Revisiting Secretariat’s Controversial Preakness Time
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.