This Blog is dedicated to the Noble and Great horses in our lives and throughout history. Visit the land of the unicorns in Behind The Mist, the horse lover's fantasy for pre-teens to adults.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

SECRETARIAT-You've Probably Heard of Him!

In Behind the Mist, Book One of The Mist Trilogy, the reader learns that the Noble and Great horses are trained to become unicorns in their after-life and earn their horns. This Blog is dedicated to the Noble and Great horses in our lives and throughout history.

When I was a newly-wed living in Connecticut while my husband, Tom, completed his undergraduate studies at Yale, we watched and cheered as Secretariat, arguably the greatest race horse ever, burned up the track and won the Triple Crown. I will never forget that horse!

In October, 2010, my trail riding buddies and I went to see the movie Secretariat. I think I cried through the whole thing! If you haven't seen it, it is a must. I was re-motivated to reach for the run my race. Great movie...go see it. It is also fitting that Penny Chenery Tweety, Secretariat's owner, is a fellow Coloradoan. So, this Blog post is dedicated to the Great Secretariat.
Secretariat was born in Mar. 30, 1970. This would be a good place to retell the story of the coin-toss by which the Chenerys obtained ownership of the big red stallion. The owner of the great Bold Ruler had proposed the idea of a coin-toss for the offspring of his stallion. Christopher Chenery sent two of his best mares, Hasty Matilda and Somethingroyal to Phipps' stallion. The coin-toss was held in New York City and was won by Phipps. He chose the weanling out of Somethingroyal which left the Chenerys with the colt born of Hasty Matilda and the, as yet, unborn foal of Somethingroyal. (Hasty Matilda had lost her first foal the year before.) Secretariat was that unborn foal.

Secretariat's fame rests on his success. Not only was he the 1973 Triple Crown winner, the first in 25 years, but his record in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont still stand. His time in the Preakness is not counted because of a faulty timer. His success is usually attributed to two things: His trainer, Lucien Lauren and his enormous heart. At his autopsy, it was found that his heart weighed close to 22 pounds. The average thoroughbred's heart is 9 pounds. Not only that, but unlike Eclipse's big heart, it was not malformed. Studies have found what is called the X Factor that is carried by the mare that contributes to the large hearts that are found in the fastest thoroughbreds. Secretariat's heart was so large that it was able to pump a huge amount of blood, giving him both speed and stamina. However, because this trait is passed through the mare, his off-spring did not inherit it from him. It is interesting to note that Man O' War is often credited with passing on his speed but, in reality, the mare he was bred to, Brush Up, had a bigger heart than he did and the result was War Admiral and Seattle Slew.

In life, all of "Red's" handlers knew he had a big heart but they were referring to his love of running and his work ethic. His primary jockey, Ron Turcotte, said when describing the horse, "I was just along for the ride." Indeed, if you watch a tape of the Belmont, you will notice that he never uses a whip.

In the fall of 1989, Secretariat developed Laminitis, a very painful and often fatal condition of the hoof. Surgery failed to correct it so the great red horse had to be euthanized on Oct. 4, 1989. He was given perhaps his greatest honor after death by being buried whole at the Claibourne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. By tradition, most thoroughbred's graves contain just their head, to symbolize intelligence, their heart, to symbolize strength, and their legs, to symbolize power.

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