One of the oldest debates in horse racing often centres around who the greatest racehorse of all time is. It’s likely that we will never have a definitive answer to this question, as it would be impossible to see the greats line up in a race in conditions that suit all runners.
Meanwhile, the different terrains that races are run over also has a very big impact when it comes to this debate, as cases for dirt horses as the greatest racers could be questioned by those fans that prefer racing on the turf.
But, one name that regularly appears when debates surrounding the best greatest racehorse of all time arise in the U.S. is Triple Crown hero Secretariat.
Not many horses can say they had their life story turned into a cinema blockbuster. However, there is a lot that you may not know about this legendary racer.
Secretariat’s Dominant Triple Crown
While a number of horses have achieved the Triple Crown, few have been as dominant against horses their same age as Secretariat. Such was his dominance in the United States during the 70s that his performances in the Triple Crown races remain regularly spoken about to this day. His three-year-old season got underway with high expectations, as he had won five-stakes races as a two-year-old.
Secretariat wasn’t about to let his big opportunity pass him by at Churchill Downs in 1973, as he won the Kentucky Derby in the quickest time recorded in the race.
The Preakness Stakes once again broke a speed record, but it was much more controversial and wasn’t officially established until 2012. However, it was his run in the Belmont Stakes that showcased just how legendary the Secretariat was. He took the field of horses apart, and looked a class above a very talented bunch, as he set yet another speed record in a Triple Crown race, as well as finishing a record-breaking 31 lengths clear of the horse that finished in second.
Post-Triple Crown Runs
It would be unfair to claim that Secretariat’s only notable victories on track came in Triple Crown races, as he continued to showcase his dominance against the older horses before being retired at the end of 1973. He won the Gotham Stakes in record-breaking fashion, as he set the time record over a mile at the track. In 1973, he also went on to with the Marlboro Stakes over 1 1/8 miles and in doing so set a new world record time over the distance.
The success also only showcased how versatile Secretariat was, as he could perform over a range of different distances without having to change his style too drastically. That was further highlighted by the fact that he won two stakes races on the turf. However, his three-year-old season still wasn’t without its setbacks, as he would taste defeat on three occasions. Those defeats came in some of the biggest races of the year, in the Whitney, Woodward Stakes and Wood Memorial. However, he still went on to win the Horse of the Year and Eclipse Awards for Champion Three-year-old and Champion Turf horse.
Is American Pharoah The Only US-Trained Horse That Comes Close?
While there have been 13 Triple Crown winners, it’s likely that the only horse that truly comes close to the feats that Secretariat achieved on track is American Pharoah. The legendary horse was the 12th Triple Crown winner, but importantly, became the first, and only, horse to win the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing. His three-year-old season started with a routine success in the Rebel Stakes, before he dominated all three of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
In the latter, he won wire-to-wire to only showcase how dominant he was over the other three-year-olds that season. After the Belmont Stakes, he landed victory in the Haskell Invitational, before then finishing second in the Travers Stakes. However, his dominant three-year-old season would end with him landing the biggest award of them all, as he finished over six lengths clear in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and set a track record in the process.