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Secretariat: real-life footage is going to be awfully hard to beat


It's tough to pick the most thrilling performance on a racetrack by Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner who gets the Disney treatment in a biopic released in theaters today.

Winning the Kentucky Derby is always special, particularly in the prism of the present time, when a horse catapults from unknown to Triple Crown threat based on the win. In the Preakness Stakes, he went from last to first. In the Belmont, of course, he wrapped up the Triple Crown with a 31-length victory (see photo). 31 lengths.

The Post's Andy Beyer writes:

Secretariat's athleticism was unmistakable. I saw him for the first time in the summer of 1972 at Saratoga, and still remember vividly his first stakes race, the Sanford, when he faced the pro-tem leader of the nation's 2-year-olds, Linda's Chief. As the five-horse field turned into the stretch, Secretariat was blocked by a wall of three horses in front of him; Linda's Chief, on the outside, had clear sailing. When a slight bit of daylight appeared in front of him, Secretariat bulled through the opening in a manner that journalist Charles Hatton likened to "a fox scattering a barnyard of chickens." He immediately unleashed an explosive run and flew past the favored Linda's Chief to win by three lengths. I wrote in the Washington Star that we might have seen the 1973 Kentucky Derby winner. Never have I watched a lightly raced 2-year-old stamp himself so definitively as a potential great.

Watch and decide for yourself which is the best.

The Kentucky Derby

The Preakness

The Belmont Stakes

More headlines

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Three stars: Post film critic Ann Hornaday reviews the movie.

Celebritology: Interview with director Randall Wallace

Celebritology: Interview with Bill Nack

By Cindy Boren  | October 8, 2010; 10:15 AM ET
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The greatest horse to ever look through a bridle. All three triple crown races were awesome but the Belmont really stands out. To go 6 furlongs in 1.09.4 and a mile in 1.34.1 in a 12 furlong race is unheard of. Along the way he BROKE the then world record for a mile & 1/8. Another great performance was in that fall's Marlboro Cup when he defeated an outstanding group of older horses, including his terrific stablemate (and 1972 Derby & Belmont winner) Riva Ridge. In the Marlboro he officially broke the world record for a mile & 1/8. It's still the Belmont track record for that distance as is his 12 furlong Belmont time!

1973 Marlboro Cup:

Posted by: lure1 | October 8, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

The Preakness, no doubt, is the best. Secretariat went from last to first at first turn. That was quite stunning.

Posted by: RedCherokee | October 9, 2010 1:12 AM | Report abuse

The Belmont, of course, is the best and arguably the greatest race ever run by a thoroughbred. The world record for 1 1/2 still stands by a comfortable margin 37 years later. Of course, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness were incredible efforts also, especially the amazing move that Secretariat made around the first turn at Pimlico. Secretariat may have won the triple crown matched against the best 3 year olds in history.

Posted by: randysbailin | October 9, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

A rarely mentioned reason for Secretariat's success was his "soundness."
At Claiborne farm one morning I had a chance to carefully peruse his conformation which I can only describe as perfection. I'd never seen that before -- or since.

Posted by: rdorff | October 9, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

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