Monday Musings 43

It’s amazing how much more often you have to run the dishwasher when you’re cooking and eating all of your meals at home…


On this day 50 years ago the great Secretariat was born at the Meadow in Doswell, Virginia. You see, not all great racehorses come from Kentucky. Technically, all thoroughbreds have the same birthday, January 1, but that’s just a contrivance to classify horses.

In case you don’t know, [everyone] or even if you do, Secretariat won the Triple Crown—the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes—in 1973. He is recognized as the holder of the fastest time in each of those races although his Preakness time is the subject of controversy. His time in the Belmont Stakes remains the American record for 1 1/2 miles on dirt. Andrew Beyer developed a metric, now called the Beyer number and which is included for every horse in the Daily Racing Form, that combines the “raw” time of a horse in a race with the track variant, a number that represents the inherent fastness and slowness of the track on a given day. I’ll let Beyer take it from here: “[For the Belmont Stakes] I came up with a figure of 139, which is by far the best of any horse I’ve seen…Secretariat was in a different dimension than any other horse we’ve seen in modern times.”

He was also the first horse to be named American Horse of the Year as a two-year old. The Triple Crown is for three-year olds only, meaning that Secretariat was Horse of the Year the only two years he raced. (As part of his syndication sale it was stipulated that he would not race after his three-year old season.) I am not an expert on horse racing history, but to me he was easily the greatest thoroughbred racer of all time.

From Horse Racing Nation a picture of Secretariat during the 1973 Preakness:


Secretariat 615 X 400


Speaking of thoroughbreds of a sort…on this day in 2000 the 1999 Chevrolet Corvette was named “Best Engineered Car of the 1990’s and Best Engineered Car of the 20th Century” by The Society of Automotive Engineers, SAE International. According to SAE, “The 1999 Corvette was selected as the ‘Best Engineered Car of the 20th Century’ for having the highest marks for successfully introducing a new engineering system, longevity in the marketplace and achieving better performance than its contemporaries by virtue of the excellence of its engineering.”

Um, that’s quite an honor. I believe that a percentage of Corvette fans do see the car as a “diamond in the pigsty,” the only bright light in a field of dark sameness. However, I don’t think an honor like that is something that a company can merely stumble upon like the proverbial blind squirrel that stumbles onto an acorn. To me, that’s why the many failings of General Motors are so frustrating. Historically, the company has been capable of greatness. Currently, the C8 Corvette is an example that GM can still produce greatness. Why it does not do so on a regular basis could be, and has been, the subject of a book and is too big a topic for a 500-word blog post. From Bring A Trailer a picture of a 1999 Corvette, in Red, of course:


See the source image


My first Corvette was of the same generation, a C5, although I didn’t like red cars when I bought it in 2004:



That’s my 2002 Corvette in Electron Blue Metallic. I would like to read the thoughts of the Corvette owners out there about their cars and how they see the Vette’s role in the automobile universe.






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Kudos to Bob Baffert, Mike Smith and everyone else in the Justify crew! As Smith and Justify controlled the pace, when he ran the first half-mile in 48 seconds and change and the first six furlongs in a minute, 13 seconds and change I told my wonderful wife that Justify was probably going to win the race. My father’s gas station was across the street from Pimlico (a TERRIBLE neighborhood now) and I spent many days at the track. Believe it or not, my tremendous and growing aversion to newsprint—I can’t STAND the smell or the feel—makes it difficult for me to bet at the local track because I like to study the charts in the Daily Racing Form before I bet. Strange, you say? Well, if the shoe fits…

Oh, given the difference in times if Secretariat could be resurrected, he would have won yesterday’s race by more than 20 lengths over Justify. No offense intended to Justify, just an affirmation of the greatness of Secretariat.


I have been reading The Pontiac Solstice Book, which chronicles the development of the car. The book is not really an objective history, but more of a promotional piece.

The Solstice (and Sky) had a very compressed time from concept to production. One of the key players in the program, Mark Hogan, made what has turned out to be a sadly ironic remark, “If the market keeps fragmenting into lower volume, more expressive vehicles, the ability of a manufacturer—GM, Toyota or anybody else—to do these low-cost, low-volume vehicles becomes the holy grail.” Of course, the lower volume, more expressive vehicles have become the sole domain of very expensive car makes and the large manufacturers just grind out as many SUVs, pickup trucks and cars that all look alike as they can. I have long believed and often written that General Motors should have kept producing the Solstice/Sky, with some refinements, as a Buick halo car.

The higher performance version of this model, the Solstice GXP/Sky Red Line, was a hell of a car. The turbocharged, 2-liter (122 cubic inches, to make Bill Stephens happy), 4-cylinder engine produced 260 HP and 260 LB-FT of torque, the highest specific output for any GM engine in history. Pontiac and Saturn even had a program for a dealer performance upgrade that boosted HP to 290. The car only weighed about 3,000 pounds. In homage:


See the source image


From a picture of a Pontiac Solstice, a GXP, in fact.


From a picture of a Saturn Sky.


See the source image


In my opinion, these cars still stand out amidst the homogenized offerings of today’s large car companies. I know this plea falls on deaf ears, but GM, bring back this car!

Homage to the KING

If Justify wins the Belmont Stakes today then he will become the 13th thoroughbred to win the Triple Crown, winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont. On this day in 1973, the greatest thoroughbred of all time won the Belmont Stakes to become the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. Of course, I am referring to Secretariat.

If you’re not a fan of horse racing you cannot understand the impact of Secretariat. He was the first Triple Crown winner of the TV era. Yes, TV existed in 1948 when Citation won the Triple Crown, but there were fewer than 50,000 TV sets in American homes. Secretariat was an amazingly handsome horse. I don’t think a photo posted in a blog can do him justice, but here goes:

See the source image


Secretariat holds the record for the fastest time in EACH of the Triple Crown races and he raced in them 45 years ago. His Belmont performance is the single greatest in the history of thoroughbred racing. Again, if you are not a fan of horse racing you cannot appreciate the magnitude of that performance. Trying to use a baseball analogy and a little hyperbole to make the point, Secretariat’s 1973 Belmont was equivalent to a player hitting five homeruns in the seventh game of the World Series.

Let me see if I can make that point another way. Andrew Beyer has developed a widely used system of rating the performance of horses called the Beyer Speed Figure. The Daily Racing Form publishes this number for every horse in every race in the US. A Beyer figure of 90 is very good, a figure of 100 is excellent. Secretariat’s Beyer number for the 1973 Belmont was 139.


That is a one of a kind painting of Secretariat that I have owned since 1997. If I am to be truthful, the painting is no longer hanging in the house because I have a Belmont Stakes photo of Secretariat hanging in that space. I would like to show you the photo, but is very emphatic that it owns the copyright to all likenesses it sells and would probably come after me if I posted it on my little blog.

If you plan on watching the Belmont today, enjoy the race.