10/21/2004 12:00AM

Words as majestic as Big Red


ARCADIA, Calif. - At the end of the upcoming episode of "Woody's World" dedicated to the memory of Secretariat, the incomparable broadcast journalist Heywood Hale Broun fishes into his jacket, takes out his wallet, and displays to the camera a worn, laminated snapshot of a red horse in a green pasture.

"He's my pocket piece," Broun explains. "My good luck horse."

And a whole lot more. For the past 31 years, Secretariat has been the horse by which all others have been measured . . . and found wanting. Even as the Breeders' Cup approaches, with its array of fine animals from North America and abroad, there is the nagging realization that once the dust has settled at Lone Star Park on the evening of Oct. 30, there will be nothing remotely reminiscent of the heights to which Secretariat carried the game.

Thank goodness, then, for the miracle of film, tape, and a guy like Bud Lamoreaux, who is responsible for the ongoing "Woody's World" series on the ESPN Classic cable network. Delving into an Aztec treasure of video archives, Lamoreaux brings great chunks of sports history back to vivid life, as viewed through the prism of Broun's graceful narrative style.

"Nobody had ever done a kind of point-of-view television half-hour about Secretariat, and nobody has concentrated on showing the beauty of the horse," Lamoreaux noted. "Woody had that strange trail that led him to the horse before he even started. Then add to that some beautiful pictures of Secretariat and some of Woody's beautiful words."

For those who need a refresher, Broun was the fellow with the crazy-quilt sportscoat, the sweeping mustache, and the million-dollar vocabulary who never used a nickel word when a chewy, multisyllabic one would do.

Broun and Lamoreaux - journalist and producer, not to mention close friends - teamed for more than 500 "CBS Evening News" essays and big-event features during the 1960's and 1970's. From Olympics to Super Bowls, sporting endeavors large and small, Lamoreaux would provide the settings and broad outlines, while Broun filled in the rest, imbuing their subjects with a romantic lyricism that few stand-up commentators would dare try today.

Here, for example, is how Broun pondered the meaning of the freshly syndicated $6 million Secretariat about to make his 3-year-old debut:

"How much, one wonders, for the flying feet that carried him to Horse of the Year honors in his 2-year-old campaign? How much for the handsome head, which shows a resemblance to his father, the mighty Bold Ruler? How much for the smooth barrel of power from which flows his strength? One is left with that philosophic truth called gestalt, which says the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

Or this, as Broun set the stage after the big horse added the Preakness to his 1973 Kentucky Derby:

"So Secretariat stands on the edge of a Triple Crown, on tiptoe. Although this afternoon there were times he didn't seem so much on tiptoe as flying slightly above the earth, like one of those horses ancient Greek gods used to ride when in a hurry to get back to Olympus."

"Horse racing was Woody's favorite sport, and Secretariat was his favorite athlete," Lamoreaux said of Broun, who died in September of 2001. "He loved baseball, but not as much as he loved Secretariat."

It certainly shows in the "Woody's World" episode compiled by Lamoreaux. As told by Broun, the Secretariat story has a breadth and depth rivaling the timeless mythologies, living on as part of a culture's shared history in much the same way as does a World War or a Great Depression.

Besides the now-familiar stretch runs from those 1973 Triple Crown events, Lamoreaux - a four-time Eclipse Award winner - offers treats from his Secretariat-Woody Broun file that receive rare public showings. Among them are:

* The prescient features done by Broun at Kentucky's Claiborne Farm in 1970, the year Secretariat was foaled, and then at Virginia's Meadow Farm in early 1972, when Secretariat was among the untried 2-year-olds heading for the races.

* Broun's interrogation of the boyish, 23-year-old Seth Hancock as he set about the deadly serious grown-up task of syndicating Secretariat for a then-record $190,000 per share.

* A still-photo glimpse of the urbane Woody Broun astride a real, live horse and wearing what appears to be a genuine cowboy hat.

"That was up in Woodstock," Lamoreaux confirmed. "When Woody had a few bucks, later in life, he bought a couple horses. He was no Charlie Whittingham, but he was a pretty good horsebacker."

It is no coincidence that the Secretariat episode of "Woody's World" will air on ESPN Classic four times during Breeders' Cup week. By happy circumstance, the first showing will be at 7 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, Oct. 28, a date that marks the 31st anniversary of Secretariat's final race in the Canadian International at Woodbine. Subsequent showings are scheduled for 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. Eastern on Oct. 29, and 8 a.m. Eastern on Oct. 30, which sounds like a pretty good way to start a Breeders' Cup Day.