Secretariat may finally get mark

April 28, 1999|By Jon Morgan

Secretariat's run for the black-eyed Susans may finally be headed for the record books, 26 years after his Triple Crown win.

The horse, considered by some the greatest to ever race, set records in the 1973 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. In between, he won the Preakness. But Pimlico Race Course's official timer -- a device whose accuracy had been publicly criticized for years -- came in with an impossibly slow time of 1 minute, 55 seconds.

Three men in the press box with stopwatches all clocked the winning time at 1: 53 2/5, which would have been a record for the race, one that has subsequently been beaten. Track officials, acknowledging the official time was in error, recorded the race at 1: 54 2/5, relying on the stopwatch of a track employee.

The matter has simmered for years, and last year, on the 25th anniversary of the great horse's campaign, the owners of Pimlico formally asked for a reconsideration. Using a digital timing system, they reviewed tapes of the race and came up with 1: 53 2/5.

The Maryland Racing Commission wrote new rules, which became effective last month, allowing the commissioners to establish a disputed race time by a method they "consider to be accurate." Yesterday, the commission voted, 6-2, to convene a hearing that could be held as early as next month.

"He's entitled to it, and he's earned it," said Clem Florio, Pimlico's official handicapper. In 1973, Florio worked for the Baltimore News-American and was one of the three men who clocked what would have been a record time. He has championed the cause ever since.

Martin Jacobs, a part-owner and treasurer of Pimlico, said, "I think it is a historic event that should be corrected."

Pub Date: 4/28/99

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