|Jockey Ron Turcotte and Secretariat paraded before the Churchill Downs faithful prior to the Kentucky Derby in 1973. (Michael Burns)
The Maryland Racing Commission ruled on Tuesday that Secretariat set the Preakness Stakes record 39 years ago, meaning the 1973 Triple Crown winner now holds the record time at all three races in the trilogy.
“I didn’t know if it was appropriate to cheer but I couldn’t help myself,” Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery said in a statement released by the commission. “This is a big day.”
Secretariat is one of 11 thoroughbreds to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes the same year, earning the Triple Crown, and long held the official record at the first and third legs.
But his time at the Preakness was controversial from the moment he crossed the finish line. The electronic timer at Pimlico race track recorded a winning time of 1:55, which hand timers found slow.
Two independent clockers from the Daily Racing Form recorded times of 1:53 2/5, the commission said, and in the days following the race, the Maryland Racing Commission officially changed the time to 1:54 2/5, the time reported by Pimlico’s official hand clocker.
But in a 7-0 ruling on Tuesday, the commission revised it down further, to 1:53 flat, after a four-hour hearing at which Secretariat’s team presented modern technology to time the race.
“The Secretariat team made a compelling case that he ran the race in 1:53 flat and added the Preakness record to his resume,” Pimlico President Tom Chuckas said in the statement.
That beats the previously recognized Preakness record of 1:53 2/5 set by Tank’s Prospect in 1985 and equaled in 1996 by Louis Quatorze and in 2007 by and Curlin, the commission said.
The track record of 1:52 2/5 for the 1 3/16 mile distance at Pimlico was set by Farma Way in the 1991 Pimlico Special.
Secretariat died at the Claiborne Farm in Kentucky in 1989 at age 19 after producing 653 foals, according to the horse’s website.