Join 3,367 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

Tremendous Machine
October 2, 2010 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Secretariat - The Movie opens next week in the US. A feminist or a Christian angle might wring some suspense out of one of the least underdoggy sports stories ever filmed, but at least it's an excuse watch Secretariat's three perfect Triple Crown races again. The Kentucky Derby, relentless come-from-behind classic. For a sense of the speed-- the unfortunate Sham, coming in two lengths behind, is also breaking the track record.
The unique backstretch run in the Preakness Stakes, may well be the fastest a horse has ever moved. If you watch one race, it should be the transcendent Belmont Stakes. With Inspirational Soundtrack!

A fine stride-by-stride 15 minute documentary covering all three races was done a few years ago by CBS-- Pt 1, Pt 2), with interviews with many of the principals including Penny Chenery and Ron Turcotte.

His phenomenal abilities may be explained by his freakish greyhound-like stride angle, and his giant mutant heart.

12-year-old Big Red, bombing around a field for the heck of it.
posted by Erasmouse (28 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
> "I have high hopes people with middle-American values will enjoy it, and we know from screenings it resonates with progressives who like Penny's independence and strength," he said. "We celebrated the same values in Braveheart and We Were Soldiers, but those movies had an element of loss in them. With this movie, the audience is cheering like it's a rock concert."

"I feel we should Jesus-afy him by...ten percent or so."
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:40 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


That Belmont always brings me to tears.
posted by dilettante at 1:20 PM on October 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


"I told her what a hoot we all thought it was when these rich guys paid six million for Secretariat after his running days were over, since he was supposedly the most valuable stud on the face of the earth, and then he turned out to be a reticent breeder, which is a fancy way of saying homosexual. He wouldn’t go near a filly for all the sugar in Hawaii."

Sandi acted kind of shocked to hear this news about Secretariat’s sex life.

posted by ovvl at 1:52 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


At the Belmont, Secretariat ran each quarter faster than the previous quarter. When that horse hits the finish line he is still accelerating. It is, IMO, the most phenomenal athletic achievement of the 20th century.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:00 PM on October 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


Great post! Imagine being one of Sham's people - 2nd and record breaking in all those races!
posted by leslies at 2:02 PM on October 2, 2010


he turned out to be a reticent breeder, which is a fancy way of saying homosexual. He wouldn’t go near a filly for all the sugar in Hawaii.

That's bullshit. A reticent breeder just means he didn't march right in there and get the business done like professional stud farms prefer they do. It can be anything from shy of people watching to a stud that prefers to spend some time talking to the mare first. It's not a fancy way of saying homosexual because horses aren't people.

Secretariat bred plenty of mares and is a well noted broodmare sir. AP Indy, Seattle Slew and Storm Cat are all descendants of his.
posted by fshgrl at 2:05 PM on October 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


His phenomenal abilities may be explained by his freakish greyhound-like stride angle, and his giant mutant heart.

That stride angle web page is also nonsensical. The compare horses based on a single photo? They compare a horse to a cheetah which has a completely different spine that flexes as it runs allowing it to have a vastly longer stride for it's size as well as being able to leap and turn in a way a horse never could.
posted by fshgrl at 2:10 PM on October 2, 2010


That Belmont always brings me to tears.

Thank you for saying that. I feel a little less like a freak now...
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:40 PM on October 2, 2010


I remember seeing that Belmont race when I was a kid. I must have been visiting my dad in Kentucky; he loved the races, and I loved horses. Seeing it still brings chills (and tears).
posted by rtha at 3:15 PM on October 2, 2010


I predict that this film will disappoint many people who thought they were renting Secretary.
posted by Forktine at 3:51 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, at least there's saddles in both movies.
posted by jamaro at 4:10 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is, IMO, the most phenomenal athletic achievement of the 20th century.

In fairness, Jesse Owens wasn't being whipped.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:17 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


This seems as good a place as any to remember the tragic story of Secretariat's contemporary Ruffian, one of the greatest race horses in history. "As God as my witness, she may even be better than Secretariat." After her tragic death, my feelings about horse racing became fraught. You want tears, you got 'em.
posted by Morrigan at 4:28 PM on October 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ruffian. I saw that race, too - again, while I was visiting my dad - and I was inconsolable. She has always been my favorite.
posted by rtha at 4:37 PM on October 2, 2010


Thanks for this post; it's been a long time since I saw those races. Interesting that such a fuss is made over them each year (especially the Derby) and then in just a few minutes they're over. Also remarkable that Secretariat's speed records in the Derby and at Belmont still stand today, almost 40 years later.

It's amusing to me that the leader for most of that 1973 Derby was a horse named Shecky Greene. Greene, now 84, was a big deal onstage in Vegas in his day but I would guess he's been mostly forgotten in the 21st century.
posted by LeLiLo at 4:44 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


We owned a grandson of Secretariat when I was growing up. Running him full out was...like nothing else I have experienced since. It was like having an incredibly graceful steam engine between your legs. I miss that horse.
posted by nosila at 4:45 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sham - what a great horse. In the Kentucky Derby, even though he'd ripped out two teeth on the starting gate, he still came in second.

Preakness : Secretariat, Sham, Our Native 1:54.40

Kentucky Derby: Secretariat, Sham, Our Native 1:59.40

Wood Memorial : Angle Light, Sham, Secretariat 1:49.80

From an article in American Heritage Magazine, 1999 :

"Then, on May 5, 1973, a sleek black colt named Sham leaned out of the final turn in the lead in the ninety-ninth Kentucky Derby. The front-runners were finished, and though he had blood spraying from his chin after ripping two teeth loose in the starting gate, Sham was staging an epic performance. When he hit the wire seconds later, he would register a time fast enough to win every Derby in history with ease.

But Sham lost.

As he shot to the lead, an enormous red colt hurtled up behind him, running with fearsome, predatory lunges. He may have been the most awesome racing engine ever crafted. In his massive chest, which measured well over six feet around, beat a heart weighing some twenty-two pounds; at nearly three times normal size, it was the largest heart known to equine medicine. He pushed his 1,160 pound body over the earth with a twenty-four-foot three inch stride that, when analyzed by Professor George W. Pratt at MIT, proved to be the most efficient ever studied. According to Pratt, the colt’s race times were so fast that at the breed’s rate of improvement, elite horses wouldn’t catch up to him until 2064, ninety-one years later. He ran with a geometry of straight lines, precise turns, relentless, unflagging rhythm; the race caller Chick Anderson would call him “a tremendous machine.” His name was Secretariat.

He closed on Sham with a terrible inevitability, seeming to feed off of each grueling furlong; he was running each quarter-mile faster than the one before, an unprecedented feat. Sham fought like a tiger; Secretariat overwhelmed him. He hit the wire traveling at more than fifty-seven feet per second, halting the clock at l:59 2/5, a Derby time that has never been approached, before or since."
posted by HopperFan at 5:07 PM on October 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


Wow, memory lane. I was not-quite-12 that spring, and in my family and town, the excitement over these races was like the Beatles playing Shea Stadium times ten. Every adult gathered at our house was openly weeping during the Belmont -- and most of these were folks who didn't even follow horseracing. What a beautiful animal he was.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:43 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Great post, thanks. That stride angle link is a pretty interesting link. The unbeaten (she just won her 19th race!) Zenyatta either matches Secretariat's 110 degrees or is only 91.5 degrees, depending on who's doing the measuring.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:54 PM on October 2, 2010


Er, that should be "a pretty interesting read".
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:56 PM on October 2, 2010


he turned out to be a reticent breeder, which is a fancy way of saying homosexual. He wouldn’t go near a filly for all the sugar in Hawaii.

No, by all accounts Secretariat "liked the ladies", and got into his stud duties just like his racing -- with gusto :-)

The problem was that several of the first mares he bred didn't come into foal, and that when he was tested it was discovered that the sperm he produced included a higher-than-normal proportion of immature sperm. The situation righted itself soon, but not before there was some concern among some members of his breeding syndicate.
posted by e-man at 10:08 PM on October 2, 2010


To get a real sense of his Belmont Stakes victory: previously (sort of a self-link -- sorry)
posted by e-man at 10:10 PM on October 2, 2010


I just saw the stables where Secretariat was born last night as the State Fair of Virginia is now at The Meadow. The stables were a pretty big attraction for many of the visitors.
posted by SuzySmith at 11:31 PM on October 2, 2010


>In fairness, Jesse Owens wasn't being whipped.

Turcotte used the whip once in all three races- when he made his move in the Derby. He's not even using it coming down the homestretch of that race-- you can see him glance over at Sham and decide he doesn't need it. No whip at all (that I can see) in the Preakness, where the decision for the backstretch run seems to be the horse's (it might just be me, but Turcotte seems to hesitate at the :31 mark before deciding to just go with it). And definitely no whip in the Belmont- Turcotte's instructions were, "Just leave him alone. Just let him run." As a horse nut I'm ambivalent about racing, but what is so moving about Secretariat is the relaxed ease with which he runs. There's no tension, no fear- just pure joy in doing what his body was meant to do, the horse version of a Flow experience.

Not that I follow favorites or anything, but I like how 'favorited by' looks just like a race ticket!
posted by Erasmouse at 4:23 AM on October 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Turcotte used the whip once in all three races

Interesting. Though I suspect all the other horses racing against him were getting plenty.

I honestly don't mean to detract from Secretariat's magnificience as an animal - or the responses that magnificence evokes in us. But there was another horse called Barbaro. And his death convinced me that we can not press animals into service for our entertainment without giving rise to cruelty.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:18 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


This seems as good a place as any to remember the tragic story of Secretariat's contemporary Ruffian, one of the greatest race horses in history.

Wikipedia:

As she left the starting gate she hit her shoulder hard, straightened herself, and they were running. The first quarter-mile (402 m) was run in a blazing 22 1/5 seconds, with Ruffian ahead by a nose. Little more than 1 furlong (201 m) later, Ruffian was in front by half a length when both sesamoid bones in her right foreleg snapped. Vasquez tried to pull her up, but the filly wouldn't stop. "She went on running, pulverizing her sesamoids, ripping the skin of her fetlock as the bones burst through, driving the open wound into the sting sand of the Belmont track, tearing her ligaments, until her hoof was flopping uselessly, bent up like the tip of a ski."

She was immediately attended to by a team of four veterinarians and an orthopedic surgeon, and underwent an emergency operation lasting three hours. Tragically, when the anesthesia wore off after the surgery, she thrashed about wildly on the floor of a padded recovery stall as if still running in the race. Despite the efforts of numerous attendants, she began spinning in circles on the floor. As she flailed about with her legs, she repeatedly knocked the heavy plaster cast against her own elbow until the elbow, too, was smashed to bits. The cast slipped, and as it became dislodged it ripped open her foreleg all over again, undoing the surgery. The medical team, knowing that she would probably not survive more extensive surgery for the repair of her leg and elbow, euthanized her shortly afterwards.

posted by Joe Beese at 8:34 AM on October 3, 2010


My dad passed away from leukemia about 3 weeks ago. He was 65. Though we got along quite well, we never had much in common. One thing we did from my birth to his death was get together and watch the triple crown. Secretariat was his favorite horse of the thousands he had seen. Watching this movie will mean more than watching a movie to me, and I just wish he was here, because I sure would love to buy him a ticket and go see it with him.
posted by Senator at 5:59 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not knowing anything about horseracing, when I first saw the trailer for this I thought "Hrmm, didn't they already make this movie?" - turns out I was thinking about Seabiscuit
posted by antifuse at 1:25 PM on October 5, 2010


« Older Yogurt goes Galt. (With a little help from MeFi's ...  |  This is a story about how me a... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments