50 years later and Secretariat still holds Derby record
The Kentucky Derby to be held on Saturday is called the most exciting two minutes in sports.
Make that one minute and 59 seconds in the case of Secretariat — 1:59-2/5 to be exact.
The record set by the big chestnut stallion for the 1-1/4 miles (10 furlongs) at Churchill Downs in 1973 still stands today.
As does Secretariat’s winning time of 1:53 in the 1-3/16 mile (9.5 furlongs) Preakness in Baltimore.
As does his 2:24 stunning victory in the 1-1/2 mile Belmont Stakes (12 furlongs) in New York, the longest of the Triple Crown races. Secretariat ran away with that race with an astounding winning margin of 31 lengths. [VIDEO BELOW]
The Beyer Speed Figure hadn’t been developed at that time, but had it been, Andrew Beyer calculated that Secretariat would have earned a figure of 139, the highest by far ever assigned.
All three Triple Crown race records still belong to Secretariat.
Ron Turcotte, Secretariat’s jockey in all three races, said his plan in the Belmont was to sit behind second favorite Sham, ridden by Laffit Pincay, in the early going.
“That changed when I felt the power beneath me and Secretariat broke sharply,” he said. “I never felt such strength under me as I did that day. We were flying along. His stride was beautiful. His breathing was good. The only encouragement I gave him was to occasionally whisper in his ear, ‘Easy boy.’ With seventy yards to go, I chirped to him to make sure he did not lose focus. He responded by finding still another gear.”
And as he did, the crowd of 70,000 went wild. The race caller Chic Anderson was incredulous.
“Secretariat is widening now,” said Anderson, the excitement mounting in his voice. “He is moving like a tremendous machine.”
SECRETARIAT’S TRIPLE CROWN WINS BEGAN WITH THE DERBY
Ron Turcotte is now 80 years old and lives in his native New Brunswick, Canada.
Big Red passed away in 1989 at age of 19. He is buried at historic Claiborne Farm in the heart of bluegrass country in Paris, Kentucky.