LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Known as "America's horse," Secretariat still holds several records, 50 years after his Triple Crown victory.
If you've seen Disney's "Secretariat" movie, you'll know Penny Chenery, his owner, said Secretariat's success was in part because of his smarts and personality.
"All of the ingredients for greatness, he had the intelligence and personal character," Penny Chenery's son, John Tweedy, said.
Tweedy said his mom respected the horse as an esteemed member of the family.
"She was his owner, but, really, he owned her," Tweedy said. "You don't own the greatest equine athletic in history."
Big Red's enlarged heart was credited for his superior cardiovascular ability, and the thoroughbred's strong physique was evident in his strides down the track.
"The average equine heart is about nine pounds, and his was 22," WDRB's Eric Crawford said.
But it was his undeniable spirit that captivated America.
"Especially by the time he won the triple crown, he was very aware of his own charisma, his own presence, his own achievements," Tweedy said. "Secretariat guided himself as much as Ron Turcotte guided him."
Turcotte was Secretariat's jockey during the incredible year he won the Triple Crown. He told the Kentucky Derby Museum he was awestruck from the beginning.
"It’s just amazing, something that people don’t see," Turcotte said. "He was like a machine, really. The announcer (at the Belmont Stakes), I heard him say you know, 'Secretariat’s moving now, 20 lengths in front. Secretariat is moving like a tremendous machine,' That’s exactly how he felt."
Secretariat's legacy is clearly marked in the sports history books, but his story in the 1970s was something for everyone to celebrate.
"But people don't remember, at the time, you know, that was 1973," WDRB's Rick Bozich said. "Watergate was just getting going. The Vietnam War was still going on. America was sort of looking for a hero, and I think Secretariat became a hero to a lot of people."
So what do the WDRB experts say? Will Secretariat's records ever be broken?
"It's possible, but I think it's unlikely," Bozich said. "I mean, that's been 50 years. We've had a lot of really good horses since then. We've had even a couple of Triple Crown winners in the last decade, and they haven't been able to do it."
Crawford points to the difference in modern training.
"Back in Secretariat's time, horses ran a lot more races," he said. "They came into this race a lot more seasoned. Now, they come in with maybe five, six races that they've ever run. I'd be surprised if that ever gets broken."
Secretariat is one of just two Derby winners that crossed the finish line in the greatest two minutes in sports in under two minutes.
"He became forever the superhorse that all the modern thoroughbreds are compared to," Crawford said.
Secretariat's time: 1 minute 59 seconds and 2/5, which is 1:59.4 by modern standards.
The closest thoroughbred to his Derby time was the horse two and a half lengths behind him in the same race. Sham finished the Derby with a time of 1:59.9.
"A lot of people, including some of the trainers, said that Secretariat just broke (Sham's) heart," Bozich said.
Fast forward nearly 30 years, in 2001, Monarachos also broke the two-minute mark, but just barely at 1:59.97.
"It used to be very unfair to young horses, 'He's the next Secretariat. He's the next Secretariat,'" Bozich said. "And then they'd be really good horses, and you'd consider him a disappointment where they really weren't disappointments because there's only one Secretariat."
To learn more about Secretariat's legacy, the Kentucky Derby Museum debuted a permanent Secretariat exhibit this year. The museum also has a list of Derby winners' times, here.
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