Oct. 28 Laurel Futurity – 50th Anniversary

Tweedy Family original race-day track program with inscribed notations

Leading up to the October 28, 1972 Laurel Futurity, a subtle but significant shift was taking place in the Meadow Racing Stable. Only four months earlier all eyes were focused on Riva Ridge, the 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner who was a frontrunner for Horse of the Year. By late summer, Riva had begun to go off form and Secretariat was quickly emerging as the big horse in the barn. As late fall and the most lucrative juvenile races approached, a decision was made for Eddie Sweat to take over Big Red’s daily grooming duties from Mordecai Williams.

And when Secretariat, Lucien Laurin, Ron Turcotte, and Sweat made the trip to Maryland for the October 28 Laurel Futurity while Riva Ridge remained in New York to contest the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the well-calculated stable plans quickly caught the attention of the media, including Gerald Strine of the Washington Post who wrote:

“Woe is Riva Ridge. His groom has left him. His jockey has left him. His trainer has left him. All that remains is his owner and head cheerleader, Penny Tweedy. Everyone else has gone off to Laurel…” before adding “Mrs. Tweedy wanted it this way.”

While it was a given that Secretariat would be the heavy favorite in the race, not everyone was convinced that an additional victory for the muscular chestnut was a foregone conclusion with Laurel chart-caller Warren Williams saying there was “ some reason to question him in the Futurity” before pointing out “he had never run the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance, and had never run over nothing but a fast track in his career.”

Strine, also taking a humorous stance in his column opined:

“If Secretariat is half the horse Laurin and Turcotte claim he is — and as he appears to be — the 2-year-old could win the Futurity if saddled by Jack the Ripper and ridden by Tom Thumb.”

In the meantime Laurel Race Course was enjoying the enormous publicity that Secretariat generated by running in their marquee race, and also pulled off a coup of sorts when the sensational and undefeated filly La Prevoyante, winner of the Spinaway, Matron and Frizette Stakes, was entered in the Selima Stakes, the track’s counterpart to the Futurity for juvenile fillies run that day at the same distance. Unfortunately, the big race day brought miserable weather, but it certainly did not hinder either of the young equine stars who each provided dazzling performances with Secretariat winning the Futurity by eight lengths over his familiar rival Stop the Music and La Prevoyante dominating by fourteen lengths in the Selima.

Original 1972 Laurel Futurity Thoroughbred Record cover print featuring Secretariat and hand-signed by Penny Chenery and Charlie Davis. Available in the November 2022 Fall Archives Auction.

Bob Maisel, sports editor for the Baltimore Sun, described Secretariat’s Futurity effort this way:

“Even though he broke last, there never was a time he didn’t look like a winner. Big, strong and powerful, the chestnut, with jockey sitting absolutely still, started picking up horses whose riders were already driving. On the turn, he went to the far outside, actually continued to pass horses while shifting gears and getting position for the stretch run. Once they straightened out for home, forget it. Turcotte looked back at the others, then just held on and steered for the wire. The margin was eight lengths, but it seemed even easier. If you want further proof of the class of this colt, consider that without even feeling the whip, he covered the 1 1/16 miles over a sloppy track in 1:42 4/5, just a fifth off the track record of Yankee Lad.”

In his comparison of times, Maisel also made sure to point out that Secretariat carried 122 pounds compared to the 4-year-old Yankee Lad’s 116 when the record was set.

The dual victories by both the heralded colt and impressive filly prompted Steve Cady of the New York Times to write:

“Secretariat and La Prevoyante went trick-or-treating today at Laurel race course, and both 2-year-olds wound up with the expected goodies. There wasn’t a Halloween goblin in sight as Secretariat took the $133,300 Laurel Futurity by eight lengths and La Prevoyante, the undefeated Canadian filly won the $121,990 Selima Stakes by 14.

Each was favored at 1-10 by the crowd of 12,846, each paid $2.20 for $2 to win and neither had any more trouble than a horse would encounter in a brisk morning workout. Both jockeys — Ron Turcotte aboard Secretariat and John Le Blanc astride La Prevoyante — looked back over their shoulders in mid-stretch as their mounts loped along through the mud on a sloppy track. There was nothing to see. As one impressed viewer remarked, ‘those jockeys were doing what they call lookin’ and cookin’. No contest…. If anybody had doubts about these two juveniles being king and queen of the 2-year-olds, the uncertainty was dispelled this murky, rainy afternoon.”

Cady went on to pose the question:

But which is better — the king or the queen? The answer, or at least a fairly conclusive clue, was not long in coming. Secretariat, a powerful Virginia-bred son of Bold Ruler, went out and won the Futurity in 1:42 4/5, only a fifth of a second slower than the track record for 1 1/16 miles. That made La Prevoyante’s time of 1:46 2/5 in the Selima, also at 1 1/16 mile, look slightly less awesome.”

And what did jockey Ron Turcotte have to say about the race?

“This colt won easier than Riva Ridge and he ran faster. I could have gone to the front any time. With a colt like this, all I have to do is steer. He does all the rest.”

It should be noted that Secretariat’s 1972 Laurel Futurity is a bit of an enigma for racing historians. The original race film was lost in a fire at the track years ago. To date, no other footage has surfaced or seems to exist, but we can always have hope…


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