|Monday 27th May 2019|
5 Reasons Why Secretariat Is Still Among The Greatest of All-Time
There once was a horse named Secretariat.
This horse was an American thoroughbred of the seventies era; a horse still remembered to this day as arguably the greatest racing horse of all time. He’s still spoken of in racing circles, and even beyond horse racing, the name “Secretariat” remains a symbol for that rare quality of effortless excellence the horse embodied.There’s even a business blog named after Secretariat.
So, is this hype? Was Secretariat just a gifted and capable beast we’ve happened to remember more vividly than countless other equally capable equine conquerors? Or is there something more to this animal’s mythos?
Here’s five solid reasons we’d argue that Secretariat remains one of the greatest racing horses of modern sporting history.
1. Just… Watch
Before getting into statements of opinion or even of fact, I’m going to just plonk this link down, right here.
Just watch this horse in action. The race lasts just over two and a half minutes, but it’s a race to quicken the heart. This creature’s amazing athleticism and fierce winning spirit just scorch out of this grainy old footage.
One of the enduring reasons Secretariat remains one of the greatest of all time is the simple truth that his feats can still bring a lump to the throat. This horse is, quite simply, poetry in motion.
2. Then There’s Simple History
Athletes get better all the time. Some records last longer than others, but eventually every best time achieved will be eclipsed by a new and hopeful upstart. It’s the way of things. No one can remain at the top of the heap forever.
Yet Secretariat has held on to two records for over forty years.
After four decades of races and countless advances in breeding, preparation and conditioning, this horse still holds the 1 3/16 mile and 1 5/8 mile records on dirt. Secretariat didn’t just beat out the horses of his day. He remained a champion well beyond his lifetime.
3. No Close Calls
There’s winning by narrow margins and there are wins for which there was never any doubt. Secretariat overwhelmingly won his races by margins of multiple lengths. He simply hit the gas and stretched out in front of the competition.
In that famous 1973 Belmont race linked above, Secretariat won by an awe inspiring 31 lengths. This remained this horse’s pattern throughout his career. When he wasn’t affected by illness or other factors impacting the fairness of the race, Secretariat would essentially be running on his own.
4. Unique Physiology
Secretariat was unique, physically. He was massive, standing over 16 hands fully grown. Yet despite his tank-like physique, Secretariat was blessed with near perfect running biomechanics.
Everything about his gait, balance and musculature was close to the biologically ideal conformation. His chest and hindquarters were unusually large, even for a horse his size. So much so that custom-made harnessing was required to encompass his massive frame.
Not surprisingly, all these biological blessings made Secretariat a running machine.
His long, oversized hindquarters in particular allowed for unrivaled power when in full stride. So much so that if you watch the footage closely, you’ll see he actually runs a little differently to other horses, his long legs pushing further forward under his body to deliver a powerful gliding punch forward with each stride.
More than speed though, Secretariat’s well-balanced physique and biomechanics meant the horse was also remarkably resistant to injury. His efficiency of motion meant he could train harder and produce remarkably robust feats of endurance.
Secretariat was gifted with the body of a champion.
5. Accolades, Glory and an Enduring Bloodline
Secretariat was a winner among winners. During his long and auspicious career, this horse received five prestigious Eclipse awards, placing him among the most recognized horses in North America of all time.
He was awarded Horse of the Year twice and was selected to the National Museum Racing Hall of Fame in 1974. Probably not so surprisingly given these accolades, Secretariat was listed in the top 100 US racehorses of the 20th Century.
Setting aside this horse’s enduring recognition, Secretariat achieved immortality through a prestigious bloodline. He sired several successful racehorses but his daughters were even more successful, producing a solid line up of household horse racing names, including Gone West and Chief’s Crown.
Secretariat’s DNA appears in the pedigree of many champion racing horses. Yet despite that, somehow he still remains untouchable.
One day, inevitably, his remaining records will be broken. It’s just a matter of time and it is how history works. But the longevity with which Secretariat held those records is part of this legend. It’s more proof that there was something special about this chestnut behemoth with three socks and a star on his chest. Secretariat was singular. We may one day find a faster horse, but we won’t find one to match this champion’s mystique.