Was Secretariat the Fastest Horse to Ever Race?


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If a person only knows the name of one racehorse, it’s likely Secretariat. He is the Elvis Presley, Michael Jordon, or Muhammad Ali, of horse racing. But what made him so famous? Was Secretariat the fastest horse ever?

Secretariat set speed records at multiple distances and on different racing surfaces. But the Guinness World Record recognizes Winning Brew as the fastest horse ever.

Secretariat is the greatest racehorse of all time; he annihilated his opponents and shattered course records. Because of his deep crimson color and imposing body, he is often referred to as “Big Red.”

How Fast was Secretariat?

Secretariat was fast enough to win the triple crown at record speed in each race. He could run off the pace or go wire to wire. And he could also win on any surface and any distance. His versatility and speed are why many racing fans consider him the greatest racehorse of all-time.

Secretariat’s averaged 37.7 mph in Triple Crown races.

Secretariat’s average speed in Triple Crown races was 37.7 mph, fast enough to set a new record in each race. His accomplishments in these prestigious races still have not been matched. To read about the fastest horses in the world, click here.

Secretariat ran the Kentucky Derby in 1:59 flat.

In 1973 he set a new standard for the Kentucky Derby. He ran the mile and a quarter distance in 1:59 flat and became the first horse to complete the race in under two minutes. His winning Kentucky Derby time still stands.

Secretariat set a world record for 1 1/2 miles in 2:24.

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By Jlvsclrk

Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by 30 lengths and set a new world record for a mile and a half running it in 2:24. Of course, setting a new world record is phenomenal, but what is truly amazing is how he accomplished the feat.

“Big Red” ran each furlong faster than the previous one and broke the stakes record by 25 lengths and the track record by over two seconds. He still owns the one and a half mile record, and, likely, it will never be broken.

Secretariat was fast at all distances.

Secretariat was fast at any distance and on any surface. The following are his times at various lengths.

  • 6 furlongs      1:09 4/5 
  • 1 mile              1:33 2/5 
  • 1 1/16               1:42 4/5 
  • 1 1/8                 1:45 2/5 
  • 1 3/16               1:53 2/5 
  • 1 ¼                   1:59 flat 
  • 1 3/8                 2:12 1/5 
  • 1 1/2                 2:24 flat 
  • 1 5/8                 2:37 4/5 

“Big Red” was fast across the board and against the toughest competition. He possessed power, speed, and stamina. He could win by coming off the pace or win wire to wire.

Superhorse in the Belmont Stakes

Why was Secretariat so fast?

Secretariat is said to have the perfect racehorse conformation; he was big, powerful, and straight. But that doesn’t account for his speed. There is a lot of racehorses with superb conformation that can’t win a race. So what made “Big Red” special?

Secretariat was so fast because he had outstanding conformation, an unusually large heart, and exceptional stride length.

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Heart size

After his death, his body was examined, and it was noted that his heart was much larger than an average racehorses heart. The average weight of a Thoroughbred’s heart is eight and a half pounds, “Big Red’s” heart is estimated to weigh 22 pounds.

Racehorse enthusiasts believe there is a relationship between the size of the heart and the speed of a racehorse. Marianna Haun, after learning the scope of Secretariat’s heart, decided to investigate how this phenomenon occurred. Her research evolved into a series of books on racehorse’s heart size.

Ms. Haun delves into the history of horses with large hearts and taces the genes that continue this trait to modern Thoroughbreds. Her first book is The X Factor, What it is & how to find it: The Relationship Between Inherited Heart Size and Racing Performance. The book can be purchased here.

Ms. Haun’s third book is focused on Secretariat’s heart size and is aimed to help breeders develop horses with exceptional hearts. The book is appropriately titled, Solving the Mystery of Secretariat’s Heart, and can be purchased here.

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By Calstanhope

Stride mechanics

Stride mechanics involves an analysis of a horse’s stride, stride rate, and stride angle. Stride is the distance a horse travels in a single leap. Secretariat’s stride is estimated to be 25 feet.

Stride rate is the number of strides over a given time, typically measured per minute. The average racehorse has a stride of 20 feet and a stride rate of 135 per minute. Fast horses can speed up their stride rate without reducing the length of their strides.

The stride angle is the distance between a horse’s front and back foot measured from the push-off point of the rear foot. The stride angle is used to determine how much a horse flattens out when racing.

The higher the stride angle, the longer the strides. Secretariat’s stride angle is the highest of any racehorse; his stride angle was calculated to be 110 degrees.

Secretariat had a long stride, great stride rate, and high stride angle coupled with a huge strong heart, excellent muscle tone, and a solid frame. All the components of a champion racehorse.

Additional resources

Miles Henry

I love animals! Especially horses, I've been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have bought, sold, and broke racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn't make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines. Miles Henry

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