For those of you not familiar with my blogger friend Troll, today's post is dedicated to his passion for a magnificent creature whom he hails as, "the greatest athlete of all time."
Sir Troll, author of the thought provoking blog, The Troll Report where, "The Troll-In-Chief maintains the right to rant about putrid rap "music" rave about new culinary concepts and write brilliantly about all sorts of interesting stuff.", extols his wisdom daily to us mere mortals who had not the benefit of being reared under a bridge, as he did.
I consider this post my penance for "tricking" (as he described it) Troll into thinking a previous horse related post on the Daily Dandy was my birthday tribute to his favorite subject. Ever true to Chef Troll and to my word, allow me to tell you a story about a horse.
Thirty-nine years ago today, on March 30, 1970, a bright red chestnut colt with three white socks, was born in Virginia to a mare named Somethingroyal and the great racing stallion, Bold Ruler. Born and bred to race, "Big Red", as he was dubbed, spent his time as a yearling, still unnamed. It would take 11 submissions to the Jockey Club by the Meadow Stables secretary, Elizabeth Ham, until a name Ham picked herself was approved; Secretariat.
He entered into his horse racing debut on July 4, 1972 at Aqueduct. Although he went in as a favorite, he ended up finishing fourth in the race. It would only take Secretariat eleven days later to become a champion. He then won the next 5 races in a row, including three important stakes races for a two-year old, his only other defeat as a two-year old, coming in a disqualification in the Champagne Steaks at Belmont. Those seven magnificent victories in nine races that year resulted in his being voted Horse of the Year.
The world soon had a new superstar and Secretariat mania was everywhere. Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated all featured the horse on the cover the same week. Major talent agencies booked Secretariat appearances as if he were a top box office movie star, but at the time no movie star could match his fan appeal.
"This red horse with blue and white blinkers and silks seemed to epitomize an American hero,' said owner Penny Chenery."
Then, and just as his legend was hitting a fervor peak, he solidified his unmatched champion status on June 9th 1973, when he became the first horse in 25 years to win the biggest contest in all of horse racing; the Triple Crown. In true legendary form, he not only won by 31 lengths, he shattered the previous record held by Citation's 1948 Triple Crown. So impressive, so dominant was his win, it is documented;
"It was so big, even the widest angle of the CBS camera covering the stretch run could barely show Secretariat in the same shot as the next-nearest horse, Twice A Prince. As Charles Hatton wrote in The Daily Racing Form, "His only point of reference is himself."
In a most memorable career that lasted a mere 16 months, the great Secretariat won 16 times in 21 starts, finishing in the money in every race except his first; his career earnings totaling $1,316,808. By his retirement in 1973, he had won back-to-back horse of the year awards.
"As former Pimlico general manager Chick Lang said, "He looked like a Rolls-Royce in a field of Volkswagens."
Listed by ESPN at number 35 of the 100 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century, the highest of the three non-humans on the list, he will always be remembered as one the sports greatest, his name synonymous with horse racing.
The superstar athlete was euthanized on Oct. 4, 1989. Upon his death his owner remarked, "He wasn't just the greatest horse I ever had, he was the greatest horse anybody ever had."
Both this article and this contributed to this report.