American Pharoah triumphs – but Secretariat’s records still stand

Lat night American Pharoah won the Belmont Stakes and with it the first Triple Crown since 1978. In the 1970s we saw 3 Triple Crown winners starting with Secretariat in 1973 after a gap of 25 years and followed by Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978.

Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner American Pharoah stands while being bathed following his morning workout at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York June 3, 2015.

American Pharoah: photo Shannon Stapleton /Reuters via The Daily Beast

Comparisons are of no great significance but back in 1973, Secretariat caught my imagination in a manner that no horse ever had before – not even Silver or Trigger.  Last night, American Pharoah faced a much larger field in the Belmont Stakes than Secretariat did. He won quite comfortably by five lengths and a time of 2:26.65, the sixth-fastest time in Belmont history.

Trying to compare the two horses, 37 years apart is meaningless. When Secretariat won the Belmont he won by 31 lengths and he was till going away at the finish line. He set winning times in all the three Triple Crown events. The Kentucky Derby(1:59.4), the Preakness Stakes (1:53), and the Belmont Stakes (2:24). But, 37 years later Big Red’s record times in all three races have not yet been beaten. The longest time a human athletics record has lasted was Bob Beamon’s long jump record which lasted 23 years (though 47 years later, his Olympic record still stands). To hold one record for so long is impressive enough, but Big Red still holds his records for 3 major races.

American Pharaoh has ensured his place in equine history. But it is still Secretariat – “The Tremendous Machine” – which embodies the Triple Crown in my imagination. “That is a record which may stand forever”.

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