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Secretariat Broke the Clock in Winning 1973 Preakness

Controversy Surrounded the Winning Time

One of the biggest moments in Preakness Stakes news was Secretariat’s 1973 Preakness Stakes win, which literally broke the clock.

With the win expected from the champion Thoroughbred, who won the Kentucky Derby in fine fashion, connections were eyeing the record time for the Preakness Stakes.

Secretariat Broke the Clock in Winning 1973 Preakness
A Statue of Triple crown winner Secretariat - Al Bello/Getty Images/afp

However, despite Preakness Stakes predictions having Secretariat breaking Canonero’s record, it wouldn’t be until years later for it to be acknowledged.

Record-Breaking Victory

On May 19, 1973, Secretariat thundered down the track at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, delivering a performance that would be etched into racing history.

With Ron Turcotte in the saddle, Secretariat galloped to a commanding lead, crossing the finish line 2¾ lengths ahead of his closest competitor.

The clock initially displayed a time of 1:55, which wasn’t enough to beat the all-time record. However, the controversy began to unfold when it was discovered that the track’s timer had malfunctioned, leading to a lengthy and unresolved debate about Secretariat’s true time.

Following the race, numerous unofficial clockers claimed that the timer malfunctioned and the actual time was 1:53 2/5, which would give Secretariat the record.

Suspicions arose among skeptics who believed the recorded time was intentionally altered to diminish Secretariat’s historic accomplishment.

Complicating matters, the Maryland Racing Commission conducted an investigation that failed to provide a definitive answer, leaving racing enthusiasts without a satisfying resolution.

Some experts argued that the discrepancy could be attributed to inconsistencies in track maintenance, while others suggested that a combination of factors, including the timer malfunction, affected the final time. The controversy persisted, fueling endless debates and conjecture about the true extent of Secretariat’s remarkable speed and dominance on that fateful day.

Preakness Stakes picks had Secretariat winning, so bettors got paid out. However, it was about maintaining the integrity of the sport.

The sportsbook had Big Red at skinny odds to win the Preakness Stakes, and bettors never looked to be in any danger throughout the race.

Result Overturned

In 2012, the Maryland Racing Commission finally revisited the controversial question surrounding Secretariat’s official time. With the aid of digital technology that was unavailable in 1973, the commission unanimously voted 7-0 to change Secretariat’s finish time to 1:53 flat.

Penny Chenery, Secretariat’s owner, expressed her joy at seeing her horse finally receive the recognition he deserved. She speculated that perhaps in 1973, the sporting world was not prepared to accept post-event reviews, but now it has become a common practice with the use of replays and analytical tools in sports.

We see it all the time in sports now,” Chenery said in 2012. “It’s accepted, with replays. It’s completely consistent with the way sports are conducted now, that we use all the analytical tools possible.

Chenery’s observation holds weight in today’s sports landscape. In 1973, William Boniface, in his Baltimore Sun column, expressed concerns about a future where nothing would be deemed official until video tapes were reviewed, considering it a sad state of affairs.

We don’t know if such a result would change in 2023. There are sportsbook implications, which could change the result at the racebook, but one thing is for sure, Secretariat ran a blistering Preakness Stakes.

His time may never be beaten, despite advancements in technology.


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