In 1973, Secretariat had become the biggest celebrity in the U.S. He appeared on the cover of Time Magazine after winning the Triple Crown that year, the first to do so in 25 years.
In front of 134,000 fans that day in the 1973 Kentucky Derby, Secretariat put away arch rival Sham and went on to win the Kentucky Derby in a record breaking time of 1:59 2/5. Within the race itself, Secretariat achieved the unheard of by running each quarter-mile segment faster than the one before it. This is known as “negative splitting” and is an extremely rare accomplishment for any horse. His successive quarter-mile times were 25 1/5, 24, 23 4/5, 23 2/5, and 23.
After going on to win a controversial Preakness, he showed up in New York for the Belmont.
It was there in the final leg of the Triple Crown that Secretariat would accomplish what would go down as one of the greatest achievements in sports history.
Down the backstretch, Secretariat began pulling away from Sham who was the only horse within reach of him at the time. At the top of the stretch, it was clear that he was going to be the Triple Crown winner. He won the 1973 Belmont by 31 lengths in a record time of 2:24, which still stands as the record to this day.
After his Triple Crown triumph, trainer Lucien Lauren was looking for a spot to run his champion 3-year-old colt.
An offer was made to Lucien Lauren to bring Secretariat to Chicago to run in the Arlington Invitational. With a purse increase, and some convincing of other trainers to test their horses against the champion, the field was set for the 1973 running of the race and Secretariat was set to face three other rivals.
In one of the greatest days of Arlington’s history, over 41,000 fans roared as Secretariat made his way down the home stretch beating My Gallant by nine lengths in his first start since his Triple Crown win.
Secretariat has since gone down as the greatest horse in racing history and that day in front of 41,000 people, he stamped himself in the history of Arlington.
Secretariat was retired a few years later and stood as a stud in Kentucky. In 1989, he was afflicted with laminitis which is a painful, and often an incurable hoof condition. His condition only got worse, and on October 4 he was euthanized. He is buried at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky.
By tradition, the only parts of a thoroughbred buried are their head (symbolizes intelligence), heart (symbolizes strength), and their legs (symbolizes power). Secretariat received the ultimate honor for a horse, as he was buried whole.