One second. That’s all that stands between Secretariat and a complete record-breaking sweep of the Triple Crown. If Penny Chenery and the president of the Maryland Jockey Club, Thomas Chuckas, can prevail, this situation will finally be rectified after 40 years.
As his fans know, Secretariat shattered the Derby and Belmont records, but his winning time in the Preakness became instantly controversial on May 19, 1973. On that day, the electronic timer at Pimlico registered Secretariat’s win at 1:55. However, two Daily Racing Form professionals at different vantage points hand-clocked him at 1:53 2/5. The slower time was hard to believe, especially after watching Secretariat’s astonishing surge from last to first on the first turn, passing the rest of the field in an eighth of a mile.
Track officials acknowledged some “extenuating circumstances” with the teletimer. Supposedly, according to some accounts, the crowds of people walking across the track to the infield to watch the race somehow interfered with the timer. In any case, Pimlico decided to go with the time recorded by their hand-clocker, which was 1:54 2/5, for the official track record. The Daily Racing Form resolutely stood by its time of 1:53 2/5 and lists it as such even to this day.
CBS, who broadcast the Triple Crown series, stepped into the fray, challenging the Pimlico officials with videotape they said proved Secretariat undeniably set a then-record time of 1:53 2/5. But even their half-hour broadcast and the national public outcry failed to change the disputed statistic. Over the years, supporters made other efforts to correct the record, but to no avail.
Fast forward to 2012 and the video technology of the 21st century. Armed with “compelling evidence,” Penny and Mr. Chuckas have requested a hearing on this issue by the Maryland Racing Commission. The hearing will take place at the Commission’s meeting on Tuesday, June 19 at Laurel Park .
As Mr. Chuckas states, “During the last 40 years, video technology has been accepted in other professional sports as a supportive mechanism for officials to ensure fairness and accuracy in their decisions. It is important for horse racing and the record books to confirm the correct time in this historical race. It is the appropriate thing to do.”
Penny, who at age 90 is still a champion for her horse, said, “For me, revisiting this dispute on a new day is matter of resolution – for historians, for sportswriters and for racing fans. Their voices are supported by sound evidence, and they deserve to be heard.”
We sincerely hope that these efforts quite literally turn the clock back and give Big Red the full honors he so richly deserves. After all, next year marks the 40th anniversary of his Triple Crown…so it is about time!
By Leeanne Meadows Ladin