Horses: Secretariat’s Maiden Races
By Michael Russell
In this article we’re going to take a brief look at Secretariat’s early races in his career that led up to a triple crown winner.
Secretariat was a winner, but he didn’t start out that way. His very first maiden race was on the 4th of July in 1972. There was a lot of fanfare surrounding this race. The big bad red racehorse was supposed to eat up the field alive. All the talk about his lineage and all the rah, rah, rah, couldn’t stop a 4th place finish. Oh he was chasing after the leader as they came down the finish line but never could catch him. In spite of the disappointing 4th place finish, owner Penny Chenery and trainer Lucien Laurin, along with the Meadow Stable crew, must have seen something special on that Independence Day.
Twelve horses were entered into that race on that day at the Aqueduct Race Course. For those who don’t know this, a maiden race is a race where all the horses are non winners. Not only were these twelve horses non winners but five of them had never even been in a horse race. While this race was viewed as a learning experience for the young Secretariat, it more than showed what he was capable of doing.
In this race Secretariat was a 3-1 odds to win. Ironically, this was the longest odds he would ever go off at in his whole career and it was only time that he ran a race and didn’t win, place or show. Even though this was a maiden race the stands were packed on this day. For true racing fans this was a historical event and one that they weren’t going to miss. Of course if you ask people to this day, there will be many more who will have claimed to have been there than actually were on hand. Kind of like Woodstock.
Even though Secretariat didn’t win his first race, his winless career wouldn’t last long. Eleven days after his racing debut at Aqueduct he was back at that same race course as the favorite to win.
He got off to a shaky start in this race but showed some real power down the stretch. He came out of the gate 6th and immediately went for victory, not pacing himself at all. Unfortunately he didn’t break out well and was rushed into contention. He quickly went from 6th to 4th until finally he was first by about a half a length. Around mid stretch he really took command and went on to win the race by four full lengths or the distance of four horses. The rider of Secretariat for his first win was veteran jockey Ben Feliciano.
Secretariat had his first of what would be many wins. He didn’t disappoint anyone on this day, coming in as the favorite and winning easily. After the race, Secretariat headed for Saratoga Springs, New York. At Saratoga, everyone’s eyes were on what was going to become one of the greatest race horses of all time.
Michael Russell – Your Independent guide to Horses