BOZICH: Secretariat stirs controversy - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH: Secretariat stirs controversy from beyond the grave

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Secretariat ran the fastest Kentucky Derby in 1973. He backed it up by blazing to another record in the Belmont Stakes five weeks later.

America loved the horse as well as the "Secretariat" movie. But the Secretariat script is still being written.
       
The only Triple Crown record that Secretariat doesn't have is the Preakness -- at least not yet.
    
That could change, beginning June 19. That is when the nearly four-decade debate about how swiftly Secretariat ran the Preakness will officially resume.

"I don't want to appear greedy," said Penny Chenery, who owned the horse at Meadow Farm Stable. "Secretariat's legacy is strong as it is. But this would truly complete the story."
  
The Maryland Racing Commission has agreed to review the controversy over the timing of the 1973 Preakness again. The official Pimlico Race Course electric timer credited Secretariat with a 1:55 over the Preakness distance of 1 3/16th miles.

Two timers for The Daily Racing Form immediately checked their stopwatches and questioned that number. They had Secretariat in 1:53 2/5. That would have been a Preakness record, the kind of remarkable number you'd expect the colt known as "Big Red" to deliver.
     
The controversy lingered. The Maryland Racing Commission admitted there was a problem. Sandy Grossman, a producer with "CBS Eye on Sports," presented a videotape comparison of Secretariat's Preakness race matched against the then-record time of 1:54 that Canonero II ran in 1971.

"Secretariat finished 26 full frames ahead of Canonero," Grossman said. "That's almost a full second faster. He broke the record."

Eventually the Maryland Racing Commission settled on 1:54 2/5, although the Daily Racing Form has maintained its protest by recognizing its faster time for Secretariat.

"For me, revisiting this dispute on a new day is matter of resolution – for historians, for sportswriters and for racing fans," Chenery said. "Their voices are supported by sound evidence, and they deserve to be heard."

Chenery has been supported in her quest by Thomas Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club as well as by Grossman and Leonard Lusky, president of Secretariat.com. The hearing, which will be open to the public, is scheduled for 1 p.m. June 19 at Laurel Park, in Laurel, Md., which sits between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.      

If any horse deserves closure, or to continue to pursue records more than 22 years after his death, it's Secretariat. He was a majestic champion, a horse of uncommon speed and courage, ridden with confidence by jockey Ron Turcotte and trained superbly by the late Lucien Laurin.

His popularity remains unmatched in thoroughbred racing as demonstrated by the commercial success of Disney's "Secretariat" movie two years ago. Saturday at Belmont Park, Turcotte was still signing autographs outside the grandstand more than two hours after the Belmont Stakes.

Secretariat was the rare horse who delivered on the hype of his 2-year-old campaign by crackling past Sham in the stretch at Churchill Downs to win the Kentucky Derby by 2 ½ lengths.

His Derby time had people triple-checking their stopwatches – 1:59 2/5, several lengths faster than Northern Dancer's record. No 3-year-old has challenged that performance at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Monarchos (2001) is the only other Derby winner to run the mile-and-a-quarter faster than two minutes.

But that wasn't the snapshot that made Secretariat a magazine cover boy. The Belmont was.

Union Rags won the 2012 Belmont last Saturday. He ran the 1-½ miles in 2:30.42.

When Secretariat won the Belmont, race caller Chic Anderson delivered his unforgettable line that Secretariat was "moving like a tremendous machine."

Here is why: His time was 2:24. He won the race by 31 lengths.  Easy Goer ran the second fastest Belmont. He was great – and finished two seconds slower than Secretariat.

Think about this: In the Belmont, Secretariat still has the fastest times for every race call from the half-mile to the finish line.

"This is not only part of the Triple Crown, it's part of racing history," Lusky said. "With the technology available today, we have a chance to review this and get it right. It's not going to change the outcome of the race. It's only going to change a statistic."

Three horses share the current Preakness record. Tank's Prospect ran 1:53 2/5 in 1985, a time that Louis Quatorze matched in 1996. Five years ago Curlin's 1:53.43 was rounded down to 1:53 2/5, and he was added to the record book.

Now Secretariat will get another chance to move to the top of the record book, too.

"I don't have anything to gain from this other than the satisfaction of getting it right," Grossman said. "I felt bad when it happened. I think Secretariat deserved to not only have the Triple Crown but to also have all the race records."

Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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