Secretariat sets Preakness Stakes record 39 years after running the race

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Secretariat
A statue of Secretariat stands outside the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center, a Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation facility in Lexington, KY. Photo: Leslie Potter

Among the notable achievements Secretariat earned during his life are record finishes in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. Now, nearly 23 years after his death, the great Thoroughbred has his name on the Preakness record as well.

In 1973, the electronic timing at Pimlico Race Course clocked Secretariat’s winning time at 1:55. When hand clockers from the Daily Racing Form reported the finish at 1:53 2/5, race officials admitted a malfunction of the electronic timer. Per state racing rules, they deferred to the track’s official time keeper, who had recorded the finish at 1:54 2/5.

While Secretariat’s decisive win at the Preakness was never in dispute, his recorded time did not stand as a race record. Canonero II won the 1971 Preakness with a time of 1:54. Later, that record was bested by Tank’s Prospect in 1985 with a time of 1:53 2/5. Louis Quatorze tied the record in 1997, and Curlin tied it again in 2007.

The Maryland Racing Commission met on Tuesday to review photo and video evidence that disputes the 1973 decision on Secretariat’s Preakness time. Videos of Secretariat, Louis Quatorze and Tank’s Prospect were broken down frame-by-frame and viewed simultaneously. The comparison revealed that Secretariat finished the race more than a length ahead of the two horses that held the record. Video analysis revealed that Secretariat’s actual finish was a new record of 1:53.

The effort to correct the timing error began shortly after the race was run. Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, contested the time later in the summer of 1973 and again in the 1990s. Chenery was present at the meeting on Tuesday.

“It’s nice to finally have this recognized, because the sport depends on accuracy,” said Chenery. “This probably won’t change the way people feel about Secretariat, but it’s nice to get it right.”

Secretariat now officially holds the standing records for all three Triple Crown races.

17 COMMENTS

  1. I think it was very courageous for the Maryland Racing Comm. to review the data of this race. The Secretariat team provided proof this was a record time and the Commission agreed to change history. I congratulate all involved in making this landmard decesion.

  2. As a Secretariat fan since I was a kid, I am so pleased that this oversight was finally corrected. I watch those races and they still get me emotional to this day – especially when Secretariat passed the field on the outside in the Preakness. I don’t know how he ever came in #2 to Man O’ War in the greatest horse of all time voting (I heard it was a particularly spiteful voter that voted him #16 or so that skewed the results), but for me, he was the greatest of all time. And the fact that he now officiall still holds the records for all three races of the Triple Crown only proves it all the more.

  3. What good news, Penny! This confirms his legendary place in racing history. But he was a horse for the ages before this happened. I’d like to add that It was a privilege to meet you when I worked with the TRF on its newsletter and first website.

  4. excellent article. the GREAT SECRETARIAT gets his due at last. i remember the controversy surrounding the official timer in the race and i am happy for the diligence of ms. chenery and her team to see this set properly for the record of the horse that god built!

  5. I am so happy for the record to finally be given to Secretariat! He is truly one of the best race horses of all time! Kudos to Ms. Chenery for not giving up the fight! She is an amazing woman who saw something in this horse that no one else did! She and Secretariat deserve the record! He is definitely the horse the God built!!!!

  6. It’s about time!! (no pun intended) Everyone knew the timer was incorrect and now it is finally official. The move Secretariat made on the first turn in the Preakness still amazes me to this day. He was an amazing horse!

  7. He was, quite simply, the greatest racehorse that ever lived – bar none, and now it is FACT. If you want a real thrill, watch him run in slo-mo – fluidly, easily, with no wasted motion, every muscle in harmony – the perfect running machine! He was a talent born, not made, for sure.

  8. Fascinating! Secretariat deserves the acknowledgement. He was definitely a Superhorse which there is no comparison. His story is definitely remarkable and surely he lives on!!!

  9. Awesome! Secretariat is undoubtedly the greatest horse to ever race! It is thoroughly fitting to have the time finally corrected and the recognition given to this great equine athlete! I am so honored to have been alive and able to see this great horse run!

  10. AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. It was long overdue. I think Pimlico knew that Secretariat had broken the Preakness record for a long time, but pride and embarassment at having made such a grievous mistake was the reason why it took so long to redress the matter. Nevertheless, I am glad that the error was corrected and that Secretariat’s owner was alive to see justice done to such a great horse.

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