On This Date in Sports June 9, 1973: The Coronation

The Belmont Stakes quickly goes from a race to a coronation, as Secretariat becomes the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Citation in 1948. Running the mile-and-a-half race in a record time of 2:24, Secretariat nearly laps the field of five horses, winning by 31 lengths. As the horse neared the finish line, his jockey Ron Turcotte looked back at the competition in the far distance.

There are debates about the Greatest of All-Time in every sport, but in horseracing, ask nearly everybody, and the answer with being Secretariat. His sire Bold Ruler had a champion pedigree, winning the Preakness Stakes in 1957, while the Dam Somethingroyal could have been descriptive of Secretariat himself.

Owned by Penny Chenery, who took over her father’s stable after a divorce, Secretariat showed greatness early, winning Horse of the Year honors as a two-year-old in 1972 by winning five races. When the three-year-old season began, Secretariat, nicknamed “Big Red,” struggled while losing the Wood Memorial.

Some questioned Secretariat’s stamina and if Trainer Lucien Laurin before the Kentucky Derby raced him too often. When the race was over, there was no questioning from anyone as Secretariat ran the first Derby in under two minutes, setting a new record time of 1:59.40. Secretariat finished two and a half lengths ahead of Sham, whose time would have set a record in any other year as Our Native finished a distant third in a 13-horse field.

At the Preakness Stakes, Secretariat made history again, setting a new record again, completing the mile and one-eighth race in a time of 1:53 once again dueling with Sham down the final stretch, who again finished two and a half lengths back as Out Native again finished a distant third in a field of six horses.


With Secretariat’s dominance in the first two races, few contenders decided to even make a challenge at the Belmont Stakes, as just four horses were entered into the mile-and-a-half race. The Big Red colt, who had already set two track records, was an overwhelming 1-10 favorite to complete the Triple Crown. Once again, Secretariat and Sham were ahead of the field early, but Shaw quickly faded as history was about to be made. By the time the race was at a mile Secretariat was well in front, as the field kept vanishing further in the distance. To the astonishment of Jockey Ron Turcotte, nobody was close as Secretariat raced the final stretch prompting him to look back in amazement as his horse finished 31 lengths ahead of Twice a Prince, while My Gallant finished third. As he did in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Secretariat set a record with a time of 2:24, the fastest time ever recorded for a mile-and-a-half race. Secretariat would go on to become to win Horse of the Year honors again in 1973 as he retired to stud, fetching record breeding fees.