Secretariat loses battle with laminitis at age 19

April 23, 2015


Racing legend Secretariat was put down on Oct. 4, 1989, at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., after a month-long battle with laminitis. He was 19.

Nicknamed Big Red, the 16-2 hand copper-colored chestnut had three white stockings (right front and both hind legs) and a star, stripe and snip. He was born March 30, 1970, at the Chenery family’s Meadow Stud in Doswell, Va.

After Secretariat’s death, Claiborne Farm president Seth Hancock discussed the decision, saying Secretariat’s caretakers couldn’t stand to see him suffer. Hancock admitted that a radical procedure might have given the stallion a little more time but said Secretariat had been too good to the world to go through any more pain.

The horse developed laminitis on Sept. 4, 1989. He improved to the point that he could graze in a paddock, but he lost ground suddenly on Oct. 3, 1989, the day before he was euthanized.

In his racing career, he won 16 victories in 21 starts over 16 months with earnings of $1,316,808.

The first triple crown winner in 25 years, he broke the race records for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in 1973, and those records still stood as of 2015. He won the Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths with a record time of 1:59 2/5, the first sub-2 minute Derby. He ran a blistering early race in the Belmont Stakes and then kept picking up speed, winning by 31 lengths in 2 minutes 24 seconds, more than two seconds faster than the record.

In the runup to the Belmont, he appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated.

A son of Bold Ruler, he was out of Somethingroyal (by Princequillo).

Secretariat was trained by Lucien Laurin and ridden by jockey Ron Turcotte. Owner Peggy Chenery had him syndicated as a stallion for more than $6 million to save her father’s farm. The horse was retired to Claiborne Farm after his 3-year-old campaign. He stood for 16 seasons at Claiborne and sired 653 foals, 57 of them stakes winners.

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