Revisiting Secretariat’s Controversial Preakness Time

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Triple Crown winner Secretariat holds the Churchill Downs track record for the mile and a quarter distance of the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Park record for the mile and a half of the Belmont, but the Pimlico track record for a mile and three-sixteenths has been in dispute since Big Red won the 1973 Preakness by 2 ½ lengths.

At the request of Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, and Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, the Maryland Racing Commission will conduct a hearing on June 19 at Laurel Park to consider new evidence that Secretariat should be credited with that track record as well.

The electronic timer at Pimlico recorded a winning time of 1:55 for Secretariat, but independent clockers for Daily Racing Form hand-timed the son of Bold Ruler in 1:53 2/5, nearly two seconds (approximately eight lengths) faster. In the controversy that followed, stewards concluded there were “extenuating circumstances” involving the electronic timer and changed Secretariat’s “official” winning time to 1:54 2/5, the time reported by Pimlico’s clocker using a stopwatch. Daily Racing Form has continued to recognize its 1:53 2/5 final time.

The Maryland Jockey Club Media Guide lists 11 times as faster than Secretariat’s, including Canonero II’s 1:54 in the 1971 Preakness. Curlin (2007), Louis Guatorze (1996), and Tank’s Prospect (1985) are credited as sharing the track record with a final time of 1:53 2/5.

“For me, revisiting this dispute on a new day is matter of resolution – for historians, for sportswriters and for racing fans,” Chenery said in a press release. “Their voices are supported by sound evidence, and they deserve to be heard.”

“During the last 40 years, video technology has been accepted in other professional sports as a supportive mechanism for officials to ensure fairness and accuracy in their decisions,” said Chuckas. “It is important for horse racing and the record books to confirm the correct time in this historical race. It is the appropriate thing to do.”

Included in the evidence expected to be presented to the Maryland Racing Commission is split-screen video compiled by Sandy Grossman, the eight-time Emmy Award-winning director who was with CBS when Secretariat won the Triple Crown.

The commission meeting, open to the public, begins at 1 p.m.

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  • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

    I’m curious as to what the new evidence will be.  I thought the split screen thing was already done and was pretty conclusive in my eyes when I saw it.  Hope they at least finally resolve the issue.  You would thing there would be some sort of computer program out there now that has a timer that you can sync to the video to start and end when you want.

    • Perryn842

      There is.  It’s called Premiere Elements by Adobe.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

      They actually reviewed the tape backward and found the timer started when the horses were in the gate rather than 50-60 feet from the starting gate, when timers typically begin.  The time was actually faster than the two DRF clockers.  The DRF accepted the new findings.

  • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

    I’m curious as to what the new evidence will be.  I thought the split screen thing was already done and was pretty conclusive in my eyes when I saw it.  Hope they at least finally resolve the issue.  You would thing there would be some sort of computer program out there now that has a timer that you can sync to the video to start and end when you want.

  • Convene

    It would be nice to get this resolved once and for all. My belief is that he does indeed own the record – but beliefs don’t count. I’ll be interested to hear how this plays out.

    • Glimmerglass

      Owns the record or shares the record? The DRF’s official time puts Secretariat in a four-way tie.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

        He got the record–finally.  Forensics don’t lie.

  • Convene

    It would be nice to get this resolved once and for all. My belief is that he does indeed own the record – but beliefs don’t count. I’ll be interested to hear how this plays out.

  • Glimmerglass

    Owns the record or shares the record? The DRF’s official time puts Secretariat in a four-way tie.

  • David

    Recall CBS (Broadcaster of record in those days) did a split real time, split screen of the ’71 and ’73 Preakness.  They broke each tape at the gate and at the respective finishes Big Red had reached the line slightly ahead of Canonero.  Why is this still controversial?

    • LongTimeEconomist

      Remember that timing doesn’t start when the gate opens, but when the first horse hits the 3/16 pole. Having said that, I doubt it will make any difference from the comparison you mention.

      • Lory

        the time starts when the flag man drops his flag -did at that time the photo finish operator was responsible for starting timer in photo finish camera. with QH the opening of circuit on two of the gates would start the clock .

      • David

        Who the hell cares?  Unless the gate was in different positions and someone moved the finish line, you’re saying what?

  • David

    Recall CBS (Broadcaster of record in those days) did a split real time, split screen of the ’71 and ’73 Preakness.  They broke each tape at the gate and at the respective finishes Big Red had reached the line slightly ahead of Canonero.  Why is this still controversial?

  • LongTimeEconomist

    Remember that timing doesn’t start when the gate opens, but when the first horse hits the 3/16 pole. Having said that, I doubt it will make any difference from the comparison you mention.

  • Sandra Warren

    The timer had been malfunctioning all week.  Two different news media captured the race with their stopwatches with the same record-breaking time.  The CBS video shows Secretariat running faster than the previous record holder.  But for some reason, the Maryland commission just won’t believe their lying eyes.  Long overdue.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

      And actually the new forensic evidence showed Secretariat had actually run FASTER than the DRF clockers.

  • Sandra Warren

    The timer had been malfunctioning all week.  Two different news media captured the race with their stopwatches with the same record-breaking time.  The CBS video shows Secretariat running faster than the previous record holder.  But for some reason, the Maryland commission just won’t believe their lying eyes.  Long overdue.

  • Cicada

    Secretariat deserves the record. As it still stands, his move on the tight Pimlico turns swooping around the field will stand alone as one of the greatest moves in a triple crown race. All these years later and his Belmont still gives me goosebumps.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1819791753 Jackie Bell

      The movie has been on HBO a lot, and if I run across the last part which are the races I will watch it again. I still bet goosebumps also. I was there for The Kentucky Derby, hat, mint juilip and all the splendor. I am from Paducah KY. so, “My Old Kentucky Home,” get’s me too. I, “secured some mint from the infield,” and still have it growing wild. I did give a lot of it away to friends. The Belmont is on my birthday and I will never forget that horse and his run. He is the greatest race horse of all time…I think. WOW! I liked Seabiscuit also.

  • Cicada

    Secretariat deserves the record. As it still stands, his move on the tight Pimlico turns swooping around the field will stand alone as one of the greatest moves in a triple crown race. All these years later and his Belmont still gives me goosebumps.

  • Palmtreestable

    What about the power outage ?

  • Palmtreestable

    What about the power outage ?

  • voiceofreason

    Just go to the video tape and be done with it, once and for all.

  • voiceofreason

    Just go to the video tape and be done with it, once and for all.

  • Rwm440

    Geeesh what is next, are we going to clone Secretariat and have him at stud?

    • Joeham

      the greatest horse of my time.you must be to to young to remember,sorry you missed the greatest

  • Rwm440

    Geeesh what is next, are we going to clone Secretariat and have him at stud?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1819791753 Jackie Bell

    The movie has been on HBO a lot, and if I run across the last part which are the races I will watch it again. I still bet goosebumps also. I was there for The Kentucky Derby, hat, mint juilip and all the splendor. I am from Paducah KY. so, “My Old Kentucky Home,” get’s me too. I, “secured some mint from the infield,” and still have it growing wild. I did give a lot of it away to friends. The Belmont is on my birthday and I will never forget that horse and his run. He is the greatest race horse of all time…I think. WOW! I liked Seabiscuit also.

  • Sawise8

    It’s about time they correct the time for Secretariat’s historic win by a record 31 lengths.

    • Sawise8

      Actually, Secretariat won the Belmont by 31 lengths. Sorry for any confusion.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

        No, you’re not sorry because you think correcting a track error is somehow “revisionism.”  You clearly weren’t even around when the Preakness controversy first happened.  This isn’t “revisionism” or a “do-over”–this is correcting the record.  This is about truth.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

      Do you have a point here?  Or do you thrive on making a fool out of yourself?

  • Sawise8

    It’s about time they correct the time for Secretariat’s historic win by a record 31 lengths.

  • Sawise8

    Actually, Secretariat won the Belmont by 31 lengths. Sorry for any confusion.

  • Bymany

    With current technology, this should be easy to resolve.  Let’s resolve it.  Secretariat posted the fastest Derby time, ever (1:59&2/5). He finished the Belmont in an incredible 2:24, meaning he averaged 12 seconds / furlong over a 12 furlong race. My guess is an accurate clocking of the 1973 Preakness will prove Big Red owns that record as well.  It’s “time” to settle this issue.

  • Bymany

    With current technology, this should be easy to resolve.  Let’s resolve it.  Secretariat posted the fastest Derby time, ever (1:59&2/5). He finished the Belmont in an incredible 2:24, meaning he averaged 12 seconds / furlong over a 12 furlong race. My guess is an accurate clocking of the 1973 Preakness will prove Big Red owns that record as well.  It’s “time” to settle this issue.

  • Ida Lee

    I know it and everybody who saw the race knows it…Secretariat set the new record for the Preakness. I’v never cared what the MRC or MJC or anybody else said was the official time for the race.
    Let’s see…he set the record at a mile and a quarter, he set the record in the most ridiculously outrageous Belmont at a mile and a half but he did not run at a record pace in the easiest (I think) of the 3 TC races at a mile and 3/16th? I don’t think so!!! For me, every Preakness is judged by Secretariat time.

  • Ida Lee

    I know it and everybody who saw the race knows it…Secretariat set the new record for the Preakness. I’v never cared what the MRC or MJC or anybody else said was the official time for the race.
    Let’s see…he set the record at a mile and a quarter, he set the record in the most ridiculously outrageous Belmont at a mile and a half but he did not run at a record pace in the easiest (I think) of the 3 TC races at a mile and 3/16th? I don’t think so!!! For me, every Preakness is judged by Secretariat time.

  • Lory

    the time starts when the flag man drops his flag -did at that time the photo finish operator was responsible for starting timer in photo finish camera. with QH the opening of circuit on two of the gates would start the clock .

  • Joeham

    the greatest horse of my time.you must be to to young to remember,sorry you missed the greatest

  • http://www.facebook.com/SaveStallions Mary Adkins-Matthews

    I think maybe they should revisit that this horse was bred until his feet were about to fall off.. what do you think about that one?   I mean he was a great horse and we all know it… MOVE ON for crying out loud 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

      Don’t come on and make idiotic statements if you don’t know what in the hell you are talking about.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/SaveStallions Mary Adkins-Matthews

    I think maybe they should revisit that this horse was bred until his feet were about to fall off.. what do you think about that one?   I mean he was a great horse and we all know it… MOVE ON for crying out loud 

  • David

    Who the hell cares?  Unless the gate was in different positions and someone moved the finish line, you’re saying what?

  • Perryn842

    There is.  It’s called Premiere Elements by Adobe.

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    they need to spell LOUIS QUATORZES (MR. SUNSHINE) name right…PLEASE…we love that GUY!!!…

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    they need to spell LOUIS QUATORZES (MR. SUNSHINE) name right…PLEASE…we love that GUY!!!…

  • Nancy

    Ida Lee – You said it perfectly! It is time for the Maryland racing authority to wake up and smell the coffee!

  • Nancy

    Ida Lee – You said it perfectly! It is time for the Maryland racing authority to wake up and smell the coffee!

  • BenKMcFadden

    Secretariat may be the greatest racehorse in the last half of the 20th century.  Nonetheless, changing things now smacks of revisionist history.

    Just because we haven’t had another Secretariat does mean it is appropriate to change the records to create a new “hero” for a sport that currently lacks one. 

    How many races of other notable horses have been reviewed to verify times?  Maybe they weren’t as good as originally published.  Let’s see how many we can change to suit the racing gods.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

      It’s not revisionist–it has always been disputed from the day Secretariat won the Preakness.  Pimlico always acknowledged the timer screwed up but felt bound to the rules at the time, as absurd as they were despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary Secretariat had set a stakes and track record. You sound terribly ignorant about the controversy or not even born when Secretariat won the Triple Crown.

      The time change is HISTORICAL TRUTH–NOT revisionism.

  • BenKMcFadden

    Secretariat may be the greatest racehorse in the last half of the 20th century.  Nonetheless, changing things now smacks of revisionist history.

    Just because we haven’t had another Secretariat does mean it is appropriate to change the records to create a new “hero” for a sport that currently lacks one. 

    How many races of other notable horses have been reviewed to verify times?  Maybe they weren’t as good as originally published.  Let’s see how many we can change to suit the racing gods.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

    He got the record–finally.  Forensics don’t lie.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

    They actually reviewed the tape backward and found the timer started when the horses were in the gate rather than 50-60 feet from the starting gate, when timers typically begin.  The time was actually faster than the two DRF clockers.  The DRF accepted the new findings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

    It’s not revisionist–it has always been disputed from the day Secretariat won the Preakness.  Pimlico always acknowledged the timer screwed up but felt bound to the rules. You sound terribly ignorant about the controversy.

    The time revision is HISTORICAL TRUTH–NOT revisionism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

    Don’t come on and make idiotic statements if you don’t know what in the hell you are talking about.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

    Do you have a point here?  Or do you thrive on making a fool out of yourself?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

    No, you’re not sorry because you think correcting a track error is somehow “revisionism.”  You clearly weren’t even around when the Preakness controversy first happened.  This isn’t “revisionism” or a “do-over”–this is correcting the record.  This is about truth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215290544 Susan Nunes

    And actually the new forensic evidence showed Secretariat had actually run FASTER than the DRF clockers.

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