He never broke well, except in his greatest performance. People tried to describe him as a closer, but he was not. He won on the lead, he stalked on a rare occasion, he could make a move on the outside, but he could also skim the rail. Never intimidated, twice in his career he squeezed between two horses in a stretch drive to win easily, and each time he did it against stakes competition. He thrived in the slop, twice coming very close to stakes or track records splashing home in it. He was built unlike any thoroughbred has ever been; he looked like a quarter horse, and yet he won, and won impressively, races ranging from six furlongs all the way to a mile and five-eighths, and anyone who saw him race thought he could have handled two mile races with ease. The longer the race, the better he was. Running on grass was second nature to him, and he beat older grass champions with shocking ease. His jockey rarely went to the whip, but when he did, he responded. Perhaps the most amazing thing, in retrospect, about him was that he was at his absolute best when the spotlight shined brightest upon him. He broke world records pulling up two times in his career, something no other horse has ever done one time. Setbacks did come to him, but he was gallant even in defeat, and always gave his best. After he died his autopsy revealed to the world his gargantuan motor, two and a half times larger than normal. But that heart wouldn't have made a bit of difference were it not for one thing: this horse loved to run, and when he was right, he could run farther and faster, and with more dazzling power than anyone has ever seen in a thoroughbred, before or since.
Charles Hatton, the turf writer who coined the phrase The Triple Crown, had actually seen the previous incarnation of equine perfection, the great Man o' War, and he said there was no comparison, so did Hollie Hughes. These men had seen it all, and they were both so stunned by this chestnut colt born on March 30, 1970, that not only were they sure that he was the best they'd ever seen, they were sure that he was the best that anyone would ever see. Like Man o' War, he was retired at three, leaving people in awe just thinking about him racing at four and five. His name was SECRETARIAT, and he is, quite simply, without peer. When watching him at his best, it's like watching Babe Ruth hit the first roof shot homerun at Comiskey Park, Michael Jordan hit the shot against Craig Ehlo, and Muhammad Ali knockout George Foreman.
Because he is most fondly remembered his earth-shattering performance in the Belmont Stakes, I'm going to share it with you here, but don't make the mistake of thinking he was only great that day. Light continuously shined upon him, but on June 9, 1973, that light exploded outward, overwhelming the entire sport of horse racing. It was a a supernova, on par with Bobby Thomson's "Shot heard round the world", something that will never be seen again.