Monday, November 26, 2007

One More Horse Story

The Writer wrote Horses in the Wind because she loves the Seabiscuit story, but also as a tribute to racehorses. A few years ago, The Writer attended a special celebration for Secretariat.

Secretariat was born in Caroline County, Virginia, not too far from where The Writer lives. The horse was nicknamed "Big Red" because he was a big, chestnut Thoroughbred. In 1973, Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby, setting a record, and then the Preakness. The final leg in the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes. What happened at Belmont that year has never been seen before or since in the history of horse racing. The Belmont course is long--a mile and a half--and is held only two weeks after the Preakness. Not much time for a horse to recover from two major races.

When The Writer attended this celebration, she met Penny Chenery, Secretariat's owner, and Secretariat's jockey. But she really didn't know much about the horse, so she watched the video taken of that historic race. She sat on the floor in the dark auditorium and could not believe her eyes. There were only 5 horses in the field that day. Secretariat overtook them all, even his rival, Sham. He had won the race before it was half over. But the horse didn't stop running. He ran and ran and ran. His jockey didn't pull up or ask anything of his horse. He let Secretariat go. The horse was running because he could. When it was over, Secretariat had won by an astonishing 31 lengths (a length is the length of a horse, the unit of measurement in horse racing). And had set a world record of 2:24.

Secretariat is listed number 35 in ESPN's Top 100 Athletes of the Twentieth Century, one of three horses. (Man O'War, considered to be the greatest racehorse ever, is 84 and Citation is 97). Secretariat was a big, beautiful, powerful animal. Go, Big Red!

You know, I can run pretty fast myself.

Only when somebody turns on the can opener.

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