I remember certain things from 1973 — my first car (a red Ford Galaxy); the Knicks upsetting the Celtics in the NBA playoffs; my first job on a newspaper (a summer internship with The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass.), the Senate Watergate hearings, and Secretariat winning the Triple Crown in horse racing. I watched the Belmont Stakes on television and, when the mighty colt won by 31 lengths, I wondered why: Why did he run so hard and so fast when all competition had faded in the backstretch? The field was small, the other horses must not have been very good.
But, of course, I had that all wrong. Secretariat had not only won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, he won each in record time.
My Sun column today is about how he won the Preakness, bursting into first place at the first turn, an unprecedented move for any horse hoping to win at Pimlico much less set a track record.
Secretariat’s win at the Belmont was even more impressive: With no other horse challenging him after he left Sham in the dust on the backstretch, he just took off, and beat the Belmont record by nearly three seconds. He ran a mile and a half in 2 minutes, 24 seconds. Ron Turcotte, Secretariat’s jockey, claimed that he lost control of him and that the horse sprinted to the record on his own accord. I think about that a lot, and even get emotional when I watch an old video of the horse at the Belmont, way out there, way ahead, running into legend … because he could.
My Baltimore Sun column on Secretariat’s victory in the Preakness: May 19, 1973