Secretariat wins the Belmont Stakes


This is the most dramatic moment in thoroughbred racing’s history. By the 1973 Belmont Stakes, the horse Secretariat had already won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Only four horses joined Secretariat for the June 9, 1973 Stakes, including Sham, who had finished second in both the Derby and Preakness, and who would eventually finish the last in the Belmont. Three other horses were thought to have little chance by the bettors.

Secretariat with its jockey Ron Turcotte races into history by winning the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. In doing so, Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years and only the 9th in history. Everyone expected it to win (the odds were overwhelming 1-10), but what wasn’t expected was the performance Big Red would give — “the single most astonishing performance in American racing history,” as The New York Times later noted.

On its dashing gallop towards the Triple Crown, Secretariat broke the margin-of-victory record set by Triple Crown winner Count Fleet (25 lengths). In front of 67,000 people, Secretariat ran the fastest 1.5 miles on dirt in history, and was so far ahead of the others — eventually 31 lengths — that the cameraman couldn’t even keep him and the next closest horse in the same shot. Famed track photographer Bob Coglianese took the above photo, the only one which included Secretariat and the other horses.

Other horses compiled better records than his 16 victories in 21 starts, and his earnings never approached record levels, but Secretariat was indubitably the greatest race horse of the last 40 years. During the 1972 season, he appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated, the only horse to achieve that honor.

See the youtube video here.

22 thoughts on “Secretariat wins the Belmont Stakes”

  1. This famous photo of his 31 length win in the 1973 Belmont Stakes is widely known. What is most impressive, and less well known, is the fact that in this 1.5 mile race he ran each consecutive quarter mile faster than the previous one. That’s six quarter mile segments and he got faster with each. For the last half mile he was alone, without competition, proving that he was simply running because that’s what he did, and that’s who he was. The culmination of superior breeding, he was one of the very few who actually was what he was supposed to be. Awesome.

    1. You are incorrect. In the Kentucky Derby, Sec ran each successive quarter fraction faster. In the Belmont, that did not occur. The 1st half of the race was run in 1:09 and 4/5th’s. The last half of the race was run in 1:14 and 1/5th. Get your facts straight before making such a foolish post.

  2. Secretariat ran out of a joy for racing. I was privileged to meet & know “Big Red” during his lifetime, and his precocious nature, his great presence, his wit & charm were undeniable.

    There will never be another one like this in my lifetime.

    I owe Secretariat a depth of gratitude for helping me “find my way,” as it was his Triple Crown campaign and his great personality that endeared me to racing & breeding, and set me on a path to the one bit of solace I can find, and that is breeding & racing great thoroughbreds.

  3. I was 13 when I saw this race on TV. I was pretty oblivious to horse racing until Secretariat. Like millions of others that summer, I was entranced by this horse. The Belmont was possibly the most powerful sporting event I’ve ever witnessed. I still can’t watch the video without crying. Kinda silly, perhaps. But I loved that horse. A print of this photo will be my birthday present to myself as I turn 50 this year.

  4. I was at the quarter pole that day. The crowd was totally behind Secretariat; everyone wanted to see him win – even the people who bet the other horses. The roar was so loud you couldn’t hear it – you were deafened. Poor Sham, the only horse to run with Secretariat in the Derby and the Preakness, broke down trying to keep up with Big Red, so he was all alone. What a glorious day! This photo captures it.

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  9. Two complaints with this post’s write-up.
    1) The moment is iconic, but hardly dramatic. There was excitement and tension before the race started, maybe even for the first little bit of actual racing. But by the time this picture was taken, the drama was past. There was elation for those who wanted Secretariat to win (99.9% of the people watching, no doubt), just not drama.
    2) Secretariat was a ‘he’, not an ‘it’.

    Still, a great picture, and always worth another look.

  10. I have a framed, Ron Turcotte autograph copy of this photo hanging in my office above my desk. I look at it every day. Funny, many young people look at it and ask me what it is. I tell them simply, it’s a photograph of greatness.

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