I just finished reading a book about race horses and it got me thinking about the greatest athlete I have ever seen. The book is called "Kentucky Sunrise", by Fern Michaels, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the horse pictured above.
In fact the book is pretty unrealistic, especially the ending, which I will not spoil for you in case you want to read it. (If you want to know the ending and don't plan on reading the book send me a note and I'll tell you.) What it did remind me of was the feelings I had for this special horse.
Secretariat was born in Virginia in 1970. He wasn't thought of as anything special until he was two years old. By the time he was three he was establishing himself as the greatest horse of all time. He was a huge horse, nicknamed Big Red, and he loved to run.
When he won the Triple Crown in 1973, his times, in all three races, remain records for those races to this day. His winning margin in the final race of the Triple Crown, The Belmont Stakes, was a ridiculous 31 lengths. (https://youtu.be/V18ui3Rtjz4)
When you watch the video, notice how the camera continues to pull back in order to actually keep the other horse(s) in the picture. It is just an awe inspiring race and watching it again this morning still gives me chills and is emotional.
He only raced a few other times after this, including at Arlington Racetrack where he won, over three other horses, by 9 lengths. It would have been larger but I don't think they let him run full out.
In 1989 he was humanely put down due to a painful, and incurable, hoof condition know as Laminitis. When the vet did a necropsy on him he found his heart weighed 21-22 pounds, twice the normal size. Nobody had ever seen anything like it before. This, they believe, is what allowed him to be so special as a race horse.
It is a fortunate thing to have an athlete of this caliber to be in his, or her, prime in your lifetime For those like me, of a certain age, we are lucky to have had two such athletes. Besides Secretariat we had Muhammad Ali, the second greatest athlete I ever saw.
When you see athletes that are so far superior to others around them, even if you aren't a fan of their sport, they make you watch them because of their talents. Millions of fans didn't turn out to see Secretariat win a race, they turned out to see a special horse crush the others, and they were never disappointed.
Since 1973 there have been other Triple Crown winners, but without looking them up I can't name them, but I sure remember Secretariat. That is what being special is all about.