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Cool Today in History, June 9th

June 9, 1973

With a spectacular victory at the Belmont Stakes, Secretariat becomes the first
horse since Citation in 1948 to win America's coveted Triple Crown--the Kentucky
Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. In one of the finest performances
in racing history, Secretariat, ridden by Ron Turcotte, completed the 1.5-mile
race in 2 minutes and 24 seconds, a dirt-track record for that
distance.Secretariat was born at Meadow Stables in Doswell, Virginia, on March
30, 1970. He was sired by Bold Ruler, the 1957 Preakness winner, and foaled by
Somethingroyal, which came from a Thoroughbred line known for its stamina. An
attractive chestnut colt, he grew to over 16 hands high and was at two years the
size of a three-year-old. He ran his first race as a two-year-old on July 4,
1972, a 5 1/2-furlong race at Aqueduct in New York City. He came from behind to
finish fourth; it was the only time in his career that he finished a race and
did not place. Eleven days later, he won a six-furlong race at Saratoga in
Saratoga Springs, New York, and soon after, another race. His trainer, Lucien
Laurin, moved him up to class in August, entering him in the Sanford Stakes at
Saratoga, which he won by three lengths. By the end of 1972, he had won seven of
nine races.With easy victories in his first two starts of 1973, Secretariat
seemed on his way to the Triple Crown. Just two weeks before the Kentucky Derby,
however, he stumbled at the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct, coming in third
behind Angle Light and Sham. On May 5, he met Sham and Angle Light again at the
Churchill Downs track in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. Secretariat, a
3-to-2 favorite, broke from near the back of the pack to win the 2 1/4-mile race
in a record 1 minute and 59 seconds. He was the first to run the Derby in less
than two minutes and his record still stands. Two weeks later, at Pimlico Race
Course in Baltimore, Maryland, Secretariat won the second event of the Triple
Crown: the Preakness Stakes. The official clock malfunctioned, but hand-recorded
timers had him running the 1 1/16-mile race in record time.On June 9, 1973,
almost 100,000 people came to Belmont Park near New York City to see if "Big
Red" would become the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown.
Secretariat gave the finest performance of his career in the Belmont Stakes,
completing the 1.5-mile race in a record 2 minutes and 24 seconds, knocking
nearly three seconds off the track record set by Gallant Man in 1957. He also
won by a record 31 lengths. Ron Turcotte, who jockeyed Secretariat in all but
three of his races, claimed that at Belmont he lost control of Secretariat and
that the horse sprinted into history on his own accord.Secretariat would race
six more times, winning four and finishing second twice. In November 1973, the
"horse of the century" was retired and put to stud at Claiborne Farm in Paris,
Kentucky. Among his notable offspring is the 1988 Preakness and Belmont winner,
Risen Star. Secretariat was euthanized in 1989 after falling ill. An autopsy
showed that his heart was two and a half times larger than that of the average
horse, which may have contributed to his extraordinary racing abilities. In
1999, ESPN ranked Secretariat No. 35 in its list of the Top 50 North American
athletes of the 20th century, the only non-human on the list.
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