De Francis urges look at time of Secretariat Final word is sought on '73 Preakness effort

May 12, 1998|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

Twenty-five years ago, Secretariat won the Preakness, but lost a protest denying him the track record.

Now, there's a move ahoof to reopen the case. Joe De Francis, owner of Pimlico Race Course, yesterday appealed to the Maryland Racing Commission to review tapes of the race to verify Secretariat's time -- and possibly rewrite history.

"I'm not saying that, as a 25th anniversary present, we give fTC Secretariat the record," De Francis said. "I'm suggesting we investigate to determine the true time of the race. If [Secretariat's time] turns out to be what's in the books, we put the matter to rest. If it's a record, then we make it official."

Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973, shattering track standards in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. He was denied a record in the Preakness, a race in which Pimlico's electric timer malfunctioned.

The timer is believed to have cost the colt precious time that was never recovered, though independent clockers in the press box swore he made history that day, putting his time at 1 minute, 53 2/5 seconds.

After much debate, Secretariat was awarded a time of 1: 54 2/5 -- just off the Preakness mark of 1: 54 set by Canonero II in 1971.

De Francis said he hoped any investigation would move swiftly. "Given the technology of 1998, I'd think it's a simple matter of reviewing the race film and accurately calibrating Secretariat's time," he said. "I would think it could be done this week."

News of the inquiry pleased Penny Chenery, the woman who raised Secretariat. "Well, whoopee!" she said last night from her home in Lexington, Ky. "It's only appropriate to recognize what he actually did.

"Secretariat may be dead, but he lives on in the hearts of his fans."

Pub Date: 5/12/98

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