_OTD Secretariat Wins Triple Crown

June 8, 2021

June 9, 1973

A horse with a mighty heart (in more ways than one) becomes the "year's greatest show in sports," racing right into history.
Here's the story of Secretariat.

What To Know:

  • Secretariat (name inspired by a secretary) was described as an “amiable, gentlemanly colt, with a poised and playful nature.”
  • Secretariat won the most prominent accomplishment in horse racing – the Triple Crown – by winning the sport’s top three events: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and then the Belmont Stakes.
  • Secretariat broke records in all three races. He holds the fastest times in each event to this day.
"Secretariat suddenly transcended horse racing and became a cultural phenomenon, a sort of undeclared national holiday from the tortures of Watergate and the Vietnam War."

Sports journalist William Nack, author of Secretariat: The Making of a Champion, describing another reason why the public responded so favorably to Secretariat’s record-breaking victories. Context: Watergate (1972 – 1974) and the Vietnam War (1955 – 1975).

"That's when I had tears in my eyes … When he was coming down through the stretch … all I was saying was, 'Don't fall down, boy. Come home.' It looked like he heard me."

Secretariat’s groom, Eddie Sweat, who cared for Secretariat daily, recalled watching the Belmont Stakes on June 9th – the day Secretariat became one of only 13 horses who have ever won the Triple Crown. The races that make up this competition date back to 1875.

Although a champion, Secretariat suffered from a common affliction (laminitis: a hoof disease that causes severe pain) and had to be put down. The veterinarian who performed Secretariat’s autopsy found his heart to be twice the size of a normal horse, weighing an estimated 22 lbs: “I think it told us why he was able to do what he did,” Dr. Thomas Swerczek said.

ESPN’s List of Top American Athletes in the 20th Century

“Pure Heart,” William Nack’s Sports Illustrated article on Secretariat

June 9, 1973

Article Remembering Eddie Sweat, Secretariat’s “best friend”

Kentucky Derby History

by Jenna Lee,