horse racing · secretariat

Like a Tremendous Machine

I am a Triple Crown atheist.

Real Quiet strained and affirmed my belief: so close. If he could get so close, surely someone could bridge that gap.

War Emblem completely shattered that belief. I still remember exactly where I was and how I felt when he stumbled out of the gate. Spring and summer of 2002, my first year of college, watching the Derby and the Preakness on the big screen, then home for the Belmont, in my parents’ living room, kneeling in front of the television, hoping, then heartbroken.

So I will watch the Belmont tonight, and I will have a faint, desperate hope, but in my heart of hearts, I don’t believe. I wish I did.

I’m choosing today to remember instead the greatest racehorse who ever lived, in his greatest race.

From William Nack’s Secretariat:

He is galloping to the beat of twelve. Aglide, he turns for home in full flight. He opens twenty-one lengths. He increases that to twenty-two. He is running easily. Nor is the form deteriorating. There remains the pendulumlike stride of the forelegs and the drive of the hindlegs, the pumping of the shoulders and neck, the rise and dip of the head. He makes sense of all the mystical pageant rites of blood through which he has evolved as distillate, a climactic act in a triumph of the breed, one horse combining all the noblest qualities of his speed and his ancestry – of the unbeaten Nearco through Nasrullah and Bold Ruler, of the iron horse Discovery through Outdone and Miss Disco, of the dashing St. Simon through Prince Rose and Princequillo and of the staying Brown Bud through Imperatrice by way of Somethingroyal. He defines the blooded horse in his own terms.

horse racing · secretariat · video

Secretariat and the 1973 Belmont

As far as I’m concerned, this is the best video on the internet. Yes, the entire internet. In fact, I have been known to say that this video, this specific video, is the reason the internet exists.

I can’t watch it without breaking into big, ugly, gulping sobs at about the halfway mark.


They’re on the turn, and Secretariat is blazing along! The first three-quarters of a mile in 1:09 and four fifths. Secretariat is widening now! He is moving like a tremendous machine! Secretariat by twelve, Secretariat by fourteen lengths on the turn! Sham is dropping back. It looks like they’ll catch him today, as My Gallant and Twice a Prince are both coming up to him now. But Secretariat is all alone! He’s out there almost a sixteenth of a mile away from the rest of the horses! Secretariat is in a position that seems impossible to catch. He’s into the stretch. Secretariat leads this field by 18 lengths, and now Twice a Prince has taken second and My Gallant has moved back to third. They’re in the stretch. Secretariat has opened a 22 length lead! He is going to be the Triple Crown winner! Here comes Secretariat to the wire. An unbelievable, an amazing performance!