Sunday, October 10, 2010

Facts about Secretariat and Sham

Job 39: 19-25

Do you give the horse his strength

or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?

Do you make him leap like a locust,

striking terror with his proud snorting?

He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength,

and charges into the fray.

He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;

he does not shy away from the sword.

The quiver rattles against his side,

along with the flashing spear and lance.

In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground;

he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.

At the blast of the trumpet he snorts, ‘Aha!’

He catches the scent of battle from afar,

the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

After seeing the movie Secretariat I wanted to separate fact from fiction and find out if all the hype around him was deserved. I set out out to compile "Facts for Secretariat and Sham".

For example, we know his breeding rights were sold, before he won the Triple Crown, for over 6 million dollars, but was that price worth it in the long-run?

If you look at his winning prodigy, the answer is YES!  Most of the top horses running today can trace their roots to Secretariat, including American Pharoah, the 2015 Triple Crown winner.  Secretariat's grandsons, Storm Cat and A.P. Indy, have produced most of the crop of 2015's equine athletes.

Secretariat Facts and Pedigree:

1. 1st two year old to become horse of the year.

2. At the time, he was the only Derby winner to finish in under 2 minutes. He still holds the first place record.

3. He may have had the record time for the Preakness, but a reported malfunctioning clock brought him in a second later.

4. Fastest time ever for the Belmont—and most lengths won by, 1.5 mile track and 2:24 time winning by 31 lengths.  (American Pharoah has the 2nd best time at 2:26.65 and winning by 5 1/2 lengths for the Triple Crown).

The chart above shows all the Triple Crown winners and how far they'd be behind Secretariat given their times at Belmont.

5. Career earnings-- $1,316,808 (racing winnings)

6. The second place winner at the Belmont was not Sham (movie version), but instead Twice a Prince. (see below)

7. He contracted laminitis at 19 years old and had to be put down. An autopsy revealed that his heart weighed 22 pounds, 2 1/2 times the average heart’s weight for a horse that size.

8. None of his direct off-spring lived up to his standard, but he sired over 600. Apparently, the mares did better, overall, than the stallions. His breeding rights were sold for 6.2 million, but I can’t get a figure on how much he actually earned throughout his lifetime in breeding fees. If some one has this, please let me know.

9. He's one of American Pharoah's g-g-grandfathers (2015 Triple Crown winner pictured below) .

10. Dash for Cash has connections with Secretariat-- Imperatrice is the fourth dam of Dash for Cash and the actual dam of Somethingroyal—who, as we know now, was the dam of Secretariat. They also were almost identical measurement wise. For interesting information on this, please see this link:

picture of Dash for Cash:


11. Secretariat was not the last horse to win the Triple Crown, American Pharoah did in 2015, and Affirmed, in 1978. Before that, in 1977, Seattle Slew took home the Triple Crown. So, the ‘70’s saw three Triple Crown winners. Wow! In recent history, Smarty Jones almost did, and Barbaro was expected to, so was California Chrome.  All told, 13 horses came within the Belmont of winning the Triple Crown until American Pharoah broke the drought.

Facts about Sham:

1.) He ripped out two teeth leaving the gate at the Kentucky Derby, but still came in second to Secretariat. He either tied or beat the all-time record for running the Derby previous to Secretariat.

2.) Sham finished last at the Belmont.

3.) He had a hairline fracture that retired him after the Belmont

4.) He died at age 23 of a heart attack. His heart was twice the size of a normal Thoroughbred. (Below, Sham at age 23)

Sham with his trainer, Pancho Martin.

 Sham being led in.

 Sham on the track.

One thing I really thought the movie captured is the power of a horse. When I let my herd out into a new pasture this morning and felt the ground thundering under their hooves, as they went running and kicking away from me, I was reminded of that. It's amazing that we can ever "control" that power at all or even come close to the almost symbiotic relationship we have with them when we ride. Why does a creature so powerful choose to blend with us in this way?

I thought it also captured the heart of a horse and what they're willing to do for you. All through the movie I thought about my own horses and the relationships I have with each of them and what they've given for me at different times. I've been riding a lot this fall--3 times per week--long trail rides with Cowboy. Every time we pull out we're riding for at least 3-5 hard hours up mountains, over streams, along steep ledges, and over ground that is sometimes solid rock. Yet, every darn time I go to get him, he comes to me willingly and meets me half way to be haltered. Why? It's a gift, that's all I know.

Have you seen Secretariat? What were your thoughts?


  1. I really want to see the movie, but haven't made it out yet. I will soon, I'm sure.

  2. Sham was a real star too - he probably would have won the Triple Crown if Secretariat hadn't been around. He was a better sire of winners that Secretariat, although Secretariat had some outstanding offspring - General Assembly, Risen Star and Lady's Secret come to mind.

    Where Secretariat has had long-term influence is as a broodmare sire - his daughters show up in the pedigrees of many outstanding racehorses. It may be that some of his outstanding characteristics were more easily genetically transmitted to female offspring.

    I haven't seen the movie yet but plan to.

    1. The movie ok but the leave out a huge fact Riva Ridge Ms Chenery’s horse in 1972 that won 2 of the 3 races was a barn mate

    2. The movie ok but the leave out a huge fact Riva Ridge Ms Chenery’s horse in 1972 that won 2 of the 3 races was a barn mate

  3. Gun Diva--you'll love it. It makes you want to go turn on the radio, grab a drink, dance, and give your house a bath. ;)

    Kate--You've absolutely right about Sham. I'm interested to hear your thoughts after you see the movie. They play the two against each other and mirror the conflict between the two owners, but in reality, these two may have had more in common--they may have pushed each other to the greatness (in record times) they achieved on the track. It's interesting, too, that Dash for Cash and Secretariat come through strong broodmare lines--which Secretariat passed on to other great broodmares. Why do so many people neglect getting great broodmares for "great" stallions? Maybe the strength, ultimately, is in the female line? Just my thoughts. I'll wait to hear what you have to say.

  4. I went to a sneak preview but the movie screwed up about an hour into it. It will be my one and only acting experience (I was there when he wins the Belmont which was filmed in Lexington, KY) so I will definitely go back to see the whole thing.
    I remember the year he won. It made me cry.

  5. Oh no! That's happened to me before--I believe at Julie and Julia. You were there when he won the Belmont?!?!? You are definitely part of the movie. I was 6 at the time and, therefore, brain-dead. :(

  6. Race horse stories seem to be so poignant, in print and on film. I haven't seen this movie, but what I'd also like to see are stories you might one day write, Linda, about the connections you've made with your horses. Even just this little bit about Cowboy is very touching, and hints at a great bond.

  7. Thanks, Joanne. I've written about a lot of things, but never directly about my horses except on the blog. They have been part of a background or framing story when I've explored my important human relationships--my son moving away, my divorce and later remarriage--the times in my life that caretaking the horses got me through, but for some reason I've never really concentrated on them as central characters. Maybe someday that will change, but right now--today--they're the one thing I like to keep simple and relatively unexplored--except in how to be a better caretaker--which I'll never feel fully competent. I just love them and love being out with them. I'm planning tomorrow's ride tonight--we just might have to go all Secretariat out there on the trails tomorrow! ;) Probably not.

  8. Great post! Very interesting the way you put it all together. I have been one of Secretariat's fans ever since I watched him win the races on tv when I was a kid. Haven't had a chance to see the film but I did read the book Secretariat, the Horse God Built,which was excellent.

    I didn't know anything about Sham so your input on him was something new to me.Thanks for posting this Linda!

  9. I now own Wildsham she is Shams great granddaughter and she is wounderful i would not trade her for anything in the world

  10. Reportedly Secretariat's stud fees were $125,000 and he sired more than 600 foals. If those numbers are correct he would have earned more than 75 million. That's a pretty good return on 6.08 million!

  11. In 2012 his time in the Preakness was officially amended to be the record winning time using modern technology and film overlay.

  12. There are two events that occurred in my youth that I wished I had paid more attention to. One was the Apollo moon landing of 1969 (I was 9 years old at the time) and the other was Secretariat's run. I do remember watching on TV - but the historic nature of what I was seeing was over my head. There's an excellent documentary on youtube at enjoy.

    1. I was the same age as you when Secretariat ran and I wished as well that I had been more aware of it. Such Horse Greatness in my time and I missed it!

    2. I bought my first horse out of Timeto ThinkRich out of the stables of Robert Mitchem, the actor, and he was a beautiful guy only to die so young at 16 to laminitus. Seems most racers die so young from this horrible disease. Has there ever been and progress treating this disease?

  13. Good movie and I watch the Belmont on YouTube quite often it is unbelievable to watch and my favorite race I just wish they would have made a nod to his stable mate Riva Ridge who won 2 of the 3 races in 72 that helped carry the farm I realize it’s Hollywood BUT they should tell the story the correct way still super horse and now added Justify to the list glad to see it again

  14. My horse, Krusen Forward (21) has his lineage with both Sham & Secretariat but after a win & a few placings & then a fall never amounted to much in racing. At almost 22 he still has the stamina & character a of a 4 yr old & 3 yrs ago was mistaken for a warmblood.

    Email address:

    Kind regards
    Natasha v.d Walt


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