When the list of the 20th century’s most legendary sports heroes is toted up at the end of the decade, it’s sure to contain the name of the chestnut colt called Secretariat. If anything, the Secretariat phenomenon is even more incredible to contemplate in retrospect than it was at the time of his career, which encompassed a scant 21 events in 16 months, from July 1972 through October 1973. Secretariat was then put out to stud. But among the events were the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes races of 1973, resulting in three victories, three track records, the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, and a racehorse of uncommon character that fired the public imagination like no other in the TV age.
ESPN’s superb 45-minute retrospective, The Life and Times of Secretariat: An American Racing Legend, is especially valuable to younger viewers, who might not understand how their elders can go a little mushy in the heart over a horse. Here they can savor the insights of owner Penny Tweedy, trainer Lucien Laurin, and jockey Ron Turcotte; see vintage highlights of Big Red’s races; and thrill to track announcer Chic Anderson’s call of Secretariat’s stupendous 31-length victory in the ’73 Belmont, one of the great sports performances of all time: ”Secretariat is moving like a tremendous machine.”