The 1973 Belmont Stakes: Secretariat’s Greatest Triumph
Secretariat, one of the most renowned horses in the long history of horseracing, achieved his greatest triumph at the 1973 Belmont Stakes. The beautiful chestnut colt had already won the Kentucky Derby on May 5 and the Preakness on May 19, but as all horseracing aficionados know, the Belmont Stakes is no ordinary race. Not only is it the third race in the Triple Crown, the Belmont is also the longest at 1½ miles. The extra distance had been the stumbling block for many a horse since the very first “Run for the Carnations” in 1867 and no horse had won the prestigious Triple Crown since the legendary Citation 25 years earlier in 1948.
June 9, 1973 dawned bright and clear, perfect weather for horseracing. The capacity crowd of 67,605 was buzzing with excitement by the time the horses were at the post. “And they’re off!”, called out track announcer Chuck Anderson. The crowd roared as Secretariat burst out from the pack, fought off a challenge from highly regarded Sham, and pounded down the backstretch. The lead built up by “Big Red” gradually lengthened to an astonishing 31 lengths at the finish line, a record for the track and also the largest margin of victory in the history of American Grade 1 stakes racing. Jockey Ron Turcotte was unaccustomedly passive throughout the race, stating later that Secretariat “did it himself”. His winning time of 2 minutes and 24 seconds flat still stands today.
“Big Red” performed strongly in several other races that year after his victory at the Belmont, but following the 1973 racing season he was put out to stud by his owners. Secretariat enjoyed a long and productive retirement, siring many future racing greats until his death in 1989. Secretariat is honored today with a distinctive bronze statue at Belmont Park, scene of his greatest triumph.