In the world of horse racing, nothing quite captures the imagination more than the Triple Crown.

Achieved only by winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes in the same season, only 13 horses since 1919 have accomplished this extraordinary feat, and the greatest of those is undoubtedly Secretariat.

As we look ahead to the upcoming Belmont Stakes in Saratoga on June 8, we already know that the Triple Crown is not on the table.

Mystik Dan won the Kentucky Derby, and Seize the Grey won the Preakness Stakes, and while both look certain to line up again on Saturday, two out of three just won’t cut it if either of them should win at Saratoga.

It certainly won’t diminish their achievements this season, and for those of you who fancy a few Belmont Stakes wagers, there’s a lot to love about the ten thoroughbreds who will battle it out over the track.

Despite their current form, neither Mystik Dan nor Sieze the Grey are leading the way in the betting markets. Instead, it is the Kentucky Derby runner-up, Sierra Leone, who has captured both the bookies and the public’s imagination.

But can the three-year-old, trained by Chad Brown, add a fourth win to his already impressive CV, or will he be pipped to the post once again?

One thing is for sure:, whichever horse wins the Belmont Stakes will go into the history books, though admittedly, it will be in the shadow of the great, late Secretariat.

The Legendary Secretariat

In the world of horse racing, there are legends, and then there is Secretariat. This extraordinary thoroughbred captured the hearts of racing enthusiasts around the globe with his remarkable speed and indomitable spirit.

From his humble beginnings to his record-breaking triumphs, Secretariat defied all odds and became a true phenomenon in the racing world, and it all began in 1970 at the Meadow Farm in Virginia.

With his impressive pedigree, his sire being Bold Ruler, and his dam being Somethingroyal, Secretariat displayed a fiery spirit that would later define his racing career from the moment he entered the world.

He had a strong, muscular build and an undeniable charisma that quickly caught the attention of his owner, Penny Chenery.

Under the guidance of trainer Lucien Laurin, Secretariat began his training, laying the foundation for what would become an extraordinary career.

He won his maiden race by an impressive 6 ½ lengths, and as he continued to race, Secretariat’s performances only grew more impressive, setting the stage for his rise to fame.

1973 & The Triple Crown

In 1972, he won the Sanford Stakes and the Hopeful Stakes, but despite his success, Secretariat faced skepticism from some who doubted his ability to compete in longer races.

However, in 1973, he proved his detractors wrong by winning the Kentucky Derby in record-breaking time, crossing the finish line 2 ½ lengths ahead of his closest competitor.

After his stunning victory at the Kentucky Derby, connections set their sights on the second leg of the Triple Crown: the Preakness Stakes.

Once again, he displayed his unmatched talent, winning the race by a commanding 2 ¾ lengths ahead of his nearest rival, Sham.

With the first two legs of the Triple Crown secured, Secretariat faced his ultimate challenge: the Belmont Stakes.

On June 9, 1973, Secretariat stepped onto the track at Belmont Park, ready to make history.

Only four horses ran against him on that fateful day, and with little in the way of real challengers, he went off as the 1/10 odds-on favourite as 15 million fans tuned in from home.

He broke away from the pack, setting a blistering pace that left his competitors struggling to keep up. In the final stretch, and with the crowd on their feet, Secretariat crossed the finish line an astonishing 31 lengths ahead of the second-place horse, Twice the Price.

It was a performance for the ages, setting a new world record for the fastest 1 ½ miles on dirt, a record that still stands today.

He became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, and while Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015), and Justify (2018) have all won it since, few ever matched the speed and dominance of Secretariat.

The Legacy

He saw out the rest of the 1973 season with mixed results and was ultimately retired in December of that year.

However, such was his impact on the wider public that fans clamoured for more, and more than 30 years later, in 2010, his story was brought to the big screen in the 2010 film aptly titled Secretariat.

Starring Diane Lane, John Malkovich, and James Cromwell, the film received critical acclaim and introduced a whole new generation to the legendary racehorse.

He also went on to sire 663 foals, including 341 winners and 54 stakes winners.

Lesser-Known Facts

While Secretariat’s racing career and Triple Crown victory are well-known, there are many lesser-known facts and anecdotes that add depth to his story.

For example, did you know that Secretariat’s heart was estimated to be two and a half times larger than that of an average horse?

It was only discovered after he died in 1989 and the vet compared his heart to that of Sham and realised the genetic anomaly that had undoubtedly contributed to his success on the track.

Not only that, but Secretariat was buried at Claiborne Farm and given the rare honor of being buried whole as opposed to the traditional burial of only the head, heart, and hooves of a winning racehorse.

Another interesting fact is that Secretariat’s jockey, Ron Turcotte, rode him with only one stirrup during his record-breaking Belmont Stakes performance.

Turcotte lost his right stirrup early in the race but managed to maintain his balance and guide Secretariat to victory.

It was a testament to both Turcotte’s skill and Secretariat’s incredible athleticism, and it is what made them legends of the sport.