As I got to Pimlico, I went straight to the Jockey’s Room to weigh myself with my exercise saddle and under clothes, galloping boots, jeans, and a light jacket and helmet. The scale read 141 pounds, which was the weight Secretariat was going to carry in his workout. I then went to the barn and handed Eddie Sweat all my tack so he could saddle the horse.

Once on the track, Charlie, on the pony and I on Big Red, went the wrong way to the half mile pole then turned around and galloped to the 7/8th pole, pulled up and walked about 1/8th of a mile before starting to gallop again. I picked up speed to get a good run at the 5/8th pole, and we went the half mile in 45:1/5 seconds, 5/8th in 57:2/5th, galloped out ¾ in 1:10, and pulling up 7/8 under 1:23 (actually just under 1:23) carrying 141 pounds.  They measured his stride at 25 feet for a sprinting stride, which is shorter than a long distance race or working stride. For example, the stride he had in the Belmont going down the backside and around both turns would have measured considerably longer.

On Friday morning I let him breeze from the quarter pole to the 7/8 pole in around 36 seconds to my estimate. He was now as ready as anybody could get him ready to go 1 3/16th mile.

Next week we will go for the ride of a life time you could say. Then again, I had more than one ride of a lifetime on Big Red.

****************

5/7/19 – Many people have asked me throughout the years why I didn’t ride any other races on the cards of the 1972 and 1973 Kentucky Derbies. Well, this is a good question. Maybe a lot people don’t recall that for a few years, the Kentucky Racing Commission had a new rule that I didn’t know about myself. The rule was that any jockey involved in a spill wasn’t going to be allowed to ride in any other races for the rest of that day.

I only learned that after I went to Keeneland Racecourse to ride Riva Ridge in the 1972 Blue Grass Stakes on April 27, 1972. I had a mount in the second or third race and won. While pulling up, my horse had a heart attack and dropped dead under me about 1/16th of a mile past the wire. My foot was stuck in my bended stirrup, and I had to unbuckle the stirrup strap and pull off the saddle before walking back to be weighed. After I got off the scale, the clerk of scales told me that I would be off my mounts for the rest of the day. So I went to the First Aid room to explain that I was fine and what had happened so they sent me to see the stewards, and I had to argue my case that I was not in a spill during the race and I had flown in from New York especially to ride Riva Ridge in the Blue Grass.

They did let me ride and we won but after stopping at the barn, Lucien and Penny asked if I could try not to accept any mounts in any other races on Derby Day, and I thought it was only fair that they wouldn’t have to worry about looking for a new jockey at the last minute if I was to be involved in a spill in an earlier race Derby Day. So we agreed, and we had the same agreement in 1973 with the exemption of Belmont Day because that was my home base, and I had many customers who were running horses there every day. Since I didn’t ride before both Derbies, I walked the track in the morning of the race to get a feel for the surface. I wanted to know the depth of the cushion from the rail to the middle of the track to have a better idea where to try and keep my horse if at all possible. It was all part of being as prepared as I could be. I guess you could say that  jockeys have to make sacrifices too. 5/7/19

****************

4/30/19 – The Road to the Kentucky Derby Part II

I returned to Louisville to work Secretariat before the Derby. After arriving at my hotel, the clerk handed me an important envelope when I checked in. The note stated that I call Lucien’s room right away, which I did. That’s when I heard about a meeting we were to have with Mrs. Tweedy, as Penny was known then.

I was wondering what was wrong. Had Secretariat gotten hurt, or was there any thought of a change of jockey after his Wood Memorial defeat, or had they changed their minds about running in the Derby because I knew that there had been a lot of pressure on [Penny] after the Wood from many of the syndicate members.

So as the elevator doors opened, there was Lucien standing there waiting for me. He said to hold the door and grab my traveling bags. Pushing a floor number, he said, “I called Mrs. Tweedy and told her that we were on our way up, and she is waiting for us.”

As we entered the room, Penny told Lucien to take a chair, and I sat on the bed. And the questions started coming.

“You know, Ronnie, that Secretariat is a Bold Ruler,” Penny said.

“Yes, but he is not your typical Bold Ruler,” I said. “He must be taking after mother’s sire, Princequillo’s side, because he is not speed crazy and can easily be rated without fighting me, and I believe he can run as far as they write races.”

“Well then, you think he can run the one and a quarter Saturday?” Penny asked.

“How do you account for not finishing strong two weeks ago?” Lucien added.

“Well, that wasn’t him that day, he didn’t run his race,” I said tongue in cheek. I couldn’t throw Lucien under the bus, as they say, because I didn’t know how much he told Penny about the abscess, and I didn’t want to get Dr. Gilman in trouble. I was in kind of a bind.

“Ronnie, a lot of people don’t think he can go that far,” Penny said.

“They are not riding. I am, and it’s my belief –” I hesitated.

“Well, we want to know if there is any doubt in your mind,” Penny and Lucien said. “If there is, we want to know.”

I said no, I had no doubts about him running that far.

“Can he win? Because if he runs another bad race, it will be hard to explain why we ran.”

We talked about our chances, and when Penny asked me again if I really thought we could win, that’s when I asked for more time to give them an honest and more definite answer. Because to me, they seemed to be relying on my answers whether to run even after I told them that he would definitely not disgrace himself nor embarrass them. I told them that they would have my answer after I worked him the next morning.

“That’s fair enough,” they said. This all took place on Tuesday evening before his final workout, which was to be Wednesday morning.

 The next morning, Eddie Sweat gave me a leg up on Secretariat, and we went around the shed row a few times. Sweat told me all about the abscess, how it came to a head and how much better Secretariat ate and felt so much like his old self. Then Charlie came with me riding the pony, and he also told me that Secretariat was alright and taking hold of the bit. I then asked if he knew, why didn’t he tell me? He said he and Eddie were following orders.

Lucien told me to do our regular routine of a fast 5/8 mile, and he asked me to jog him back to the clubhouse to give them time to get around to the front side, meaning to the grandstand, to watch Secretariat come down the stretch. That way, he was going to have a better chance to time him because he couldn’t see the wire or finish line from the back side. We left at the same time. I jogged back to the clubhouse then turned around and galloped past the ¾ pole, where I picked up speed and was in full run as I passed the ⅝ pole, then running past the wire flying in 58 seconds. It was exactly what we wanted. We galloped out an extra eighth in better than 12 seconds as told to me by the clocker that stood on the outside fence when I was walking back.

After pulling up to Charlie Davis on the pony Billy Silver, I looked at Charlie and told him, “Come Saturday, we will be at same place we were last year after the 1972 Derby,” meaning the Winner’s Circle.

“See I told you, Ronnie, that he was back to himself,” said Charlie. “He pulled my ass off yesterday. He really took hold of the bit and wanted to go.”

As we got to the barn, Lucien and Penny arrived and they were steaming. I said to Charlie and Sweat, “What’s wrong with them?” Nobody said anything.

As Lucien walk toward me, I walked up to him. “How did he go, Ronnie?”

“Great! How did you clock him?”

“I was locked out and missed the work.”

“What happened?”

“All the gates on the front side were locked.”

Penny looked at me and said, “What do you have to say?”

“It’s a go — I really think we will win,” I said. Then I looked at my watch and told them that I had to rush to the airport so I could get back to New York to fulfill my riding engagement at Aqueduct. As I turned around I hollered at them, “And if you’re afraid of the extra quarter of a mile, I’ll gallop him the first quarter and let him run the last mile. We already know that he can beat all the 3 year olds. See you all Saturday morning.”

I was back at Churchill Downs Derby morning and saw that the track was closed for training, but I wanted to see how the surface was and how deep the cushion was so I walked the track going from the middle to the rail to see the variation in the cushion. Then I returned to the hotel where I had a coffee with Eddie Arcaro and discussed the many Derbies that he had won, and then he said, “I don’t think you can drag a Bold Ruler 1 1/4 mile. Now do you still think you can win?”

I said yes, and he said, “Ride that Big Red SOB the way you like because the only ones I lost was when I followed orders. Don’t listen to anyone, you hear.”

Then I sat on the side of the pool with Jean-Louis Levesques, who owned two shares in Secretariat, and he said he was glad that we were running. Mr. Levesques was a Canadian who owned many horses, and I was always his No. 1 jockey from the time I started riding. He had lots of confidence in me and always called on me to ride his stakes horses, and we won many stakes together.

I returned to the track around one o’clock and watched a few races from different locations to see how horses were running and where the local riders were keeping their horses. Then I went to the Jockey’s Room to take a nap before the race and awoke to a call in which Secretariat finished third. It took me a few seconds to realize that they had been rerunning the prep races on TV, and that made me feel better. I took a deep sigh of relief then went to the sweat box and did about 20 minutes of stretching and mimic riding. I took a cooling shower then got dressed to ride.

We only had about 20 minutes before checking in, and I talked to Bill Nack some. I was very disappointed that he had picked another horse to win and placed us no better than third — even after I had told him that there had been something seriously wrong with Big Red the day of the Wood (without spilling all the beans and getting Lucien and Dr. Gilman in trouble). Then after I passed the scale, I noticed that Bill was on his way out and I told him that I was going to see him in the Winner’s Circle.

I then went down when the call “Riders out!” came and talked to Lucien for a few minutes with his regular order, “Use your best judgment.” We walked around the walking ring once and headed for the racetrack. During the post parade, they played “My Old Kentucky Home,” and most of the horses seemed to react to the music by prancing throughout the parade. We all proceeded to give our horses a light to good warmup according to their needs. In my case, like the previous year with Riva Ridge, both horses only needed a light, long stretching gallop for about a quarter of a mile then walk back to the gate slowly before being loaded.

That afternoon, I knew exactly how I intended to ride Secretariat: Try to break with the field then drop to the inside and only let him go on his own for the first quarter. Then pick up his head and hope we could catch half of the field without using him up and see if I could ease him to the outside for a clear run when I put him in gear to move up on the field and get a good run at the leaders by the time I reached the quarter pole. Then set him down from there to catch the leader.

In the actual race, by the time we reached the sixteenth pole, all went as I planned. I got the lead by the time we were passing the eighth pole, and the Derby was won by then. And what a sense of redemption after that dismal race in the Wood. Secretariat got the race and track record that day, running every quarter faster than the previous and the fastest last quarter in Derby history. That’s how we got the Roses, and that, as Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story. 5/2/19

****************

4/23/19 – The Road to the Kentucky Derby Part I: Wood Memorial

On April 7, 1973, Secretariat easily won The Gotham Stakes and equaled the track record with a change in strategy when I decided to put him on the lead for the first time in his career, and he won easy. The whole Secretariat Team was all gung-ho, now knowing we could place him in a more advantageous position during the running of a race, in case the pace was slow and he still could finish strong now. With only one more prep race to run before the Derby, all looked like everything was falling in place beautifully for us to win back-to-backKentucky Derbies.    

The Wood Memorial was to be run at 1 1/8 mile around two turns; it looked pretty easy for us to win when all hell broke loose. Lucien had to return to Florida for his father-in-law’s funeral, and he left orders with the foreman.

And I knew my role but on Wednesday, when I got to the barn to get on Secretariat for our fast 5/8th mile final workout, I was told that the orders had changed and he was not to work for the Wood. I was very disappointed, and I never had a chance to get on him at all before the Wood Memorial itself. He didn’t get his lungs opener for the race.

When Saturday came and I got a leg up on him for the Wood and tied my reins, he was kind of fussy about his head, kinda throwing it around then when we got to the gate, he didn’t like the assistant starter taking hold

of him to load in the gate. When we did get in the gate, he threw his head and broke the gate open and ran through. We had to take him around the back side and reload him. He broke from the gate alright, but he wasn’t his old self and wouldn’t take hold of the bit throughout the race and finished third.

Everybody was saying, “Uh, what now? Do we ship to Kentucky?” I was very puzzled because he never did that before, and I was certainly not to the point of giving up on him.        

When I went to work Secretariat the following Saturday after the Wood in Kentucky and he still wouldn’t take hold of the bit, I told Eddie Sweat, and he only lifted his shoulders like he was saying, “I don’t know.” But I wondered if he was following Lucien’s orders by not saying anything.

I flew back to New York to fulfill my riding engagement and in the Jockey’s Room, ran into Dr. Gilman, who asked me how Secretariat worked. I told him that I didn’t like his work. That’s when he asked me if the abscess inside his upper lip had broken.

“Oh,” I said, “Thank you, Doc! You just solved the mystery, thank you-thank you.”   

****************

4/16/19 – Do you think we’ll ever see another Secretariat? (Lisa, Facebook)

Not in my lifetime, I don’t. To me, he was just the perfect horse. He had it all! He had the temperament, the ability, the soundness, and the versatility. He could run any way you wanted him to. He could run on the lead, come from behind or lay in the middle of the field. He was bold and would come between horses, on the rail or stay lapped on other horses on the outside. I could make more than one run with him like we showed in the Preakness. I asked him to move around the first turn, then once we got to the lead, I took him in hand and he just went to running easy and relaxed until we entered the stretch. When I asked him to ease away from Sham, we just pulled away with ease.

Your average horse has one or two runs in him and you have to be careful not to use it too early. With Secretariat, nobody could predict my strategy; I could really run the race the way it came up. I didn’t need a pace setter. We could set our own pace like we did in the Belmont and the Man O’ War Stakes, where we just played with Tentam, letting him come to us then pulling away, then letting him come again and just pulling away again and again three or four times to discourage him. He could sustain his runs longer than any horse I’ve ever ridden like he did in the Hopeful and Saratoga as a 2 year old. I asked him to run at the half mile pole, and we passed everyone around the turn and kept pulling away in the stretch to win easily.

He could run on a fast track, he could run in the slop or the mud, he could run on the turf whether it was hard, firm, soft or deep turf. You may say I’m prejudiced but of all the great horses I have ridden, he stands out. He was the toughest I’ve ever seen. He could take hard training and even thrived on it. And after 46 years, he still holds all the Triple Crown records. Secretariat loved to compete, and he just loved to run.

I am still in the business on a small scale as I have one in-foal mare, a three year old colt and a four year old filly for racing. I hope I never leave the business of racing.

****************

4/9/19 – Were you disappointed not to have been the jockey on Secretariat’s last race? (Daniel, Facebook)

That was the biggest disappointment of my career; the only satisfaction I had was knowing that Red was as fit as he could be after that record workout I gave him in his final prep on the racetrack where he was to run and that my good friend Eddie Maple was riding him and I could advise him how to handle Secretariat. I knew Eddie would listen and do the right thing. 

****************

4/2/19 – What advice would you give to an aspiring jockey? (Char, Facebook)

Watch other jockeys ride, and don’t be afraid to ask questions because most professional jockeys don’t mind helping young, upcoming young riders. It does help us to help young jockeys because riding with riders who know where they are going makes riding races safer. It’s important that riders can go straight and knowing that all riders can maneuver their mounts makes it a safer ride. When I rode, I always loved to help young jockeys. 

****************

3/26/19 – What were the differences the the styles of Riva Ridge and Red? Did they respond to the whip, or did they both just love to run? (@mickysebastian, Instagram)

Riva Ridge was a great horse who was overshadowed by his superstar stable mate Secretariat., a.k.a. Big Red. They had a lot of similarities: Both could run, both were about the same weight — 1,200 lb. and 16.2 hands high — both were kind, gentle, generous and easy to handle because both were equally intelligent.

But they differed from there. When I started riding Riva Ridge, he was awfully timid and had to be re-schooled to teach him to relax, go between, through on the rail, and not to be afraid of other horses. His natural ability and being light on his feet made him run like a deer, maybe because he was so mature. At 2, he was more like a 3 year old and he did not change much in maturity when he aged from 2 to 3. He could break from the gate very fast and had a lot of speed, but could go short or long distance, because he rated well, never fighting me and never needing much persuasion. Riva Ridge’s only problem was that he could not handle mud and turf (grass). He did finish second on a fast track to Secretariat and Canonero II by a head at 3 while Canonero II was 4. All of his other losses were run either in the mud, grass or off tracks. (Disregard his first two losses; I didn’t ride him then, and if he had been schooled properly, he would not have lost them two.) The only race I lost with him on a fast track was the Haskell in New Jersey and I am still puzzled about that one; according to some, he was doped by someone other than his connections.   

Whereby Secretariat was a freight train once he learned what racing was all about. When we first started to work him with other horses at Hialeah, he was clumsy and couldn’t keep up with the other horses, but it was just a matter of time and patience not hitting him and rushing him, just coaxing him along. Three months later he got his act together and was keeping up with them all, and by the time we moved north to Belmont Park, he could pass every 2 year old we had in the barn. The blinkers didn’t move him up one inch, but he was very heavy headed and had to be held. He hit the ground real hard as a 2 year old until midsummer 1973 and was always looking for support like a strong jockey who could hold his head up. When he had loose reins, he would flounder and just gallop along more at a lesser pace, but once I picked up his head, he really would pick it up and move on withers to improve our position. If it was time go for the money, I knew him like a book, picking his head up and a chirp meant to go faster.  I just loosened up on his head to tell him to relax and hold that spot. Then I would tighten up on the reins for a spurt to get a bit closer. We never had to use the whip on either of them. 

****************

3/19/19 – Can you remember back to your very first stakes win and what race was is it and who was the horse? (@ord_warrior, Instagram)

I won my first stakes race at Woodbine Racetrack in 1962 in Toronto, Canada. I was riding Crafty Lace, a 3 year old in the Breeders’ Stakes, which is the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown and the equivalent of the Belmont Stakes in the United States. Crafty Lace ended up the Canadian Horse of the Year as well as Champion 3 Year Old for 1962.

Incidentally, his trainer was John J. Mooney, who won the 1924 Kentucky Derby as a jockey with the famous horse Black Gold. Crafty Lace was running in claiming races before Mooney claimed him for $7,500 and made a stakes horse out of him and on to Horse of the Year by winning five consecutive stakes races. I was also Canadian Champion Jockey that year, my first year riding races. 3/19/19

***************

3/12/19 – From Rhonda on Facebook: Mr Turcotte, Do you remember the first ride you took on Secretariat (whether it was in a race or just a morning workout) and if so what do you remember about it or what was your initial impression of him?

The first day after my arrival from spending the Christmas holidays with my family in New Brunswick, Canada, I got up early and went to Hialeah Park, where Lucien Laurin was stabled, to see Riva Ridge — the 1971 champion 2-year-old who was the favorite to win the 1972 Kentucky Derby. I met Lucien in the tack room then walked together down the shed row to check in on Riva Ridge, but a few stalls before we got to Riva something caught my eye like nothing before.

Immediately, I asked Lucien, “Who is that pretty boy?” I had never in my life time seen a 2-year-old with such a large crested neck.

Lucien answered, “Oh that’s a Bold Ruler colt that just came in a few days ago with a bunch of 2 year olds from The Meadow Farm, too good looking to be a good race horse.”

After looking at Riva and talking to Eddie Sweat for a few minutes, Lucien asked me if I was ready to go to work.

“That’s what I’m here for,” I said.

“Well, get your tack and give it to your pretty horse’s groom to put it on and you can get on him and go out with the next set of five horses and then you can tell me what you think of him,” Lucien said.

So I did and just loved the way Secretariat handled and the way he galloped. Nothing skittish about him, not your typical baby looking around and shying from nearly anything that moved around them. I told Lucien that I loved him. “Now if he can only run we’ll have fun.” It was love at first site and touch. 

***************

3/5/19 – From Kim on Twitter: Dear Mr. Turcotte, in the Belmont Stakes, running down the backstretch, Sham got a neck briefly in front of you and Red; my question is did you say anything to Red that made him launch ahead? Did you ‘kiss to him’ or cluck? Or did you just loosen the reins and he knew what to do?

No, I maintained my momentum and left him alone because was in his long ground covering stride, he was doing it easy not fighting me and breathing good so I just left him alone trying not to interfere and throwing him off stride. To me I was not that worried about Sham because he didn’t look like his old self. 

***************


Newsletter

For new announcements, merchandise updates and other excitement here at Secretariat.com, please enter your email address in the popup window. Our mailing list is never sold or viewed by anyone other than Secretariat.com