A Look Back At The '73 Race

May 03, 1992

There was this lightning move, all-powerful, by Secretariat the first time he came past the grandstand and glided into the clubhouse turn.

"There was this great leap forward which was incredible to see," remembers his most attentive admirer and owner, Penny Chenery (formerly Tweedy), now in Kentucky. "It reinforced for all of us how much natural ability he had. This was proven so many times but in the Preakness it was different. I'm often asked about his 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes three weeks later. That was indeed impressive.

"But at Pimlico, when he made that move, we knew it was going to be his day. It elevated him to a new level. And he won with relative ease."

Secretariat was calm in the paddock but the saddling in the infield "seemed to take forever." There was that stirring from the restless crowd that gave off the sound of a squadron of impatient locusts, eager for action. She and former husband, John, were confident the pride of Meadow Stable was ready for a mighty effort but refused to allow themselves to become too taken up with the importance of the impending race.

Secretariat quickly put them at ease with his well-coordinated, smoothly accelerated shift into overdrive.

"It was as if Secretariat said to Ronnie [jockey Ron Turcotte], 'I want to get along with this business,' " explains Ms. Chenery. "He took the race out of Ronnie's hands. And Ronnie to his credit, let Secretariat set the tempo with style and brilliance. Secretariat seemed to be playing the game all by himself."

What occurred before and after the race on Preakness Day o 1973 doesn't make for fond recall, however. At the old Pimlico Hotel, located just off the racetrack property, the Secretariat party had been trying to while away the early afternoon in the restaurant before enduring the track-side wait that is considered an eternity by every owner with a horse in the field.

Then we got the disturbing news that a parking lot attendant, who had been drinking, had smashed up our new Mercedes-Benz, the one Secretariat had bought us," Ms. Chenery recalls.

Still there was more difficulty to come on this otherwise victorious day. On their way to the winner's circle to accept the Woodlawn Vase and participate in the post-race ceremony, her husband's wallet was lifted in the crush of the crowd.

nTC Secretariat also was to be denied an official record. Another robbery of sorts. Pimlico had a timing system that was suspect. Secretariat's reading for the mile and three-sixteenths was reported as 1.55. However, the Daily Racing Form listed the effort as 1:53 2/5, which qualified as a track record. This evolved into a point of debate, especially after Secretariat won the Triple Crown and could look back on thoroughly substantiated records for both the Derby and Belmont.

The Preakness would have meant an unprecedented shattering of all three marks. However, the Maryland Racing Commission, under Commissioner Newton Brewer, held a hearing and corrected the time to 1:54 2/5.

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