Secretariat, The Greatest Racehorse Of All Time

Mar 18, 2008 37 Comments by

Secretariat Winning Belmont and Triple Crown

On March 30, 1970, exactly 13 years to the day before I was born, the greatest racehorse of all time was born. The big red colt named Secretariat is probably one of the most well-known thoroughbred racehorses of all time, even now, 35 years after he won the Triple Crown.

We are currently in the “Run for the Roses,” where dozens of talented young thoroughbreds are competing for their own chance to run in the Kentucky Derby on May 3. Two of the front running contenders are War Pass and Pyro, who have both put in an impressive displays in their races to date (search for their names on You Tube to see some of their races). But just like with any professional sport, the Kentucky Derby really is any horse’s race to win. And each year I watch the winning horse at Churchhill Downs draped in the blanket of roses and wonder if this is the year that I’ll get to see a Triple Crown winner.

Secretariat is one of just 11 horses who have won this top honor since 1919. Before his winning year in 1973, it had been 25 years since Citation ran away with the title. Seattle Slew was the next Triple Crown horse in 1977 followed by Affirmed in 1978.

And now, it has been 30 years since any Thoroughbred has raced to victory in the industry’s top honor.

Will it be Pyro? Will it be War Pass? Will it be another up and coming star?

Either way, I’m pretty convinced that no horse will ever surpass Secretariat’s phenomenal performances in racing’s Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, or especially the Belmont Stakes.

I wasn’t even a twinkle in my parent’s eyes (of course, they hadn’t even met yet) when Secretariat won the Triple Crown. I’ve read all about his entire life and each race in detail. I’ve seen pictures of him winning the Belmont by 31 lengths. But today is the first time I’ve actually seen the races. (Go You Tube!)

And he took my breath away.

If you’ve never seen this footage, you need to watch it right now. Or if you have, watch it again!

Secretariat Winning The Kentucky Derby
The race that started it all, Secretariat comes from behind to run away with it.

Secretariat Winning The Preakness Stakes
The big red horse comes from dead last to the front in a sudden burst of speed, moving away at the wire. He set a record for this race that has since been matched, but never beaten.

Secretariat Winning The Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown
Secretariat heads to the lead by the first turn and never gives it up, winning by an almost-unbelievable 31 lengths. He sets a record for the Belmont Stakes to which no other horse has even come close.

I’m ready for the Kentucky Derby now, are you?

Thoroughbred Racing

37 Responses to “Secretariat, The Greatest Racehorse Of All Time”

  1. GreyHorseMatters says:

    I remember watching all of these races,(yes I’m that old) and it was a really exciting time, that unfortunately hasn’t been captured since. Secretariat was a talented wonderful horse, and any horse who is going to win all three races will have to be really special to fill Secretariat’s horse shoes.

  2. Mrs Mom says:

    Jackie- there is nothing– and I mean nothing!- like the goose bumps I get from watching a well trained, well bred, fully fit Thoroughbred run. Onthe track or in a field- seeing that gives me a tingle and shivers up my spine. Takes my breath away!

    Great post, as always! Love the video clips. You really did some great homework here!!


  3. cdnmich says:

    I have wonderful memories of going to the track with my late dad. It was harness racing, mind you but still gave the same thrill.
    I should mention that there is a wonderful documentary on dvd, the only one approved by Secretariet’s owner, called The Life and Times of Secretariet , which includes all of his races as well as interviews with the jockey and trainer and owner.

  4. Jackie says:

    GreyHorseMatters – I must admit, I’ve always been slightly jealous of those of you who go to live through Secretariat’s victories first-hand. It’s still exciting, but I can’t begin to imagine how wonderful it was to experience it as it happened.

    Mrs Mom – It’s always wonderful to watch a horse, or person, doing what it was meant to do. And thoroughbreds are definitely meant to run. Thoroughbreds today are much leaner than those of Secretariat’s time. I was watching videos of this year’s contenders and they are half his size. No wonder nothing can match him!

    cdnmich – Thanks for the heads up about the documentary. Seeing as both Secretariat and I have a birthday coming up at the end of the month, I might just have to put in a special request. :-)

  5. On The Bit says:

    pft…Secretariet is over rated. (Gennyral is from the War Admiral line). Honesltly though the amount of time and information that you put into your posts is amazing! If it had only been about a better horse (just kidding I swear!).

  6. risingrainbow says:

    I certainly saw Secretariat win his triple crown. I try to never miss the derby, let alone the other legs of the triple crown. I saw Seattle Slew as well. There’s something so exciting about watching race horse history in the making. I’m already beginning to think about this year’s derby as well. Will another wonder emerge or not? Can’t help be get caught up in that excitement.

  7. jdp says:

    Watching these gives me goosebumps – wonderful post. Secretariat is the greatest racehorse that has ever lived for a reason – he was a freak of nature. After his autopsy, he was found to have a heart nearly three times larger than the average racehorse (8.5# vs. 22#!), so it wasn’t just his build that was bigger. What an amazing creature.

  8. Jackie says:

    On the Bit – You’re on. If we could pit Secretariat against War Admiral, you’d be going down! 😉 But on the other hand, it’s super cool that Genny has such an amazing ancestor.

    RisingRainbow – again, turning green with jealousy that you saw it live. Maybe this is the year…

    JDP – he was pretty extraordinary in many ways. I had forgotten that about his heart, thanks for pointing that out!

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  11. Ben says:

    You forgot to mention he ran every quarter faster than the previous one at Belmont.

  12. Lana Lorenzen says:

    I was 22 years old and had never had any interest in horse racing until that magical year–1973. Secretariat was a superhorse–he was a super animal. He had intelligence, charisma, speed and beauty. You see an animal like that once in a generation. Thank you for the u-tube presentation. Watching those three videos brought tears to my eyes. I don’t know if there’ll ever be another like him. Lana, Salt Lake City, UT

  13. Angie Farmer (Wickers( says:

    Ok now I will tell my age, I was 16 in 1973. I have loved horses since I could crawl.
    I watched, read and bought everything I could get my hands on about Secretariat and made a scapebook out of newspaper clippings, photos, magazine covers.
    I dont know what happened to it over the years but I will NEVER FORGET Big Red

  14. John Tatum says:

    He was awesome…but pound for pound…I have to take Seabiscuit…as , maybe most inspirational…even if Secretariat has to be named the greatest racehorse ever….perhaps, no one can dispute that…

  15. Doug L. says:

    I was in my late teens when I saw Secretariat destroy every horse he raced in the triple crown. Not only was he invincible, his jockey never even cocked his whip in any of the races. Secretariat won without even requiring his best effort. His win in the Belmont merely underscored his incredible greatness. There is no horse of any era to come close to his ability! His stature as the greatest horse to ever live is rarely disputed even by the experts. Every time I think back to his triple crown achievements tears of awe overwhelm me. I feel blessed to witness his supreme greatness. Without a doubt Secretariat is an immortal.

  16. Rick C. says:

    My wife, our son and I were house shopping the day of the 1973 Belmont Stakes.
    I asked the real estate agent if it would be OK to watch the race and what we saw was the most thrilling performance in Triple Crown history.
    Years later we visited Secretariat at Claiborne Farm in Paris, KY.
    The only thing that came close to comparing to that Belmont moment was seeing him in person, getting to touch him and having our picture taken with him before he was turned out in his paddock. I enjoyed the same experience with
    Genuine Risk, in my opinion the greatest filly that ever lived. Sorry Ruffian fans!

  17. Jackie says:

    @John Tatum – you’re right, Seabiscuit may have the corner on most inspirational racehorse. He certainly had a lot of heart. Not convinced he would have ever outran Secretariat. We all love an underdog though.

    Everyone else, thanks so much for sharing your stories of watching Secretariat run or learning about him over the years. Rick, I’m so jealous that you got to see him in person and even touch him! That’s a memory to treasure for a lifetime.

  18. christina says:

    This is about the 10 time that I have came to this site. I was a little over 10 years old when Secretariat won the triple crown and to this day I still remember watching him run. I do agree that there may never be another Horse such as The Big Red Horse with the Big Heart. I feel he gave so much to this country when it was going through so much. And yes I do get the teary eyed chills and still cheer him on even in the replays of the Triple Crown of 1973. Thanks greyhorsematter for your insights.

  19. Paul says:

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for putting this up.
    Best horse? Look at the times. Production. That’s what it’s all about.

  20. linda says:

    i saw all his races.i went to clairborne farm to see and touch him and had my picture taken with him twice.he truly was the the book ‘the horse god built’ a man named Hutton saw man ‘o war and sectetariat race and stated ‘secretariat’ was the greatest.i still weep when i see him race.i have a wall in my home dedicated to him. ive asked god when i pass over if i can ride secretariat.i think i’ll have to stand in line.but thats ok.

  21. roberta says:

    I was 10 when I watched Secretariet win the Triple Crown in ’73 and like Angie, lived and breathed horses. I made a homemade book for the Triple Crown that year and have kept it current (now am 45). Seeing those videos blew me away and brought back memories of “hollering” at the television and rooting Secretariet home. For an excellent read on his life, William Nack’s “Secretariet The Making of a Champion” is so accurate and totally backs up your videos. Thanks SO MUCH for making my night!!!!!!!!!

  22. Jenkins says:

    I too have always been a huge fan of Secretariat–in my opinion the greatest racehorse of all time. And I LOVE watching these videos of his races…I replay them very often.
    However, I would like to say…I always felt sorry for poor Sham. Sham was apparently a great horse also, and very likely could have won the Triple Crown himself in any other year except 1973, the year he had to run against Secretariat.
    Keep in mind this one fact (which is also a most excellent trivia question):
    Secretariat was the first horse to ever run the Kentucky Derby in under 2 minutes. What horse was the second one to do it?
    Many, if not most people will say Monarchos, but it was actually Sham. Monarchos was the second WINNER to do it, but the third horse overall. Of course you true fans know that.
    I have “THE PHOTO”…Turcotte looking over his shoulder in the stretch…on my wall, autographed by him, of course. He was riding, in my opinion, the greatest racehorse that ever lived.


  23. Will Big Brown Be the Next Triple Crown Champion? | Regarding Horses says:

    […] Stakes, and Belmont Stakes have been run, only 11 horses have managed to capture all three. Secretariat may be the most remembered Triple Crown champion, winning three races impressively in 1973. Affirmed was the most recent, way back in 1978. Since […]

  24. lisa says:

    I just found out my ex-racehorse rescue – who came to be malnourished, with bites taken out of him and feet that were so tall, the fronts had been worn flat – is the great-grand son of Secretariat. Even before I knew, there was something different about his gallop: the hang-time is amazing. He LOVELY now and is a good babysitter for my two-yo colt. :) Lisa

  25. Dianne says:

    I just found this site while looking for this year’s FEI World Equestrian Championships in Kentucky and read your comments about Secretariat…….you are so, so right on. I’m 66 years old and I have watched the triple crown races since I was 18 years old thanks to an older co=worked who along with her husband saved all their change to go to the Kentucky Derby every year. Since I began watching in 1961 there has never been a greater horse than Secretariat. Non of the other triple crown winners ever won all three races as convincingly as Secretariat, leaving all the other horses in his dust. Every year I hope to have the privelege to see another super horse but it’s just not happening.

  26. ABS says:

    It was a Saturday afternoon and my stepfather just happened to mention to all of us kids (most of us in our twenties at the time), that he was going to be watching some big horse race on TV and said that we might want to watch it too. Since none of us had ever seen a horse race before, we were intrigued by his invitation and stuck around to see what all the hubbub was about. At the time, I had heard of the Kentucky Derby before, but knew nothing about the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes, let alone, the Triple Crown. Well, the bell went off and we watched as the horses all broke out of their starting gates at Belmont Park. At first it didn’t seem to be anything special. Our Dad let us know that he was rooting for some horse named Secretariat. Although we didn’t know what the Triple Crown was, if he was our Dad’s horse, then we were all rooting for him too. And then it happened. Secretariat started pulling away from the rest of the pack as he came down the stretch. We had been cheering all along but the now the distance between Secretariat and the others seemed to get wider, and wider, and then ridiculously wider. The next thing you knew, the cameraman couldn’t even get both Secretariat and the other horses in the same frame. It looked like Secretariat was running all by himself out there and I tell you, we all had goose bumps like you wouldn’t believe. We were all shouting and jumping up and down and so were the crowds at Belmont Park. We were literally screaming and going crazy as he crossed the finish line. It was like nothing I had ever seen in sports back then or since. The atmosphere was electric and we all knew we had just witnessed something so phenomenal and so unbelievable that even we newcomers to the sport knew that such a feat was nothing short of extraordinary. On that Saturday in June a new horse race fan was born. I have watched every single Kentucky Derby and the other Triple Crown races ever since. But I am still waiting for that rare breed of horse who could equal or best the greatest horse race of all time. But it’s like waiting for Halley’s Comet or something. I doubt if I ever see such a feat again in my lifetime. It was a thing of beauty and it was my good fortune to see it all first hand. And to think it was my very first horse race! I have truly been spoiled by seeing the greatest horse and the greatest horse race my first time out. Now I am always comparing other horses to Secretariat. I know it’s probably not fair, but I still hold out hope that one day, another super horse will come along and that I will get to see it run too. I can’t wait to see the movie Secretariat that’s coming out this weekend. I know the film will probably have great recreations of all those wonderful races. I may even get a goose bump or two. But I will always have that memory of the original race on that Saturday in June all those years ago—something, I assure you, I will never forget.

  27. JIMMY GARCIA says:


  28. Bea says:

    Wow those were great clips. It made me feel like I was there. I was 15 when I fell in love with the GREATEST race horse of all time. No other race horse who won the Triple Crown won the Belmont by 31 lengths, a feat to be sure. Can’t wait for spring!

  29. STOP6BOYZ says:

    this horse gave me goosebumps watching him race. People want to talk down on him but how can they the proof is in the pudding on what he did. And production recorded well i would have want to breed to the sire that produce this machine in hopes of getting another one…

  30. Jose Torres Jr. says:

    In 1973, I was in the U. S. Army, stationed in the Canal Zone in Panama. I watched the Kentuky Derby on tv as I do every year. After watching Secretariat win that race, I became a fan. I knew that someday, I would go to Churchill Downs to see the race in person. My wife and I did go the year that Barbaro won it and I beleive that Barbaro could have been a triple Crown winner. We just finished watching the movie Secretariat and I had to go on line to see the real Secretariat. It’s moving ,very moving and emotional. I wish my father had lived long enough to witness what I’ve seen.

  31. Steve Gooch says:

    If you want to see greatness look at Kelso, Five time horse of the
    year. not to say anything bad about the Big Red horse. But the numbers say it all, he ran on dirt and grass and carried up to 136 pounds, earned over $1,990,000.oo in old money.

  32. Rhonda says:

    I was 16 in 1973 and was an Army brat stationed in Nurnberg, Germany and it was just after the 1972 Munich Olympics and all of the tragedy not to mention the Vietnam War and Watergate. Americans especially abroad were feeling pretty well down and along came Secretariat—a true American Hero with none of the frailties of human beings but of course all of the core values we hold so dearly. My mother and I were the only horse racing fans in the family and watched all three races on Armed Forces Network TV–had just really took off so the races were delayed time for us! Meaning everyone knew the results and the news on German TV had already broadcast. I remember my mom and I purposely not watching TV or reading anything about the Belmont though so we could be surprised and hope he won. When we sat down to watch the broadcast–it was magical to watch and we knew we were seeing history and in our lifetimes probably never would again. Even though my mom has since passed, she always believed Secretariat was the best horse and athlete she had ever seen and I still do every day. I also get hyped about the Triple Crown run though and wonder if we’ll ever see one of God’s gifts–and he truly was do what Secretariat did—don’t think we ever will though….but that’s ok and I too hope to get a chance to ride him in Heaven!

  33. Ray Sargent says:

    ABS, that was a beautiful story. You are so right. Even if you never saw a horse race before, you had to know in looking at the Belmont, that something extraordinary was taking place. I was 27 at the time. Secretariat could just take your breath away. We saw the best there ever was and we may have just seen the best there will ever be.

  34. Patty says:

    I remember this race like it was yesterday. This horse was awesome. He was the best.

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