Horsing around

Secretariat: Equine legend with a message for humans

1973 was an exciting year for horse racing. It was the year of Secretariat. Some say there will never be another one like him. He was big, muscular and accelerated like he had rockets on his back. His world record time for the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes still stands today. But as with every great horse racing story, victory belongs to more than the horse.

In the sport of thoroughbred racing, it seems the great ones often happen by accident. Secretariat was given away before he was born on the losing end of a coin toss between Meadow Stables owner, Penny Tweedy and Wheatley Stable Owner, Ogden Phipps.

Secretariat wasn’t bred to run as fast or as far as he did, but it takes more than breeding to be a champion. When he died on October 4, 1989, a necropsy revealed that “his heart weighed 22 lbs. which was about two-and-a-half times as large as that of the average horse.”

More often than not, it is the people surrounding an animal that make the difference. What they have in common is determination and faith in their ability to beat the odds. Secretariat would not have become the greatest athlete ever to set foot on a racetrack if not for the determination of Owner, Penny Tweedy, the skill of Trainer, Lucien Lauren, and the love and devotion of his groom, Eddie Sweat.

I had the honor and privilege of working for Meadow Stables at Belmont Park in New York, and at Lucien Lauren’s farm in Holy Hill, South Carolina. While the actors that portrayed Ronnie, Lucien and Eddie in the movie “Secretariat” bore little physical resemblance to the real-life people, the story of this amazing horse and the people who cared for him is one that should never be forgotten.

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