Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why I love thoroughbreds...

It will probably be a while before I see the new movie about Secretariat. One reason is that our movie theater is closed for the season. The next nearest movie house is a three hour round trip, so I'd have to make a whole day of it...

Boy do I feel sorry for people who weren't around yet to witness Secretariat's other-worldly performance that day in 1973. I have no recollection of watching horse racing before that summer when I turned nine years old. Apparently, by the time the Belmont rolled around with the possibility of the first Triple Crown winner in twenty five years, the entire nation was watching.

My whole family were gathered in the very Brady Bunch style family room around the television, as we had been for the Derby and Preakness. As Secretariat flew past Sham opening his lead up to THIRTY ONE lengths, running each quarter faster that the last, moving like "a tremendous machine" - all of us were jumping up and down, screaming at the top of our lungs and simultaneously sobbing uncontrollably. All of us. It was that special. Even as a child, I knew the import of that event. That I was seeing something that would likely never happen again. We were sharing a shining moment of perfection.

And I knew that I was in love, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up - a jockey - and I knew I wanted riding lessons more that anything. I had already read every horse book in my local library, and was on the way to memorizing much of the pony club handbook. I had a modest collection of Breyer models which I brought to school for the recess horse shows... where she who had the newest Breyer horse was the q-u-e-e-n of the playground. I was horse crazy. The Belmont sealed the deal for me - I didn't stop begging until I was on the back of my first lesson horse - Pork Chop Sam - a big chestnut with white socks just like you-know-who.

It will probably be a while before I see the Secretariat movie... maybe when it comes out on dvd, so I won't be embarrassed when I get very emotional. I haven't successfully watched the video of the '73 Belmont without choking up yet. I doubt I ever will :)

Thanks Big Red...


  1. Not only was I not around to see Secretariat's win, but there has never been a Triple Crown win in my lifetime. The last Triple Crown win was the year before I was born. I'm beginning to believe that I cursed horse racing ;). I watch every single year, anyway, hoping to see a win.

    I also wanted to be a jockey when I was little. Alas, I'm just a little too big. I compromised by finding a really slow Thoroughbred and teaching him dressage!

  2. Got my slow thoroughbred too - Val's motto is "racing is overrated" :)

  3. I remember this race and this wonderful horse very well also. I was 22 and watched it with my family as you did. My mom was a big fan of horse racing and we were jumping up and down and everyone was emotional. I don't think I've ever seen a more exciting race, and can't wait to see the movie.

    Hope you get to see it sooner than later too.

  4. I just saw the movie, and it was very good - they even used the real TV footage for the Preakness, which was pretty amazing in its own way. I remember watching the Belmont as if it were today, and though I was by myself, I was jumping up and down screaming and crying like many others.

    I actually got to attend one Triple Crown race - which turned out to be the 1978 Belmont where Affirmed beat Alydar to win the Triple Crown - amazing stretch dual.

    And, in 1989 my husband and I were driving through Kentucky and made a (very long) detour to stop by Claiborne Farms in hopes of seeing Secretariat - not only did we see him in his paddock but the groom brought him out and I got to stand right next to him and stroke him on the shoulder! A moment I will remember until my dying day - he was just as magnificent and kind in person as he seemed to be. Majestic, regal and sweet all at the same time.

  5. Arlene-

    He was something wasn't he :)

  6. Kate-

    What a great detour to make - and just in time. You are so lucky!

    Have you by chance read Bill Nack's 1990 Sport's Illustrated article Pure Heart?

  7. I had scrapbooks of clippings for many of the Triple Crown races during my younger years - although I also remember being upset about some aspects of the sport, and remember feeling adamant that when I was an equine vet, I would not allow those things to slip through the cracks on my watch. Had I actually gone from pre-vet into vet school and beyond, I think I would have been in for a very rude awakening about how much I could do for horses. :/

  8. He was spectacular, still gives me goose bumps when I get a chance to watch the videos.

  9. Billie-

    I guess all we can do is take really good care of the ones we have now - I know you do!!

  10. What a great post. Thanks for posting the video and reminding us what an exciting time that was.
    I was also horse crazy from the time I was born! It's so great to be back into horses again.

  11. Unlike many equestrians, I never had any foreknowledge that in my 40s I would make up for all that time when I wasn't a horse crazy child. I haven't seen the movie yet but I certainly plan to! My TB mare has never been anywhere near a track but sometimes I swear she knows she has racehorse in her genes.

  12. Carol-
    I never realized until the publicity for this movie came out that Secretariat was the root of my horse craziness lol. And now I have my very own tb :)

  13. Hi Donna-

    You can afford lots of good horse stuff when you start being horse crazy later in life. For instance you don't have to settle for Breyer models - you can get a real horse!!

  14. OH, I have cried each time I watch!
    Thanks again for this!
    I mean to do a post about my little champion mare..she has the same 3 grandsires as Secretariat!
    Gals she never raced...since she is a handful on group rides now!


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