Since readership markedly declines on the weekend I decided to post this today.
Tomorrow is the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby. More importantly, the race marks the 50th anniversary (!) of the beginning of Secretariat’s Triple Crown run. The photo below might literally be my favorite that does not include my wonderful wife.
I apologize for the glare. This is the famous photograph taken near the finish of the 1973 Belmont Stakes showing jockey Ron Turcotte looking over his left shoulder and the other four horses in the race FAR behind Secretariat. Yes, tomorrow is the Kentucky Derby and not the Belmont.
This Sports Illustrated piece by Pat Forde is titled, “Fifty Years Later, Secretariat’s Triple Crown Run Still Seems Unbeatable.” Here is Neil Leifer’s photo that I believe will appear (or has appeared) on the most recent edition of the magazine:
Much of Forde’s piece is about the fact that while performance in human athletic events has improved over time, that is not the same in thoroughbred racing. Fifty years later, Secretariat still holds the record for the fastest time IN ALL THREE TRIPLE CROWN RACES! Veteran racing journalist Dick Jerardi said, “One horse holding all three records is insane. That can’t happen, but it did. In those five weeks, he ran faster than any horse ever has.”
Secretariat ran the first sub-2 minute Kentucky Derby in history. Only one other horse in the 50 years since has done the same. More incredible is that he ran each quarter-mile faster than the one before. In other words, his fastest quarter-mile was the last one. Again from Dick Jerardi, “That does not happen—ever. All horses are decelerating at the end of a 1 1/4-mile race. He was accelerating.”
In the Belmont Stakes, no other horse has come within two seconds of Secretariat’s time. In horse racing, records are almost always broken by fractions of a second. I think that unless Belmont Park installs a fast synthetic track, Secretariat’s record might stand as long as the race is held. I have written before about the horse’s insane Beyer Number for that race. The Beyer Number was invented by Andrew Beyer, a now-famous racing journalist. A Beyer of 90 is very good, a 100 is excellent. Secretariat’s number for the 1973 Belmont was 139, easily the highest Beyer has ever calculated.
While I don’t follow thoroughbred racing anywhere near as closely as I used to (once, I was even part-owner of a thoroughbred), I will watch the three Triple Crown races, starting with the Kentucky Derby tomorrow. I always hope for a Triple Crown winner because I think that generates interest in the sport.
If you’re watching I hope you enjoy the race.
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