Happy Birthday to a Tremendous Machine: Secretariat and the Hopefulness of Spring

by Fran Jurga | 30 March 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

I’d like to interrupt this blog to wish a happy birthday to a dear old friend. Forty years ago today, Secretariat was born at The Meadows, a Thoroughbred breeding farm in rural Virginia. And the horse world would never be the same again.

Secretariat might not recognize his own birthplace if he galloped over the hill today. Things have changed. The Meadows is being transformed into a showground, and the bulldozers are at work.

Secretariat is just a memory for those of us who are old enough to say we experienced his 1973 Triple Crown. But what a memory.

For Secretariat fans may I recommend some feel-good reading today:

1. an article from hamptonroads.com about The Meadows and some Secretariat history from the Virginia point of view is worth reading. The photo at the top of this blog post is mirrored from a slide show with this article.

2. pull down Bill Nack’s Big Red of Meadow Stablefrom your bookshelf, dust it off, and read it again. It’s so good. And if you don’t have it…Amazon.com does. Better buy it before the movie comes out, the price is sure to skyrocket!

3. Read about the birthday party held by Mrs. Chenery (Secretariat’s owner) and friends for him this weekend at The Meadows. It should come as no surprise, but 300 people showed up! Apparently there’s a new book out about the farm and Secretariat. Click here to read the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s article about the party and see a nice slide show.

4. I just re-read Vicki Hearne’s The Thoroughbred Mutt, a wonderful short story from her collection Animal Happiness with the fanciful premise that Secretariat was actually sired by The Meadows’ teaser stallion.? For me, the words that Vicki Hearne ever strung together are like music. She was a gift to horse and animal writing.

For many of us, the greatest one-liner in all of sports history is the line, “He is moving like a tremendous machine!” There is no reference to a horse or a race in that sentence, but if you hear it, you know. You are there. You see a big red horse pulling away from the others as if they are standing still.

It defines a moment of joy in watching the impossibly brilliant and talented champion break not just the record books but the barrier between those who do and those who don’t know or care anything about horses or racing. Anyone, from anywhere, gets excited watching that race. And once they’ve seen the replay, everyone, from everywhere, almost remembers it as if he or she was there that day. That’s what witnessing history is all about, even if history was happening on television.

All this is a way of saying that we shouldn’t ever forget or discount the joy that Secretariat brought us. We relive it every time there’s a new Triple Crown season forming in front of a speedy crop of three-year-old colts. I believe that because many of us saw Secretariat in our lifetimes, we believe it could happen again and it keeps us hanging on around the edges of the crazy mixed-up sport of horse racing.

There’s just nothing else quite like it. And you just never know.

Follow @FranJurga on Twitter.com for more horse health news!




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