Horse Racing
Secretariat’s record-setting Belmont Stakes win to claim the Triple Crown still stands 50 years on
Horse Racing

Secretariat’s record-setting Belmont Stakes win to claim the Triple Crown still stands 50 years on

Published Jun. 7, 2023 7:42 p.m. ET

Secretariat winning the 1973 Belmont Stakes remains arguably the most impressive performance in the history of horse racing a half-century later.

His victory came by a record 31 lengths over the second-place finisher and in a record time of 2 minutes, 24 seconds to complete the 1 1/2-mile race and claim the Triple Crown.

"He was the type of horse that you’ll never see again," jockey Ron Turcotte said Wednesday, nearly 50 years to the day since riding Secretariat in the Belmont. "He was doing something that you’ve never seen before and will probably never see again."

Secretariat’s run in the Belmont is so legendary the racetrack has a pole inside the rail — in his signature blue-and-white checkered silks — marking where the next-closest horse was when he crossed the finish line.



The Triple Crown has been won only 13 times in all, with the first coming in 1919, and its history is marked by long droughts — decades in some cases. By the time the 1973 season arrived, horse racing had not had a Triple Crown champion since Citation in 1948.

Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, each by 2 1/2 lengths over Sham, and had become a superstar with the television era in full swing — a far cry from the ’40s. Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and Time magazine all featured Secretariat on the cover before the Belmont.

"You’re talking about a true cultural phenomenon before the race and the anticipation and all eyes on that," said Leonard Lusky, president of "To scratch that collective itch of a nation waiting for this wonderful moment in sports, it happened."

Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., who rode Sham, has said he thought his horse would win the Derby, could win the Preakness and had no chance in the Belmont.

[2023 Belmont Stakes odds, predictions: Favorites, picks and more]

Secretariat was such a sure thing that there was no show wagering allowed, meaning no one could bet on him finishing in the top three. Turcotte worked Secretariat for 1 1/4 miles at the same speed they ran the Derby.

"After that, I was very confident," he said. "I wanted him to peak at the Belmont."


Turcotte figured he would take Secretariat out to the lead and that Pincay and Sham would try to keep up given their spirited races earlier that season. The two horses separated from the rest of the pack, and Turcotte took Secretariat inside without much worry when Sham passed by.

"It looked like a match race, and it was kind of a match race," Turcotte said. "But we still had to go a mile and a half, and I knew it."

Sham started to fade, and Turcotte noticed Secretariat was breathing well under him. He said to himself, "That’s good."

And it got better.


Halfway through the race, it was over.

Secretariat had run the fastest 3/4-mile in Belmont history in just under 70 seconds. By the time he pulled 10 lengths ahead of Sham, the camera had to pan out to show how massive the lead was.

"Secretariat is widening now!" track announcer Chic Anderson said during one of the most memorable race calls in history. "He’s moving like a tremendous machine!"


Secretariat made the final turn around the corner toward the Belmont grandstand all alone, and Turcotte finally saw the crowd making the same movements as he was on the horse.

"A lot of people were jumping up and down," he said. "Once I got closer, I could hear a lot of them cheering me on. It was something that you don’t see every day."

As Anderson was telling his listeners that the lead had reached 22 lengths, Turcotte looked at the clock on the infield that read 1:59, knowing Secretariat would shatter the race record. He crossed the finish line with ease, with Twice a Prince a very distant second and My Gallant an even more distant third.

"There’s nothing that I’ve ever seen even remotely like it because the fractions that he ran and the way he did it, it was otherworldly," Lusky said.


Secretariat galloped so nicely after the wire that Turcotte thought he would’ve also broken the record for the fastest 1 5/8-mile.

"I still had a lot of horse when I passed the wire," Turcotte said. "He was not tired."

Turcotte’s only regret was not taking Secretariat past the grandstand so the adoring crowd could see him up close — much slower than he was running. He would not have been able to forgive himself if anything bad happened, so he decided against it.

The Preakness was Turcotte’s favorite, also in record time after a lengthy debate, and he has said the Belmont might have been Secretariat’s easiest race.

"It was amazing," Turcotte said. "I was amazed with that horse all along."


Secretariat’s first quarter-mile was :23 3/5 seconds, the half-mile in :46 1/5, 3/4 of a mile in 1:09 4/5, the mile in 1:34 4/5, 1 1/4 mile in 1:59 and the final time was of course 2:24 — all records for the Belmont Stakes.

"I don’t think there’s any other horse who’s ever run a race would have beaten him at that moment, at that day, on that track," Lusky said. "He was at the very top of his game in a signature moment when everybody was watching."

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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