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Secretariat captures Triple Crown with record win at Belmont

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Ron Turcotte rides Secretariat to win the Belmont Stakes and capture the 1973 Triple Crown. Secretariat set a world record for a one and a half mile course in 2:24, and a record for largest margin of victory in the Belmont, 31 lengths.

(Originally published by the Daily News on Sunday, June 10, 1973; written by Jim McCulley)

You can now call him Super Red. And now they won’t be able to say a Bold Ruler can’t go a distance because Secretariat won the American Triple Crown of racing yesterday with a fabulous record-busting mile and one-half performance that sent him under the wire a 31-length winner in the 105th Belmont Stakes as 69,138 witnesses roared approval.

Winner of the Kentucky Derby in record time (1:59 2/5) and the Preakness in near-record time (1:54 2/5), Secretariat carried Ron Turcotte in the blue-and-white checkerboard silks of Meadow Stable to a 2:24 finish in the Belmont.

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He clipped two and three-fifths seconds off Gallant Man’s record Belmont of 1957. Secretariats Belmont is an American record for the distance (on dirt). A horse named Fiddle Isle registered 2:23 on the grass at Santa Anita.

The second largest Belmont Stakes crowd ever sent Secretariat off at 1-10 against archrival Sham and three other challengers. Secretariat lured $ 789,892 into machines. And wound up paying more to place, $ 2.40, than he did to win, $ 2.80. (Count Fleet, ’43, went off at 1-20).

Secretariat, a muscular chested son of Bold Ruler-Something Royal with three white stockings and a haughty head, and Turcotte set out to get Sigmund Summer’s Sham as quickly as possible.

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Sham with Laffit Pincay up had finished second to Secretariat in the other two classics and was considered the only serious threat in the race. Sham’s stable mate Knightly Dawn had been scratched at 10:15 a.m.

Going at it alone from the outside, Sham went to the front, but Turcotte challenged quickly along the rail. They drove head-and-head around the clubhouse turn into the backstretch, the dueling favorites nearing the halfway mark way in front of the others as Turcotte pushed Secretariat to the front, first by a head, then by a half, a length, two lengths.

Turcotte at this point, looked back at Sham once, then again, and then it was bye-bye Sham. Secretariat opened up quickly, pulling away by seven, and Sham was knocked out – so badly that he finished dead last, beaten some 49 ¼ lengths by the winner who had whipped him by only 2 ½ in first two classics.

Twice A Prince 2d

After Sham folded, this edition of the historic third gem in the Triple Crown for three-year-olds took a bizarre turn.

While Secretariat galloped onward all alone, Elmendorf’s 17-1 Twice A Prince, the colt only the owner and trainer Johnny Compo believed belonged in the race, got going and wound up with second money by beating Arthur I. Appleton’s 12-1 My Gallant by a half-length.

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Twice A Prince, whose actions in the gate at the Kentucky Derby caused a lot of worry and cost Sham two teeth, was put into the gate yesterday with a blindfold over his eyes. He went in nicely and caused no trouble whatsoever.

He didn’t get the $ 90,120 first prize, but he picked up $ 33,040 and took Campo off the hook.

Pvt. Smiles and Sham were 14 lengths behind My Gallant at the end.

And what happened to Sham? Pincay summed it up: “He wasn’t the same horse that ran in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.”

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Remember the Wood

And so it was to pass that Secretariat, the 1972 Horse of the Year, the same colt that floundered in the Wood Memorial in April, came all the way back to become the ninth Triple Crown winner, the first since Citation, 25 years ago.

The Triple Crown began with the first running of the Kentucky Derby in 1875. It wasn’t until 1919 that Sir Barton first wore a Triple Crown for victories in the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. He was joined by Gallant Fox in ’30, Omaha in ’35, War Admiral in ’37, Whirlaway in ’41, Count Fleet two years later in ’43, Assault in ’46 and then the great Citation.

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Secretariat’s race yesterday must go down as one of the most powerful in turf annals.

The chart of the race and the comments will show that Secretariat was ridden out. There was a reason. Turcotte wanted that record for the colt he calls “the perfect horse.”

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“When we got into the backstretch and I saw those fractions on the tote board (he had a lot of room to look), I knew he had a chance at the record,” commented Turcotte in his shining hour.

“He had been fast up till then but he still had more left and when I ask him for it he got the record. Real good, too.”

The first two fractions, :23 3/5 and :46 1/5 were actually Sham’s. The rest belonged to the champion – 1:09 1/5, 1:34 1/5 and 1:59 for 1 ¼ miles.

This was a back-to-back Belmont for Ronnie, who won with Riva Ridge last year. And it was also back-to-back Belmonts for trainer Lucien Laurin, the veteran French-Canadian, and Mrs. John (Penny) Tweedy, mistress of Meadow Stable, who engineered the syndication of Secretariat for $ 6,080,000.

“I was a little worried at the start and for the early part of [the race]. But when he got 20 lengths [ahead],” said Laurin, who sat in front. “I turned to Mrs. Tweedy and said ‘I think we got a chance now,'” he said with a laugh.

Braulio Baeza, no stranger to these classics, rode Twice A Prince and did a great job. “My horse ran better than I expected he would,” said Braulio. “But Secretariat is a super horse.”

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Is he Super?

Super, super horse, maybe? Count Fleet won the Belmont by 25 lengths and yesterday Secretariat looked like Count Fleet coming down the stretch, pulling away with awesome ease.

The $ 90,120 earned by Secretariat from a gross pot of $ 150,200 puts his two-season bank account at $ 895,242. Would Mrs. Tweedy like to see her $ 6-million dollar horse go for the million-dollar circle?

“I would love to see him go on racing,” said the elated, pretty lady. “But that decision will be out of my hands come November 15 (when the syndicate takes over).”

What about the rest of this year for Super Red? “I would say the Travers would be the next step for him,” said Mrs. Tweedy.

And what did Mr. Laurin have to say about this? “Right now he’s going back to the barn for a nice rest,” said the trainer.

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