snopes.com Post new topic  Post a reply
search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hello snopes.com » Archived Forums » Sports Archive » Secretariat

 - UBBFriend: Email this page to someone!    
Author Topic: Secretariat
snopes
Return! Return! Return!


Icon 502 posted      Profile for snopes   Author's Homepage   E-mail snopes       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Comment: Question about a Sports urban legend.

The famous thoroughbred race horse Secretariat was found to have a 'trick'
heart, two and one-half times larger than the heart of an ordinary horse, when
he was autopsied after his death.

This is being used to 'explain' Secretariat's unbeatable, legendary performance
on the race track.

Posts: 36029 | From: Admin | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
megaira, redhot fiery fury
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 502 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
The autopsy was supposedly done at University of Kentucky, but a search of their website turns up everything from the QH stud, Impressive's, genetic defects, to cloning Secretariat...but nothing about an oversized heart.

One webpage is saying 22 lbs, another says 18... this site says Secretariat's competitor, Sham, had an 18lb heart (the only Sham I've ever heard of was the Arabian Marguerite Henry wrote about, but then, I'm not a big racing fan). Yet another person claims Secretariat's lungs were 2.5x bigger than normal.

This and the site that claims Secretariat's and his "old rival, Sham" both had double sized hearts, also claim this was a trait in that horse's pedigree and part of the bloodline. They claim that the term "has heart" (defined below) was originally literal.

It's always been a saying in racing that a horse who wins races has great 'heart.' This is figurative, of course, and not **entirely** literal..while a bigger heart is an asset, it's not entirely what makes a great racehorse.

My theory (until proven otherwise) would be that some folks were not content for the animal to just be a legend- he had to be the stuff of "living legend" and so he was attributed with a nearly supernatural physical feature to make him more 'unique." IMO, for him to have a normal size heart and accomplish what he did makes him more unique in my eyes.

A google turned up this page... where there is a Dr. Swerczek (the man attributed to discovering the large heart) and he is indeed a vet, however, he is not at UK. I dropped an email to one of the pathologists listed on the site asking for help with the legend.

I will also email/call (tomorrow) the University of Kentucky and see if there's anyone who has any information.

Meg

IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Jow Kewl
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 37 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by megaira, redhot fiery fury:

...(the only Sham I've ever heard of was the Arabian Marguerite Henry wrote about, but then, I'm not a big racing fan).

Sham was an extraordinary racehorse who was Secretariat's main challenger in the 1973 Triple Crown series.

When Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby and broke the stakes record, Sham (who finished 2 1/2 lengths behind him) also broke the record, and was well ahead of the third-place finisher.

When Secretariat won the Preakness, Sham once again came in 2 1/2 lengths back for second.

In the Belmont, the two got caught up early in the race in what's commonly referred to as a "suicidal speed duel" - both battling full-out neck and neck to wrest the lead from the other. Predictably, Sham tired entering the stretch. However, Secretariat kept right on going, eventually demolishing the field by an incredible 31 lengths in what some feel was the greatest performance by a racehorse of all time. The stretch call of that race is legendary among racing fans ("Secretariat is moving like a tremendous machine...") In the process, he set a world record for 1 1/2 miles which still stands to this day.

Had it not been for Secretariat, Sham may have joined the elite list of Triple Crown winners and gone down in history.

To address the original question, I believe the statement that Secretariat had a heart almost twice the normal size can be traced back to a posthumous article written in Sports Illustrated by William Nack. He was quoting the doctor who performed the necropsy.

But Secretariat was a very big horse in general. When he was a two-year-old, he was already as big as other three-year-olds.

P.S.: He was NOT a zebra.

IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Sparverius, Dragon of Eden
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 01 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Joe, I remember hearing that homestretch call on Secretariat. Thanks for reminding me - it still sends shivers up my spine.
IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Cure the Blues
We Three Blings


Icon 502 posted      Profile for Cure the Blues     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Jow Kewl:
In the Belmont, the two got caught up early in the race in what's commonly referred to as a "suicidal speed duel" - both battling full-out neck and neck to wrest the lead from the other. Predictably, Sham tired entering the stretch.

I just recently reread Nack's account of the Belmont. Poor, poor Sham. He was suffering immensely, finished last, and was retired soon afterward. Apparently it was the trainer's idea to hook Sec, and that's what broke the horse. Turcotte (Sec's rider) apparently had no idea they were going that fast because his horse was moving with supreme ease. This despite Sham's obvious agony as he tried to keep up through scorching fractions.

I *think* Sec did have a larger-sized heart than normal. He had a large, big-barreled chest that could accomodate it. Although one shouldn't get too caught up in beautifully conformed Adonis horses. The former handicap horse John Henry is small, weedy, and has ugly-looking legs...but he has an amazingly efficient gallop with no wasted motion.

--------------------
"Of all the Daliesque tourist traps in the world, we had to walk into this one."

Posts: 1186 | From: Columbus, OH | Registered: Jul 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
LizzyJingleBells
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


Icon 37 posted      Profile for LizzyJingleBells   Author's Homepage     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Sparverius, Dragon of Eden:
Joe, I remember hearing that homestretch call on Secretariat. Thanks for reminding me - it still sends shivers up my spine.

What I would have given to be around to actually see it in 1973. I wasn't even a gleam in my parent's eye at the time.

Whenever I see it rerun though, I almost cry. Yes, it's a pity it almost killed Sham, but seeing Secretariat run like that is truely one of the greatest things that has ever happened in sports.

ESPN Classic does a show (Sports Centruy perhaps?) where they spend an hour recaping the achievments of a particular athelte. The one on Secretariat is fantastic to watch, horse lover or not.

I have heard, in all my time watching horse racing, that Secretariate had a larger than average heart. It will be interesting to see what Meg's research turns up.

Lizzy "the heart of a champion" Bean

--------------------
Come on, come on, we were once upon a time in love
If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice. - Meister Eckhart My Blog

Posts: 7725 | From: Columbus, Ohio | Registered: Nov 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
megaira, redhot fiery fury
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 102 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Thanks Jow...I know a few names of race horses, but that's about it...I don't follow the races too much. Kind of a bummer, that would have been an awesome race to see/hear at the time.
And yes, I do know the difference between a horse and a zebra! [Razz] I just went for the closest smiley for the moment.

I got an email this morning, Dr. Swerczek is still at University of Kentucky and in that department (the page I posted didn't identify itself as University of Kentucky -well, it did in a way, but the "ca" threw me off). At any rate, Dr. Williams says:

"The only way the statement about the heart
would be valid is to have recorded weight and measurements for
comparison to norms. I don't believe this was done. I believe it was
only a stated opinion."

He left a phone number for Dr. Swerczek, so I'll call today and find out.

[Smile]

IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
megaira, redhot fiery fury
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 303 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Yup, it's true!

I spoke with Dr. Swerczek a few minutes ago and he verified that both Sham and Secretariat had unusually large healthy hearts.

He mentioned that the X-Factor book was based on this... I linked to the webpage in my first post, not realizing it was a literal book (this is what I get for speed reading over a webpage). So if anyone wants to further research it, they can check out the book.

http://www.horseinfo.com/cart/xfactor.html

[Smile]

IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
LizzyJingleBells
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


Icon 102 posted      Profile for LizzyJingleBells   Author's Homepage     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
*Stands up and applauds Meg for her research*

Wow, I can't believe you did all of this to find out the size of a horses heart. Secretariat and Sham would be proud. [Wink]

--------------------
Come on, come on, we were once upon a time in love
If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice. - Meister Eckhart My Blog

Posts: 7725 | From: Columbus, Ohio | Registered: Nov 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Cure the Blues
We Three Blings


Icon 502 posted      Profile for Cure the Blues     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Oh, thank you, Meg!! That site explains something I've been wondering about Secretariat for some time. He was a decent sire, but nothing special...but as a broodmare sire, there were few better than Sec. IOW, a lot of Sec's ability (and, possibly, his heart size) were inherited from his mom, Somethingroyal. Secretariat was a fabulous damsire because these genes are only active if they're inherited through the female line.

Hmm...I wonder if this increased heart size would apply to two of my favorite Thoroughbreds, Thunder Gulch and his son Point Given. Both were exceptionally wide in the girth. PG had to have a special girth made just to fit his huge chest. Thunder Gulch was deceptive because he was pretty short, but he too had a broad chest.

--------------------
"Of all the Daliesque tourist traps in the world, we had to walk into this one."

Posts: 1186 | From: Columbus, OH | Registered: Jul 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
megaira, redhot fiery fury
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 01 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
IOW, a lot of Sec's ability (and, possibly, his heart size) were inherited from his mom, Somethingroyal.
Whoops! Yes, I'm sorry, the conversation covered this as well. [Smile] The one page at the UKY website was discussing cloning - but as far as his heart goes, cloning (which he mentioned, does not produce an exact duplicate! He said there are coat variations, etc.) Secretariat would be pointless, as he could not pass down the large heart - it has to come from the Dam. So, hey, clone her and see what happens. [Wink]
IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Silence Dogood
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 201 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
For those interested ... on this page is a clip of Secretariat's Belmont run.

It's not the greatest quality in the world, but it's still fun to watch.

Silence "down the stretch they come" Dogood

IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Hot Sparverius in the Summertime
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 500 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Sigh. What memories....

For a study in contrasts, watch the Secretariat clip (with the cameraman struggling to find the other horses after Big Red crosses the wire), with the neck-and-neck Alydar/Affirmed thriller.

The 70's - whatever else you can say about 'em, they were great for horseracing.

IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Cure the Blues
We Three Blings


Icon 502 posted      Profile for Cure the Blues     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Hot Sparverius in the Summertime:
For a study in contrasts, watch the Secretariat clip (with the cameraman struggling to find the other horses after Big Red crosses the wire), with the neck-and-neck Alydar/Affirmed thriller.

I now have a burning urge to find out the fractions of both races. I think Aly/Affirmed had a sharp early pace but they were slowing down in the stretch. Amazingly, all of Sec's fractions were 12 and 4/5 seconds per furlong or faster.

Poor Aly...if anyone sees a good replay, watch him. He's on the wrong lead, and never did change leads easily in any of his races. I keep thinking if only he had switched to his right lead, he might have gone past. At least his son Easy Goer made up for this by winning the Belmont in the second fastest time (The only time I've ever rooted against a Triple Crown...I loved big Easy and was thrilled to see him go past horses like they were tied to a post).

A pity that site doesn't have the Bid's Belmont run. I keep hearing about the boneheaded ride his jock gave him, and would like to see just how terrible it really was. The Bid really should have won the TC. That horse was truly remarkable to overcome so many bad rides by his jockey. Damn shame his luck ran out in the Belmont.

--------------------
"Of all the Daliesque tourist traps in the world, we had to walk into this one."

Posts: 1186 | From: Columbus, OH | Registered: Jul 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Jow Kewl
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 01 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
And yes, I do know the difference between a horse and a zebra! I just went for the closest smiley for the moment.
I trust you realize I was joking, in reference to the whole "Mr. Ed was a zebra" thing. Besides, snopes used the zebra icon too, so he started it. [Smile]

quote:
*Stands up and applauds Meg for her research*
Yes, way to go, Meg!

quote:
IOW, a lot of Sec's ability (and, possibly, his heart size) were inherited from his mom, Somethingroyal. Secretariat was a fabulous damsire because these genes are only active if they're inherited through the female line.
Very interesting - I didn't know that. Of course, his sire Bold Ruler was no slouch either.

quote:
...with the neck-and-neck Alydar/Affirmed thriller.
Almost every race those two ran against each other ended in a neck-and-neck stretch duel down to the wire. I believe in one of their races, when they hooked up at the top of the stretch, the announcer even said, "Here they go again!"

If you've never seen it, hunt down a tape of the 1962 Travers between Jaipur and Ridan. It was a little before my time, but I've got it on video. The two came out of the gate nose and nose and ran around the entire track as virtually one horse. Talk about exciting! [Smile]

quote:
Poor Aly...if anyone sees a good replay, watch him. He's on the wrong lead, and never did change leads easily in any of his races. I keep thinking if only he had switched to his right lead, he might have gone past.
Yep, John Veitch never could get Alydar to change leads properly. Also, he was usually a come-from-behind horse, while Affirmed ran on the lead and dictated the pace, which gave Affirmed an advantage. But they were both great racehorses.
IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Cure the Blues
We Three Blings


Icon 502 posted      Profile for Cure the Blues     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Jow Kewl:
Very interesting - I didn't know that. Of course, his sire Bold Ruler was no slouch either.

I always thought Bold Ruler had a decent chance to win the Derby. Unfortunately his rider kept fighting BR because the horse wanted to go the lead. BR was practically choked by the jockey. When they hit the stretch, the jock asked BR for run and got no response. Apparently Bold Ruler was resentful and fed up with the whole race.

What's ironic is that during '73, everyone kept saying that no Bold Ruler could ever win the Spring Classics. In '73, '77, and '79, Bold Ruler's descendants dominated the TC series. Not bad for a horse that was supposed to just sire flashy sprinter/milers that peak at two and do nothing much afterward.

I so wish I could see a Triple Crown. Come next year, it'll be 25 years since Affirmed's TC. I'm starting to think I'll never see one. I'm still groping for an explanation for Point Given's inexplicable Derby performance last year.

Edit: I looked at Sham's pedigree. Like Sec, his damsire was also Princequillo. Unfortunately, Sham didn't leave a mark as any sort of sire. No shame in that, though. My namesake was stabled next to the Bid and was easily a thousand times better than the Bid as a sire. Sadly, CtB was only a so-so racehorse, competent but not brilliant. CtB's damsire Dr. Fager was just amazing, though: best front-runner ever.

--------------------
"Of all the Daliesque tourist traps in the world, we had to walk into this one."

Posts: 1186 | From: Columbus, OH | Registered: Jul 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
megaira, redhot fiery fury
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 01 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
I trust you realize I was joking, in reference to the whole "Mr. Ed was a zebra" thing. Besides, snopes used the zebra icon too, so he started it. [Smile]
Ahhh, I forgot about the Mr. Ed thing. D'oh

quote:
*Stands up and applauds Meg for her research*Yes, way to go, Meg!
[Smile] Thanks!
IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Jolypha
Deck the Malls


Icon 01 posted      Profile for Jolypha   E-mail Jolypha   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I wish I had been old enough during the 70s to appreciate how hard it is to win the Triple Crown. We've had some close ones--Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Charismatic and War Emblem, but for one reason or another the Belmont wasn't their day.

I was lucky enough to see and pet Affirmed several months before he passed away.

Secretariat's Belmont still brings tears to my eyes when I see it on tape.

Posts: 377 | From: Indiana | Registered: Dec 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
rossdawg...erotic politician
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 211 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Is it true he was hung like a horse?
IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Gold-Toes, Barefooted
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 203 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Interesting- I watched Count Fleet's race at that site- he won by 25 lengths as well... And both he and Secretariat were in my old mare's pedigree.

Man I wish I was able to watch Secretariat win that race live... what a thrill...

IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Cure the Blues
We Three Blings


Icon 502 posted      Profile for Cure the Blues     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Well, after a delayed search, I did get the Affirmed/Alydar Belmont fractions, and I was completely wrong! The initial fractions were 25 and 50 seconds for the quarter and the half. They were virtually *walking*. Even if the track was playing slow that day, that's a pretty sluggish pace. They quickened towards the end.

Very smart and collected ride by Cauthen, who didn't go off his head when it seriously looked like Affirmed would lose. Never underestimate the importance of the jockey, as that is one of the reasons the Bid didn't get the Triple in '79. The safety pin didn't help, but the jockey apparently lost any vestige of sense when he was told about the incident. He gave the Bid one of the stupidest rides in history. Why Delp didn't put someone else on the Bid after that horrible ride in the Florida Derby is anyone's guess.

--------------------
"Of all the Daliesque tourist traps in the world, we had to walk into this one."

Posts: 1186 | From: Columbus, OH | Registered: Jul 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.

Instant Graemlins
   


Post new topic  Post a reply Close topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Urban Legends Reference Pages

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2