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Horse Racing

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown

Secretariat and jockey Ron Turcotte head to the track for the Belmont Stakes. Photo by Bob Coglianese

“He is moving like a tremendous machine!”

This moment of Chic Anderson’s call of the 1973 Belmont Stakes is forever etched into history. Under the blue and white checkered silks of Penny Chenery’s Meadow Stables, Secretariat was widening his lead on his rival Sham along the vast final turn at Belmont Park. Having just won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Secretariat was just moments away from an elusive Triple Crown win.

It had been 25 years since American racing had seen a Triple Crown winner. The roar of the crowd was deafening as their hopes rested on “Big Red.” And with each passing stride, the crowd grew louder with confidence as the colt continued to put lengths between him and the rest of the field.

In another iconic moment, Secretariat’s jockey, Ron Turcotte, looked back over his shoulder to see just how far ahead he was of the other horses. It was clear there would be no catching the red colt. To the cheers of an overwhelmed, dazzled crowd, Secretariat crossed the finish line 31 lengths in front – a performance that has never been replicated.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of that historic day. On June 9, 1973, Secretariat stamped himself as the greatest of all time and earned his place as a lifelong favorite in the hearts of racing fans and horse lovers alike. Those titles still stand 50 years later.

Secretariat retired to stud in late 1973, after a career that saw 16 wins from 21 starts – a multitude of graded stakes wins among those victories. In 2023, he still holds the stakes record for the fastest times ever achieved in all three Triple Crown races. His Kentucky Derby time of 1:59.40 for 1 ¼ miles still stands as the track record at Churchill Downs, as does his Belmont Stakes time of 2:24.00 for 1 ½ miles at Belmont Park.

While Secretariat’s career at stud did not quite replicate the brilliance of his racing career, his effect on the bloodlines of the Thoroughbred racehorse is still felt in modern-day breeding. In fact, all nine horses in this year’s Belmont Stakes trace back to Secretariat.

But it remains Secretariat’s racing achievements that are talked of year after year. That has been especially true throughout this year’s Triple Crown, as racing fans celebrate the 50th anniversary of Secretariat’s historic accomplishment. Five decades later, and the impact of Big Red still resonates.

A Tremendous Machine: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown

To commemorate the 50-year mark, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame has been presenting traveling and onsite exhibitions celebrating Secretariat’s achievements. “A Tremendous Machine: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown” has traveled to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby and Pimlico Race Course for the Preakness. Tomorrow, it will be at Belmont Park, the site of Secretariat’s iconic 31-length triumph. After the Triple Crown, a more comprehensive exhibition of A Tremendous Machine will open to the public July 13 in the Peter McBean Gallery at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y, where it will be available through October 29. Following the Saratoga racing season, the traveling exhibit will also be available at Colonial Downs in Secretariat’s home state of Virginia from September 7 to September 9.


This article about the 50th anniversary of Secrerariat’s Triple Crown is a web exclusive for Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Mary Cage

Mary Cage joined the EG Media team in 2022, bringing with her a strong background as both a competitor and a professional in the equine industry. Her photography and written work has been featured in America’s Horse, American Racehorse, the Appaloosa Journal, BloodHorse, Equine Chronicle, the Paint Horse Journal, Paulick Report, The Thoroughbred Daily News, and various other publications. Cage earned a bachelor of arts in journalism, with a concentration in advertising and a minor in marketing, from the University of North Texas. Cage also holds multiple National Championship and Reserve World Championship titles with the Appaloosa Horse Club.

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