8 Interesting Facts About Secretariat You Didn't Know (2023)

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Secretariat is known as one of the greatest racehorses of all time. Born on March 30, 1970, Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973, becoming the first winner of the coveted title in 25 years.

Commonly known as "Big Red", Secretariat soon became a celebrity after setting records in all three races of the Triple Crown.

He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1974 for his success as a racehorse and is considered by many to be the bestmost famous racehorse of all time.

1. Secretariat holds the fastest time in the Kentucky Derby

Secretariat is best known for its incredible performances at the 1973 Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. Not only did he win all three of those races and become the Triple Crown Champion, but he did so in record times.

Although it's been well over 40 years since Secretariat won the Triple Crown, he still holds the records for the fastest time in any race.

Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby with a record time of 1:59 2⁄5, the Preakness with a time of 1:53 and the Belmont with a time of 2:24.

Of the races he has won, many consider the Belmont to be Secretariat's greatest race. In the final race of the Triple Crown, Big Red blew away his competitors, winning by an incredible 31 lengths. Not only did he set a record time for the Belmont, but it was also the fastest 1 1⁄2 mile distance ridden on dirt in history.

2. The Secretariat got off to a rocky start

Although Secretariat's racing career was legendary, it didn't start that way. On his first start, a horse named Quebec clipped in front of the field, causing a chain reaction that resulted in the fox being shoved hard.

His jockey at the time, Paul Feliciano, said Big Red would have fallen if he hadn't been so strong. Although he was able to recover from the bump, he ran into traffic on the backstretch. He was able to prevail and ended up fourth in the race.

As a young horse, many people did not find him impressive. His groom, Eddie Sweat, thought the young stallion was clumsy and a little wild. Despite his unsuccessful first race, Secretariat proved to be a star. He won 16 of his 21 starts.

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3. The proprietor of the secretariat was a woman

When Secretariat won the Triple Crown, the racing industry was still heavily male-dominated. However, its owner was a woman named Penny Chenery.

In 1968, Chenery's father fell ill and she took over his Meadow Stud stable in Doswell, Virginia. Her siblings urged her to sell the farm, but she wanted to keep it going.

To keep the stable profitable, Chenery decided to breed. This led to her breeding stable mare Somethingroyal with stud dog Bold Ruler, resulting in the birth of Secretariat.

In January 1972, Secretariat was sent to Lucien Laurin's winter stable for training. The chestnut stallion gained a reputation for being a friendly, personable horse. While not impressive at first, he steadily improved throughout the spring.

Chenery believed her tall chestnut thoroughbred had the makings of a racehorse. Despite his rocky start on the track, she had faith in him and he soon proved to be an incredible athlete.

4. Secretariat's heart was two and a half times larger than average

Not only was Secretariat known for being kind-hearted, he also had a big heart in every sense of the word.

After Secretariat was euthanized on October 4, 1989 at the age of 19, veterinarian Thomas Swerczek performed an autopsy. Swerczek discovered that Secretariat's heart weighed between 21 and 22 pounds, two and a half times larger than an average horse's heart.

“We just stood there in stunned silence. We couldn't believe it. The heart was perfect. There were no problems with that. It was just this huge engine," said Dr. Swerczek.

5. Secretariat was syndicated on the terms that he would retire from racing

Unfortunately, the death of Chenery's father left her with a hefty inheritance tax at Meadow Stud. To pay the tax, she syndicated Secretariat's breeding rights to Clairborne Farms for $6.08 million.

8 Interesting Facts About Secretariat You Didn't Know (1)

Chenery sold 32 shares, each worth $190,000, keeping four shares for herself. The sale came with an agreement that Secretariat would not race when he was four and Chenery would be in control of his entire three-year racing career.

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After his racing days, he was sent to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky to stand as a stud.

6. The Secretariat has been featured in several top magazines and has become a celebrity

Following his stellar journey to becoming a ninth Triple Crown winner, Secretariat has been featured in many best-selling magazines. He has graced the covers of Sports Illustrated, Time and Newsweek.

The big chestnut also received so much fan mail that Chenery needed a secretary to take care of everything. She hired the William Morris Agency to manage the Thoroughbred's public engagements. Secretariat received so much attention from the press and his adoring fans that he even learned to pose for the camera.

There's even a movie about him called Secretariat. See oursList of top 25 horse movies here.

7. When Secretariat was bred to non-thoroughbred mares for the first time

When Secretariat first arrived at Claiborne Farm, his semen showed some signs of immaturity. To test his fertility, he was bred to three non-thoroughbred mares.

His first foal was out of an Appaloosa mare and was named First Secretary. Initially, the Appaloosa Horse Club refused to register him, so he was registered in Canada, with the registration then being transferred to the United States.

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The legendary racehorse produced a colt that had a chestnut coat with a blanket pattern.

After Secretariat proved to be an able stud, he produced 663 named foals. Of these 663 foals, 341 were winners, including 54 competition winners.

Some of Secretariat's most successful offspring include General Assembly, Lady Secret, Risen Star, Kingston Rule and Tinners Way. He also proved to be an excellent broodmare sire.

8. Secretariat is the only non-human making ESPN's 50 Greatest Athletes of the Century

Even outside of the horse racing world, Secretariat has been recognized for his incredible athletic ability. His winning ways won the appreciation of sports fans around the world.

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In 1999, the Secretariat named ESPN the Greatest Athlete of the Century. As the only horse to make the top 50, he was 35th on the list. Two other legendary Thoroughbreds, Man o' War and Citation, made the Top 100 at positions 84 and 97 respectively.

In addition, the chestnut stallion collected numerous other awards and honors. During his racing career he won five Eclipse Awards including Horse of the Year in 1972 and 1973.

Secretariat ranks second in Blood Horse magazine's list, behind only the great Man o' WarThe 100 Best US Racehorses of the 20th Century.

Also read: 8 things you didn't know about Man o' War

How did the Secretariat die?

Secretariat was put down at the age of 19 due to laminitis. After a month of treatment, his condition was not improving and the difficult decision was made to euthanize him.

The famous chestnut Thoroughbred is buried at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. Unlike most racehorses, in which only the head, heart, and hooves are buried, the Secretariat was given the honor of being buried in its entirety.

How high was the secretariat?

Secretariat was 16.2 hands tall and weighed 1,175 pounds. He was well balanced, with strong hindquarters and a large chest.

With good height and an excellent conformation, many considered Big Red to have an "almost perfect" conformation. His strong hindquarters and natural athletic ability gave him an exceptionally large stride. During his three-year season, he ate 15 liters of oats a day.

Who was the secretary's jockey?

In the first two races of his career, Secretariat was ridden by jockey Paul Feliciano. Feliciano was then replaced by jockey Ron Turcotte.

Turcotte was Secretariat's jockey for the rest of his career, guiding the bold bay to his phenomenal Triple Crown win. Unfortunately, Turcotte was paralyzed from the waist down in 1978 after a racing accident.

How much did Secretariat make as a racehorse?

During his racing career, Secretariat earned a whopping $1,316,808. Today that would be worth over $7.7 million. His breeding fee was $70,000.

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