When the winter slowly turns to spring and the 2010 Triple Crown season gets into full gear, talk inevitably turns to the great Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown champion that captured the imagination of the public like no other horse ever has in the United States. The immortal chestnut colt still officially holds the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes records at 1:59 2/5 for the former and his nearly incomprehensible 2:24 in the latter, a performance in which he won by a mind blowing 31 lengths.
After he was retired at the end of that magical 1973 racing season to stud at Claiborne Farm, Secretariat was expected to set the world on fire as a stallion. Because of his amazing talent on the track, expectations were impossibly high for him to reproduce a horse that could do exactly what he did on the track. The problem was, of course, that Secretariat was unique, like all the greatest champions always are. Even though Man o' War was a great sire and produced the Triple Crown winner War Admiral, there was never another like him. Same for Northern Dancer, Swaps, and on and on and on.
If you get on the internet and do research on Secretariat as a sire, you'll no doubt find many quotes from so-called experts saying that he was a disappointment at stud. The fact is that he did sire many stakes winners. Not at the same rate as all-time great studs like Man o' War, Northern Dancer, or his own famous sire Bold Ruler, but respectable nonetheless. His three most famous offspring were General Assembly, Lady's Secret, and Risen Star. General Assembly might have made a bigger name for himself in the late 1970s had he not had to contend with the great Spectacular Bid, but he still made his mark as the stakes record holder in the Travers Stakes at 2:00 flat, a mark that still stands. Lady's Secret won Horse of the Year in 1986, one of just seven females to win that most prestigious award. And finally Risen Star won the Preakness and the Belmont in 1988, and had he not gotten caught in traffic in the Kentucky Derby (he finished third), would probably have been a Triple Crown winner himself.
But the biggest mark Secretariat made on the sport was as a sire of champion-producing mares, a so-called broodmare sire. The large-heart gene that he possessed was only passed through daughters, and so his daughter Terlingua gave birth to Storm Cat, who in turn became the greatest sire of this generation and one of the greatest sires of all-time. Without Secretariat, there is no Storm Cat.