1999 Secretariat stamp
US #3189g – Secretariat was featured on the 1970s Celebrate the Century sheet.

On June 9, 1973, Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes race, becoming the first US Triple Crown winner in 25 years.

The son of the successful stallion Bold Ruler, Secretariat was born on March 30, 1970.  He remained unnamed for a year, but was eventually named Secretariat by the stable’s secretary.

Secretariat began training in 1972.  However, he was awkward and more interested in eating than running.  Over time he grew more focused and fast and managed to finish fourth in his first race in July 1972.  He then won five races in a row, including the Sanford Stakes and Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, and the Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park.  During one of those races he passed eight horses in just a quarter mile and won by five lengths.  At the end of his first year racing, Secretariat won the Eclipse Award for American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse and American Horse of the Year.

1974 Horse Racing stamp
US #1528 was issued for the 200th anniversary of the Kentucky Derby.

Secretariat then prepared for his most memorable season.  He began 1973 with a win at the Bay Shore Stakes.  Then on May 5, 1973, he competed in the Kentucky Derby.  Although he broke last, he quickly caught up and eventually won the race by two-and-a-half lengths.  Secretariat ran each quarter mile segment faster than the one before it and won the race in under two minutes – which had never been done before and wouldn’t be done again until 2001.  As one sportswriter recalled, “No one had ever seen anything run like that…  It was like he was some other animal out there.”

1993 Sporting Horses stamps
US #2756-59 features different kinds of sporting horses.

Two weeks later Secretariat appeared at the Preakness Stakes on May 19.  Once again, he started in last place.  However, in the first turn he managed to go from last to first and went on to win the race by two-and-a-half lengths again.  His exact time has long been disputed, as the various timers all reported differing numbers.  In 2012, the Maryland Racing Commission looked at old videotapes and listened to over two hours of testimony before settling on a time of 1:53, which was the state’s record.

1985 Horses stamps
US #2155-58 features different horse breeds.

After these two victories, Secretariat prepared for the Belmont Stakes, the final victory needed to win the Triple Crown.  In the coming weeks he was featured on the covers of three national magazines: Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated.  Secretariat quickly became a celebrity and household name.

2002 Greetings From America: Kentucky stamp
US #3577 – This Greetings from Kentucky stamp pays tribute to the popularity of the Kentucky Derby.

On June 9, 1973, Secretariat and four other horses competed at the 105th Belmont Stakes in front of a crowd of 67,605.  Secretariat was the favorite, though he was racing Sham, who’d finished second in each of the previous races.  Secretariat and Sham began the race fast – ten lengths ahead of the other horses.  Along the backstretch Sham could no longer maintain their break-neck pace, though, and, exhausted, fell to last place.  The announcer excitedly proclaimed, “Secretariat is widening now!  He is moving like a tremendous machine!”  Secretariat continued to expand his lead on the other racers, eventually winning by 31 lengths (breaking the previous record of 25).  He also ran the fastest race on dirt – one-and-a-half miles in 2:24 flat.  This was two seconds faster than the previous record, and is still the record today, exactly 48 years later.

1999 Secretariat First Day Cover
US #3189g – Secretariat First Day Cover

Many considered this race to be one of the best by a 20th century North American racehorse.  Secretariat was the ninth Triple Crown winner and the first in 25 years.  He continued to race for the rest of the year, winning the Arlington Invitational, Marlboro Cup, Man o’ War Stakes, and Canadian International.  In all, Secretariat won 16 of his 21 career races, and finished second three times and third once.  At the end of 1973, he was again named Horse of the Year and won Eclipse Awards as the American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse and the American Champion Male Turf Horse.

Secretariat retired after 1973 and sired a number of other successful racehorses, about 600 in all.  He died at age 19 on October 4, 1989.

Watch a video of Secretariat’s Triple Crown races.

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  1. Wow! This brings back so many pleasant memories. I remember those races back in ’73. What a fabulous horse, two records set that day that are still unbroken.

  2. As a Norwegian , I have never heard about this horse, but the poor thing, what an odd and meaningless name for a horse or for any living being, be it an animal , a plant or a person. A secretariat is a type of office, and the noun form also makes it unsuitable as a name of any living being. They might as well call the horse “Office”, “Bureau ” , “Table “, “Chair” or “Bookshelf”. OR at least “Secretary”, which is at least a title of a person, and not “Secretariat” which is a dead thing. Did they run out of names? This all sounds incredible!

    1. Ha! You would have loved the name of a horse that ran in Maryland,
      mostly at Bowie and Marlboro race tracks, Named “Freddiepudpucker”
      16 letters, just under the limit of 18 letter, numbers and spaces for a
      registered thoroughbred. Secretariat is not unusual, some horses are
      Named for people “Shecky Green” a horse that was in the 1973 Kentucky
      Derby that Secretariat won, Shecky led the first 6 furlongs (3/4 of a mile)
      or “Gate City”, “Miss Bass County” for places. They just can’t be named
      after certain people like “Hitler”, “Stalin” or John Kennedy”. Horse
      raccing probab;y is not big inb Norway BUT I ber “Norse” racing is big.

    2. I forgot to mention, Elizabeth Ham, the Meadow’s longtime secretary, had suggested the name “Secretariat” because she had worked at the UN and suggested this name because of the UN Secretariat, so this name along with a couple of others were sent to the racing commission. The other names were rejected by the committee BUT “Secretariat” was OK’d. He was then named that. OH! and his Stablemate was “Riva Ridge” and named after a place. He also won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont the year before, in 1972 and would have won the Triple Crown himself had it not been for rain and a sloppy, muddy track at Pimlico for the Preakness. Riva Ridge hated the mud and was a never at his best on a muddy, sloppy track.

  3. Really like the PDF’s so can print them to send to a close friend and later returned to me to place in binder. However, need better editing. Today’s PDF article repeated the first two paragraphs and left out the third paragraph.

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