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With the Senate vote in 1978 to return the Panama Canal back to Panama in 1999, the nearly one hundred year history of Washington's involvement in the canal would come to an end. Photo: Panama Canal workers, circa 1906.
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Photo above: President Richard Nixon. Courtesy National Archives. Right: Statue of Secretariat at Belmont Park, 2014, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
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1973 - Detail
June 9, 1973 - In one of the most awesome displays of dominance in sports history, Secretariat wins the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths, winning the Triple Crown of United States Thoroughbred Racing for the first time since 1948.
Hard to put this into context, but when sports writers put the greatest achievements in sporting history in perspective, somewhere on that list, will likely be a non-human participant, and that participant will be Secretariat. By winning the Belmont Stakes and therefore, the first Triple Crown in twenty-five years, Secretariat became a legend in the horse racing world. But it was in the world in general, when the horse won that race in record time, 2:24 flat for the 1.5 mile race, and won by thirty-one lengths, it was perhaps the most dominant sport achievement in history.
Over fifty-two percent of the television viewing public watched the race, fifteen million viewers. He had been the prohibitive favorite, at 1 to 10 odds in the five horse race with jockey Ron Turcotte at the helm. The time of the race is still, more than forty years later, the Belmont Stakes record, as well as the American record on dirt for one and one half miles.
Horses in the field and finish: Secretariat 2:24, Twice a Prince, My Gallant, Pvt. Smiles, Sham.
Secretariat was born in 1970 with the sire Bold Ruler, also winner of the Preakness Stakes, and dam SomethingRoyal. He would grow to 16.2 hands, 66 inches with a stride of 24 feet 11 inches, weighing 1,155 pounds in April 1973. As a 2 year old, Secretariat lost his first race, finishing fourth, then won eight in a row, although he was disqualified in one, placed second for bearing in. As a 3 year old, he would race twelve times, winning nine. One of the losses was in the Wood Memorial, the final prep race before the Kentucky Derby. However, in the Kentucky Derby, he would dispel all doubts, winning in a track and race record time of 1:59 2/5, which still stands, and follow that up with victory in the Preakness Stakes.
The Belmont victory followed, as well as an impressive win at the Arlington Stakes only one and one-half weeks later. At Arlington, Secretariat's betting line was 1-20 with all other horses banded together on the betting line at 6-1.
It had been decided prior to racing as a three year old, that his three year old season would be his last. Secretariat was retired to stud after winning the Canadian International Stakes on October 28, 1973.
Belmont Stakes History
First run in 1867 at Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx built by Leonard Jerome and financed by namesake August Belmont, Sr., whose family became one of the leading breeders of Belmont winners. The oldest of the Triple Crown races, it was won by a filly named Ruthless in its maiden year and raced at Jerome Park until 1889. From 1890 until 1904, it was held at Morris Park Racecourse nearby. In May 1905, Belmont Park was opened, with the race held there, except for 1911-1912 when anti-gambling legislation closed the racecourse, and 1963-1967, when it was held at Aqueduct due to reconstruction of the Belmont grandstand.
Although the current race distance of a mile and one half has been run since 1926, as well as in the years 1875-1889, the Belmont Stakes was contested at other distances throughout its years. Other distances include a mile and five furlongs from 1867 to 1873; mile and one quarter in 1890-1892, 1895, 1904-1905; mile and one furlong 1893-4; and mile and three furlongs 1896-1903, 1906-1925. Purses began at $1,500 in 1867, in 2014, the purse was $1,500,000.
Many traditions have either begun with the Belmont Stakes or are part of its lore. The first post parade in United States racing history was held at the stakes in 1871. The August Belmont Memorial Cup is the trophy loaned to each winner since 1926 for one year, with miniature, in silver, to keep. Ever wonder when the Belmont Stakes began running in a counter-clockwise manner, try 1921.
Triple Crown Races were not designated officially until 1935, although it's acknowledged that Sir Belton won the three races now known in the series in 1919, and the term was first used when Gallant Fox achieved the feat in 1930. Twelve horses have won the designation as Triple Crown winners, with the last, in 2015, by American Pharoah.
Triple Crown Winners
Sir Belton ... 1919
Gallant Fox ... 1930
Omaha ... 1935
War Admiral ... 1937
Whirlaway ... 1941
Count Fleet ... 1943
Assault ... 1946
Citation ... 1948
Secretariat ... 1973
Seattle Slew ... 1977
Affirmed ... 1978
American Pharoah ... 2015
Photo above: Statue of Secretariat at Belmont Park, 2014, courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Photo below: Lithograph of Horse Racing at Jerome Park by William C. Robertson, 1868. Courtesy Library of Congress. Source info: Wikipedia Commons, Belmontstakes.com.
History Photo Bomb
Construction on the site of Expo 74, Spokane, Washington, one year before opening. Theme to be the Environment. May 1973. Photo: Environmental Protection Agency.
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