Who Was Secretariat?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Secretariat was a famous American racehorse who dominated the racetrack in 1972 and 1973. Many critics think of Secretariat as one of the greatest racehorses of all time, despite the fact that he only campaigned on the track for two years. In addition to distinguishing himself on the track, Secretariat also sired a number of talented colts and fillies, as well. His descendants have proved to be formidable competitors on racetracks around the world.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

The horse was foaled in 1970 at Meadow Stable in Virginia. His dam, Somethingroyal, had been bred with Bold Ruler, a well known racehorse in his own right. The bright chestnut colt was teased for being “too beautiful,” because his glossy coat and fine bone structure made him appear delicate. He was nicknamed “Big Red” by his stable, in the hopes of countering his delicate image and to emphasize his resemblance to Man o' War, widely regarded as the greatest American racehorse of the 20th century.

During his two years on the track, Secretariat won 16 of his 21 races, taking the 1973 Triple Crown along with the Futurity Stakes, Laurel Stakes, and Man o' War Stakes. In both 1972 and 1973. Secretariat was honored with a Horse of the Year Award, and in 1974, he was inducted into the racing hall of fame. The famous equestrian athlete acquired a huge base of fans during his public life, and they continued to visit him even after retirement.

The record breaking times which Secretariat set in the Belmont Stakes and the Kentucky Derby were still standing as of 2007; more remarkable was his win in the Belmont, when the horse in second place ended up 31 lengths behind Secretariat as he swept under the wire. Many people who watched Secretariat in action commented on his big heart, as he was persistent and dedicated, with a will to win which certainly made a difference in several of his races.

After his racing career was over, Secretariat retired to Claiborne Farm, where he stood at stud until 1989. His early retirement was part of a deal made by his owner that Secretariat would be available as a sire at a comparatively early age. Many racing fans bemoan this, as his scorching performances on the track as a two and three year old demonstrated immense potential. In 1989, Secretariat was afflicted with an extremely painful foot condition known as laminitis, and his owners decided to euthanize him, as it quickly became clear that the laminitis would be untreatable.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Secretariat was beautiful but he was certainly not a delicate horse. He had a massive build with plenty of bone to go with his muscular physique. One vet who saw him described him as a mountain of muscle who looked like he could run through a brick wall.


@Subway11 - I read that five horses actually played the role of Secretariat in the movie Secretariat and four of these horses were actual thoroughbreds. They ran a contest to find several horses that looked like Secretariat so that they could be used in the movie.


I have to agree. The story of the Secretariat horse is really inspirational. It is amazing that this horse was able to win the Triple Crown like he did. It is also sad that the horse was euthanized, but that happens when horses develop serious conditions.

I wanted to see the Secretariat movie that was out in the theaters but I didn’t get a chance to. I know that in the movie Secretariat was not the favorite to win the Triple Crown. This is why this story is so amazing because this horse made a big comeback to actually win the Triple Crown.


amazing, just amazing.

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