05/17/2011 11:59AM

No. 1 Preakness Moment: The Move, 1973


In the wake of Secretariat’s victory in 1973, the Maryland Racing Commission had to deal with hard evidence that the official time of 1:55 flat posted by the track was incorrect, and that Big Red had actually run the 1 3/16 miles in 1:53.40. At least, that was the time provided by various independent clockers, including Frenchy Schwartz of the Daily Racing Form, and verified by CBS video analysis. In its wisdom, track officials ended up accepting a time in between, depriving Secretariat of a Preakness and Pimlico record.

Like he cared. Secretariat’s time for the '73 Preakness was, as far as his legacy is concerned, meaningless. It was what he did around the clubhouse turn of the race that will live forever.

Going past the stands the first time, Secretariat was taking his usual early stroll, a big guy getting his act together. Ron Turcotte, approaching the first turn and sensing a modest pace, gave Secretariat the cue to pass a couple of horses, then a couple more -- all around the bend going at straightaway speed -- until they reached the backstretch on the verge of taking the outright lead.

From there Big Red never looked back.

Witnesses were stunned. Even good horses who might try a move like that would inevitably fade from the effort, and as soon as they got back, the jockey would be fired on the spot. Secretariat was different, though, and Turcotte left no doubts.

"If that move had failed, Turcotte would have come under a sharper and more unrelenting attack than he’d ever been under in his life," wrote Bill Nack, Secretariat’s biographer. "But Secretariat won under a hand-ride, without strong urging, so the move began to take on all the aspects of a masterstroke."

While Secretariat’s Kentucky Derby victory was fast and impressive, it unfolded in relatively conventional terms. On the other hand, his first turn in the Preakness was without precedent. It set the table for what was to come, raising expectations that only Secretariat could meet. Three weeks later, his 31-length win in the Belmont Stakes was breathtaking and awe-inspiring. But after what he’d done on the first turn of the Preakness, it was not really a surprise.

Jay Hovdey's Top 10 Preakness Moments

10. The Fairy Tale, 1971 (Canonero)
9. The Duel II, 1989 (Sunday Silence)
8. The Thriller, 1997 (Silver Charm)
7. The Duel, 1978 (Affirmed)
6. The Rumble, 1962 (Greek Money)
5. The Stumble, 2005 (Afleet Alex)
4. The Tragedy, 2006 (Bernardini)
3. The Filly, 2009 (Rachel Alexandra)
2. The Mugging, 1980 (Codex)
1. The Move, 1973 (Secretariat)