Imagine that you were there: packed into a racetrack grandstand full to bursting, on the apron jammed in next to thousands of strangers, all straining for a glimpse, or higher up in an actual seat. Maybe you were standing on that seat, though, out of sheer excitement. The crowd was roaring as with one voice, watching an absolute miracle of strength and sheer beauty unfold. A horse was running a race, a very long horse race, faster than any other had even come close to – and it was so far in front of its competitors that its jockey had to turn around in the saddle to see if they were still even there, somewhere far down the racetrack.
Now imagine the transcendent jubilation that occurred the moment that horse – who of course was Secretariat – crossed the finish line. Belmont Park’s grandstand positively erupted into an earth-shaking, foot-stomping, jumping-up-and-down-and-screaming-until-hoarse celebration of what has been described as one of the most spectacular achievements in ALL of sports, not just horse-racing.
50 years ago this June, Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes completing his sweep of the American Triple Crown races. In 1973 he instantly became enshrined as “America’s Horse,” a heroic beacon of goodness and light and perfection in a supremely muscled, fiery chestnut package. Nowadays millions of race fans, horse-lovers and even people who have never heard of any other racehorse still know that he was The One, The Only, the immortal Triple Crown Champion. “The Horse That God Built,” as writer Lawrence Scanlan described him. Time to celebrate Secretariat’s 50th Anniversary!
Jockey Ron Turcotte, who piloted Secretariat throughout most of his racing career, has tried to describe what riding the greatest racehorse who ever looked through a bridle was like. “I have never felt such strength under me as I did that day,” he said, speaking of the Belmont Stakes. “My job, as I saw it, was to be a good passenger and stay out of his way.” Occasionally he’d whisper into Secretariat’s ear, “Easy boy.” The horse’s tremendous stride was unmatchable and there was no denying his superiority. At the end of the Belmont the race was purely against the clock.
Even in his retirement to stud at Claiborne Farm Secretariat was a true celebrity. He received thousands of visitors yearly and was known as a real ham, who would turn his head to gaze directly into camera lenses and prick up his ears. He was well-mannered for a stallion and countless people young and old had the honor of posting next to him, possibly placing a gentle pat on his shiny red coat. Many are the horse-lovers who regret not getting to see him “in person,” before his untimely passing at age 19 from laminitis. Now visitors flock to Secretariat’s grave, many placing an apple, peppermint (he loved Certs!) or a red or blue rose upon it.
Secretariat will truly never be forgotten and it is appropriate to celebrate him all over again in this anniversary year. A multi-state “Anniversary Tour” honoring the Chenery Family, who bred and owned Secretariat, is planned this year. Author/speaker Kate Chenery Tweedy lives in Ashland, VA and is the primary standard-bearer for Secretariat’s legacy. In Virginia, where he was born in 1970 at the Meadow Stable, a glorious new statue will be unveiled on April 1. At 21 feet long and 11.5 feet tall this will be the largest monument of Secretariat in existence, dramatically illustrating the champion’s larger-than-life presence as an equine athlete and American icon.
A new park in Paris, KY already boasts an enormous wall mural of Big Red pounding down the stretch and will also be graced with a fabulous new statue. This one depicts Secretariat as a stallion running in his paddock at Claiborne Farm. His name will be on everyone’s lips especially during the Triple Crown races – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Secretariat has the incredible honor of still holding the record time for all three races. Imagine that – in 50 years, and hundreds of other horses running these races, not even one has run any of them faster than a certain chestnut colt in 1973.
And now Jane Heart Jewelry, renowned as the only maker of Secretariat Portrait Licensed Jewelry has a new design created especially for the 50th Anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown! What better way to celebrate than with a beautiful Secretariat gift? In the new piece, his noble visage gazes out from his trademark blinkers. His ears are pricked just as they always were when a camera was nearby. Every detail is finely wrought and the blinkers are hand-enameled in the famous blue of Penny Chenery’s Meadow Farm silks.
Penny Chenery herself approved Jane Heart’s Secretariat jewelry when it was first created, and it has been beloved and praised by Big Red fans ever since. The new pendant will be available in both all solid sterling silver and a limited edition version with a 14k gold head on a sterling silver oval disc. Both designs will feature the hand-enameled blue blinkers. A portion of your purchase will benefit the Secretariat Foundation. The Secretariat Foundation was created by Mrs. Penny Chenery to serve as a non-profit charitable organization within the Thoroughbred and equine-related industries, including funding veterinary research into laminitis.
For collectors of Secretariat memorabilia – and there are many! – a special piece of Secretariat jewelry featuring a portrait of Big Red himself is not to be missed. Secretariat gifts are the ultimate way to display your love of the Triple Crown winner. Other pieces in the Jane Heart Secretariat Collection include necklaces, bracelets, charms and even a magnificent ring. Treat yourself or a loved one to jewelry that you’ll cherish and admire forever, just like the memories of the unmatchable Secretariat.