Up the Backstretch: New look at 1973 Preakness

2012-06-12 09:53:11

Secretariat, also known as Big Red, not only became the first Triple Crown champ in 25 years back in 1973, he demolished the track records at both Churchill Downs and Belmont Park in doing so. Standing out like a sore thumb is his time for the Preakness Stakes.

Big Red's final time for the 1973 Preakness was first recorded as 1:55 for the 1 3/16 miles. However, the Daily Racing Form had two independent clockers record the time as 1:53 2/5.

The Maryland Racing Commission reviewed the times for the race and concluded there were 'extenuating circumstances' involved in the timing of the Preakness. Pimlico's official hand clocker had caught Secretariat in 1:54 2/5 and the commission marked that as the official time.

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

Now, 39 years after Big Red cruised through the Triple Crown, Chenery and Thomas Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, are seeking a final conclusion to the mystery of Secretariat's Preakness Stakes victory.

They have approached the Maryland Racing Commission, which has agreed, to consider new evidence on the timing of the race.

'During the last 40 years, video technology has been accepted in other professional sports as a supportive mechanism for officials to ensure fairness and accuracy in their decisions,' Chuckas said. 'It is important for horse racing and the record books to confirm the correct time in this historical race. It is the appropriate thing to do.'

Advances in modern video technology are expected to support the belief that Big Red set a stakes record in winning the 1973 Preakness. The official stakes mark of 1:53 2/5 is credited to three horses, Tank's Prospect (1985), Louis Quatorze (1996) and Curlin (2007).

Secretariat established stakes and track records in winning both the 1973 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. Big Red covered the 1 1/4 miles of the Run for the Roses in 1:59 1/5 and set a world record for 1 1/2 miles when he won the Test of Champions in 2:24. Secretariat still holds the Belmont Park record for 1 1/8 miles at 1:45 2/5.

Most tracks now time their races to hundredths of a second. Secretariat might have run the 1973 Preakness in 1:52.99.