On what would have been the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby, which has been postponed to September 5 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat won a unique race on the first Saturday in May in NBC’s Triple Crown Showdown.
For the first time since World War II, the Kentucky Derby didn’t run on the first Saturday in May, so NBC and Churchill Downs partnered to create a virtual race between all 13 Triple Crown winners (horses who have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes), with fans giving back to COVID-19 relief. The race was simulated using present and historical handicapping and statistics.
The morning line odds had Secretariat as the favorite at 7/2, with 1948 winner Citation (4-1), 1978 winner Affirmed (5-1) and 1977 winner Seattle Slew (5-1) close behind. Secretariat broke well, but it was Seattle Slew who set the early pace. Bob Baffert‘s pair of recent Triple Crown winners, American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018), stared toward the back of the pack, with Justify bringing up the rear after a poor start.
Secretariat settled in the middle of the pack before gaining on Seattle Slew down the homestretch. He won in a close finish with Citation, with Seattle Slew finishing third, Affirmed taking fourth and American Pharoah going fifth.
Official order of finish for @KentuckyDerby Triple Crown Showdown:
13-Sir Barton pic.twitter.com/jflih5J0cg
— Churchill Downs PR (@DerbyMedia) May 2, 2020
Secretariat was unquestionably one of the greatest American racehorses ever. Penny Chenery’s big, red horse not only dominated each leg of the Triple Crown, but set records for all three races. Decades later, his Derby run still holds Churchill Downs’ 1 1/4 mile track record and his Belmont performance is still the fastest 1 1/2 mile dirt race in U.S. history. He was trained by Lucien Laurin and jockeyed by Ron Turcotte.
He set more records than he lost races and earned over $1.3 million in 21 starts. He was retired to stud after his 3-year-old season and became a successful broodmare sire. Famous enough to garner his own movie, festival, postage stamp and collection of over 200 U.S. streets named after him, Secretariat was listed at No. 35 in ESPN’s list of the 100 greatest North American athletes of the 20th century. He was euthanized in October of 1989 due to a severe case of laminitis, a hoof disease that can become debilitating. He was buried whole at Claiborne Farm, which is a rare occurrence for a horse.
Citation was the second Triple Crown winner for jockey Eddie Arcaro and breeder/owner Calumet Farm. After finishing his first year on the track as Champion Two-Year-Old, Citation easily won the Kentucky Derby by 3 1/2 lengths and the Preakness by 5 1/2 lengths. His Belmont Stakes win tied Count Fleet’s track record. He amassed a 16-race winning streak and became the first horse to win over $1 million in race earnings. He was retired to stud at Calumet after the 1951 Hollywood Gold Cup.
Seattle Slew was the first undefeated horse to win the Triple Crown. Despite getting stuck in the back of the pack at the beginning of the Kentucky Derby, he pulled out a 1 3/4-length win. He faced a number of intimidating competitors in the Preakness but won with one of the fastest times in the race’s history. Seattle Slew kept the Belmont tight until surging down the homestretch for a four-length win. He went on to grab five more wins in eight starts, closing out his career with a victory in the 1978 Stuyvesant Handicap. He sired over 500 winners and over 100 stakes winners, including Belmont and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner A.P. Indy.