Greatest Athlete of the Past 50 Years

By Steve Lee | Guest Contributor | 

Today, the first Saturday in May, signifies the running of the greatest horse race known to man, The Kentucky Derby.

Today’s version is the 50th anniversary of America’s introduction to arguably the Greatest Athlete of the past 50 years. America fell in love with Secretariat like no horse before it or after it. 

I can’t believe it’s been 50 years since I watched this horse break every record known in horse racing history, setting records that still stand in each of the three Triple Crown races, including a 31-length victory in the last leg of the crown, the Belmont.

I recall watching the Belmont in particular as it was the last leg of the Triple Crown, and America was sitting on the edge of their couches and recliners, hoping the chestnut three-year-old colt could pull it off. It had been over 25 years since the last Triple Crown winner.

Little did we know, he was toying with our emotions. That 31-length victory was perhaps the greatest sports feat I’ve ever witnessed.

My father, who recently passed, loved watching the Kentucky Derby, it was one of his favorite days. He loved horses, and he loved sport. He shared his love of both with me, and as a teenager that May-June horse racing season is etched indelibly on my brain.

I’m almost brought to tears recalling that running of the Belmont and that incredible victory. I knew then I was watching something I likely would never see again in my lifetime. 50 years later, I’m pretty sure that was accurate.

Big Red is not forgotten.

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Eye on Elk Grove said...
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Randy Bekker said...

As someone who’s family member was part of the sport for years there was nothing like “Big Red’s” win. I have always rooted for the underdog and this horse fit the mold perfectly but had the heart to win. For the years my brother rode it was always exciting to be in victory circle. I can’t imagine the jubilation in the winner’s circle for those 3 races. Unbelievable victories not only for the trainer and the horse but for Penny and her family.

Eye on Elk Grove said...

What a wonderful Op Ed! Also, one of my favorite movies. Great cast, especially John Malkovich. And seeing Penny Chenery in those last scenes made it even more special. Goose bumps!

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