This Day In Sports: Talk about a runaway victory…

June 9, 1973, 50 years ago today: Secretariat wins the Belmont Stakes by a staggering 31 lengths to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 25 years. Secretariat’s clinching run at the Belmont is considered to be the best performance in the history of the sport. To this day, the thoroughbred holds the track records for all three Triple Crown races. Secretariat was considered the No. 2 racehorse of the 20th century, behind legendary Man o’ War. There would be two more Triple Crown winners in the 1970s (Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978), but there would not be another until 2015.

Secretariat broke out of the gates last in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. At Churchill Downs, with jockey Ron Turcotte aboard, he made a charge entering the home stretch and beat Sham by 2½ lengths. At Pimlico, Secretariat went from last to first by the first turn and again triumphed by 2½ lengths over Sham. Then came the Belmont, where only four other horses were entered against Secretariat. As a 1-10 favorite, his crown was a foregone conclusion. Secretariat’s time of 2:24 was the fastest over 1½ miles on a dirt track in history. Twice A Prince finished second, but who remembers that?

In 2015, the 37-year Triple Crown drought, the longest ever, finally ended when American Pharoah romped to a 5½-length victory in the Belmont Stakes. American Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinoza led the grueling 1½-mile race wire to wire. Since Affirmed’s 1978 victory, 13 horses had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes only to fall short in the Belmont. Idaho native Gary Stevens, who rode Tale of Verve to a seventh-place finish that day at Belmont Park, had been runnerup to American Pharoah aboard Firing Line at the Kentucky Derby.

And it was five years ago today that the word “drought” did not apply, as Justify easily galloped to victory in the Belmont Stakes to take horse racing’s fabled trilogy. Three years after American Pharoah, Justify defeated nine other rivals at Belmont Park, the most ever faced in a finale by a Triple Crown champion. The track was dry and fast—Justify had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in sloppy conditions. Justify was the center of controversies ranging from a failed drug test to questionable racing tactics, but his name remains in the record books.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *