"Secretariat is widening now...he is moving like a tremendous machine! Secretariat by twelve! Secretariat by fourteen lengths on the turn!"-Track Announcer Chick Anderson
In 1948, Citation won the Kentucky Derby, The Preakness, and The Belmont Stakes to become the eighth Triple Crown winner in American horse racing history. This feat went unmatched for twenty-five years, until Secretariat in 1973.
As with many of the great thoroughbreds, Secretariat's greatness was due to factors other than just winning races. Many thoroughbreds have won significant races over the years, but the great are remembered for the way that they won. Seattle Slew navigated the Triple Crown as an undefeated colt. Affirmed fought tooth-and-nail with Alydar in all three legs. John Henry displayed an undying will to win. Ruffian didn't just beat her competition, she destroyed them. These champions are remembered for more than the victories, they are remembered for their style.
The 1973 Belmont Stakes stands apart as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, performance by a race horse in the history of thoroughbred racing. It's a testimonial to the superior ability of the big red colt.
On June 9th, 1973, Secretariat was sent to the starting gate for his attempt at racing immortality. Only four other horses dared to challenge the Derby and Preakness winner, including Sham, the second place finisher in both of the previous two legs. There could have been a hundred horses running against Secretariat on this day and it wouldn't have mattered.
The glory of the 1973 Belmont Stakes is not that Secretariat won by 31 lengths or that he did it all on the front end. The glory of this race was his race against the clock. The first six furlongs (3/4 of a mile) went in 1:09. Horses in 6 furlong races that are sprinting the entire race go 1:09. Any horse that is running in a mile and a half race, like the Belmont, that goes the opening 6F in 1:09 is going to be toast when they reach the top of the stretch. Secretariat didn't collapse or fold. Instead he continued to run at that absurd pace for the entire race (he went 1 1/4 miles in 1:59, equalling his time in the Derby), finishing with a final time of 2:24 for the mile and a half, a world record.
When a horse beats a track record it is usually a fifth or two fifths of a second faster than the previous record. Secretariat eclipsed the previous Belmont record by 2 and 3/5ths seconds. It was an obliteration of any previous effort in Belmont Stakes history.