1973 Belmont Stakes
|Grade I stakes race|
Secretariat on the final stretch
|Location||Belmont Park, Elmont, New York|
|Date||June 9, 1973|
The 1973 Belmont Stakes was the 105th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York held on June 9, 1973. Facing a field of five horses, Secretariat won by 31 lengths, the largest margin of victory in Belmont history, in front of a crowd of 69,138 spectators. His winning time of 2 minutes and 24 seconds was an American record for a mile and a half on dirt and has not been broken. The event was televised and broadcast over the radio.
Secretariat was widely viewed as the favorite to win by most sportswriters and people; however, the added distance and the possibility of running too slow for a distance or running too fast too soon could potentially cause him to lose. Out of the starting gate, Secretariat and Sham traded the lead. Around the three-quarters mile marker Sham began to fade and Secretariat began to extend an advantage. Twice a Prince and My Gallant overtook Sham to take second and third, respectively. Sham finished last, behind Pvt. Smiles, who was in last before Sham slowed severely.
The victory in the Stakes, when combined with Secretariat's previous victories in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, meant he completed the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. This was significant as he was the ninth horse to complete the feat and broke a 25-year drought where a horse failed to complete the achievement.
Secretariat, Sham, Pvt. Smiles, and My Gallant were the first four horses to be entered into the Belmont Stakes. Secretariat, winner of both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, was the odds on favorite to win the event. The added distance of the Belmont when compared to the Derby and Preakness was found to be one potential reason for Secretariat to lose the race. Steve Cady of the New York Times wrote that Secretariat could be defeated if the pace of the race went too fast or was too slow for too long, in both of which scenarios he felt Sham would win. Sham received significant attention as well and was thought to be the second best horse, along with having the potential of becoming the first horse to be runner-up in all the Triple Crown races. My Gallant was considered the best of the rest, especially as he was the progeny of Gallant Man, who set the Belmont Stakes course record of 2:26 3⁄5 in the 1957 edition.
Knightly Dawn was entered into the race on June 6 and was thought to bring early speed to the race and alter the way it would be run. Before Knightly Dawn's entry, Secretariat was speculated to lead from the race's start. With the presence of Knightly Dawn, William Bonifice believed that Secretariat would have to run faster earlier on, thus making the final half-mile more unpredictable. Pancho Martin, the trainer of Knightly Dawn, said he would only run the horse if it rained as Knightly Dawn's only previous success had been in the Jersey Derby on a sloppy track. However, Knightly Dawn was scratched prior to race day. The horse's scratch also reduced the winner's share from $150,200 to $90,120.
There was much speculation going into the Stakes over Secretariat's bid for the Triple Crown. Since 1948, when Citation achieved the feat, there had been six horses that had won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes before failing in the Belmont Stakes. When comparing Secretariat to those six horses' health and fitness before the Belmont Stakes, writer Bonifice felt Secretariat was in the best shape, almost as good as when he entered the Kentucky Derby weeks prior. Just days before the Belmont, Secretariat ran five furlongs in just under a minute in a morning workout. Following that, Secretariat's jockey Ron Turcotte told reporters that Secretariat was ready for a top charge on Saturday.
Post time for the race was 5:38 PM EDT. It was broadcast over television through CBS, along with being aired over the radio. All horses competing were 126 pounds (57 kg). The weather during the race was clear and the course conditions were fast. The scratch of Knightly Dawn before the race was held reduced the purse to $125,000. The total purse was $125,000 that was awarded to the first through fourth-place finishers in the sums of $90,120, $33,044, $18,024, and $9,021, (which totals $150,209), respectively.
Attendance figures were speculated to be around 70,000 leading up to the race, which was accurate as the official attendance for the event was reported to be 69,138. This became the second-most attended Belmont Stakes at the time, after the 1971 race which had 82,694 in attendance. The track conditions were clear and fast.
Out of the starting gate, Secretariat and Sham raced evenly through the first turn. Through a half-mile, the two were even. Entering the backstretch and approaching three-quarters of a mile, Secretariat began to distance himself as Sham began to fade, ultimately finishing last. Secretariat continued to extend his advantage for the rest of the race, finishing 31 lengths over the second-place finisher, Twice a Prince. Twice a Prince started slowly and moved along the rail until reaching second position, passing Sham and outpacing My Gallant. Track announcer Chic Anderson described Secretariat's move from the backstretch with the famous call, "Secretariat is widening now. He is moving like a tremendous machine!"
Secretariat set the Belmont Stakes track record at 2:24 and the record for largest margin of victory.[N 1] Secretariat also broke the American record for a mile and a half, breaking the previous record of 2:26.2, set by Going Abroad in 1964.
|Finish||Post Position||Horse||Jockey||Final Odds[N 2]||Stake[N 3]|
|2||5||Twice a Prince||Braulio Baeza||$17.30||$33,044|
|3||4||My Gallant||Angel Cordero Jr||$12.40||$18,024|
|4||3||Pvt. Smiles||Dan Gargan||$14.30||$9,012|
|5||1A||Sham||Laffit Pincay, Jr.||$5.10||–|
|Post Position||Horse||Win||Place||Show[N 4]|
|5||Twice a Prince||–||$2.20||–|
Neil Milbert wrote that Secretariat "ran what may have been the greatest horse race in history." When asked about Secretariat's margin of victory, trainer Lucien Laurin stated: "Naturally, not that big!" He further commented on Sham's performance saying "The horse we had to kill, we did." My Gallant's jockey Angel Cordero, Jr. said Secretariat was "just like a car." Secretariat's jockey Ron Turcotte told the press that he saw the timer on the track hit 2:20 and he told himself "Oh I can make it" and continued to press Secretariat forward to break the course record. The UPI wrote that Secretariat's performance in the race put him in the ranks of the greatest race horses of all-time. Following the race, Secretariat was allowed several weeks rest before entering a few more competitions and then starting his a career as a stud, where he had been syndicated for close to $6.08 million. The 40th anniversary of the win was commemorated by the New York Racing Association in 2013 by placing a blue-and-white checkered pole at the Belmont track 253 feet, 2 inches from the finish line to mark the 31-length margin of victory.
That day at Belmont Park $7.9 million was wagered on the nine races that were held during the day, which includes $2.2 million from off-track betting. A total of $5.6 million was bet through the mutuels that day. The Stakes itself had $519,689 bet on it. Bettors holding 5,617 winning parimutuel tickets on Secretariat never redeemed them, presumably keeping them as souvenirs and also because the $2 was worth $2.20.
Through his combined victories at the Belmont Stakes, Preakness Stakes, and Kentucky Derby, Secretariat became the ninth horse to complete the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, and the first horse since Citation in 1948, ending a 25-year period without a Triple Crown winner. Secretariat's times in all three Triple Crown races were course records and still stand. In part due to accomplishing the Triple Crown and winning other races during the 1973 calendar season, Secretariat won Horse of the Year for the second consecutive year. In addition, he also won Eclipse Awards as the American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse and the American Champion Male Turf Horse.
- The previous course record was 2:26 3⁄5, set by Gallant Man in 1957. The largest margin of victory at the Belmont Stakes before the 1973 race was set in 1943, when Count Fleet won by 25 lengths.
- The odds are all to $1; for example, Secretariat's odds of winning were $0.10 on a $1.00 wager.
- The total purse for the race was $150,200.
- As there were only five competing horses, there was no show awarded for the Stakes. This was the fifth instance where no bets for Show were taken for the Belmont Stakes.
- Steve Cady (June 6, 1973). "Next Best to Triple Crown: Three Times as No. 2: SHAM". New York Times. p. 55. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
- Gerald Strine (June 9, 1973). "Citation, Predecessors Await 9th Club Member: Five Try to Thwart Secretariat, History in Belmont". Washington Post. p. C1. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
- Steve Cady (June 9, 1973). "Secretariat's Strategy: 'We'll Play it By Ear'". New York Times. p. 25. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
- "Secretariat Tries for Triple Crown at Belmont Today". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. June 9, 1973. p. C1. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
- William Boniface (June 7, 1973). "Knightly Dawn joins Belmont Stakes field". The Sun. p. D1. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
- Neil Milbert (June 10, 1973). "Secretariat Gallops to Triple Crown!". Chicago Tribune. p. C1 & C12. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
- "Secretariat ready for Crown bid". Chicago Defender. UPI. June 9, 1973. p. 27. – via Black Studies Center (subscription required)
- Shirley Povich (June 10, 1973). "1 ½-Mile Belmont a Race For Only a Quarter Mile". The Washington Post, Time Herald. p. D1 & D9. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
- "Belmont Stakes Chart". Chicago Tribune. June 10, 1973. p. C12. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
- "The Belmont Chart". Los Angeles Times. June 10, 1973. p. C15. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
- "2016 NYRA Media Guide – Belmont Stakes" (PDF). The New York Racing Association. p. B7. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 19, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
- "2016 NYRA Media Guide – Belmont Stakes" (PDF). The New York Racing Association. p. B48. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 19, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
- Bob Cooper (June 11, 1973). "Secretariat Defies Description After Record-Setting Belmont Run". The Argus-Press. Owosso, Michigan. Associated Press. p. 14.
- Flatter, Ron. "Secretariat remains No. 1 name in racing". ESPN. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
- Joe Hirsch (June 11, 1973). "Secretariat Achieves 'Triple' Grand Prix Nominations Number 22 – Astonishing 31 Lengths Best In 2:24 Belmont Stakes Romp". Daily Racing Form. LXXIX (139): 1.
- "Belmont Stakes Chart". The New York Times. June 10, 1973. p. 5-1. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
- "Secretariat: A Triple Terror". Ocala Star-Banner. June 10, 1973. pp. D1. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
- "2016 NYRA Media Guide – Belmont Stakes" (PDF). The New York Racing Association. p. B4. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 19, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
- "Secretariat Super in Clinching Crown". Ludington Daily News. UPI. June 10, 1973. p. 5.
- Bob Cooper (June 10, 1973). "Secretariat Defies Description After Record-Setting Belmont Run". The Argus-Press. Associated Press. p. 14.
- Staff (June 7, 2013). "NYRA Places Secretariat Belmont Margin Pole". The Blood Horse. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
- "$7.9 Million Bet on Belmont Races". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. June 10, 1973. p. C15. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
- Sean Magee (September 1, 2002). "The 10 greatest horse races of all time". Observer Sport Monthly. Guardian News and Media Limited. Archived from the original on June 19, 2016.
- Ray Ayers (June 11, 1973). "Secretariat shatters mark". The Bryant Times. UPI. p. 11.
- Tom Pedulla (May 18, 2016). "Secretariat: 'A Tremendous Machine'". America's Best Racing. TJC Media Ventures. Archived from the original on May 24, 2016.
- CNN Wire Staff (June 19, 2012). "Secretariat's '73 Preakness time is a record, racing commission rules". CNN. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2012.
- "Triple Crown winner Secretariat sweeps Horse of the Year ballotting". Montreal Gazette. Associated Press. December 19, 1973. Retrieved June 20, 2012.