Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Run to Daylight

For no reason in particular, I've been reading Bill Nack's book Secretariat, about the most famous animal of the 20th century (he's gotta be, right? I think his only competition is Seabiscuit, and a huge chunk of his popularity didn't come until this century. The only non-horse contenders would be maybe Lassie, who wasn't one single dog, or the monkey who went into space, and if I can't remember his name, he can't be all that famous). Nack does a good job of making Secretariat a fascinating creature without stooping to anthropomorphization, although in a sense he would have been entitled to; at one point, the horse reached out and snatched Nack's notebook away in his teeth, and refused to give it back. I bet Barry Bonds wishes he had thought of that.

Secretariat's greatest victory came in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, when he ran away from the field by 31 lengths and set a track record by two full seconds. In the book, jockey Ron Turcotte talks about how he didn't whip Secretariat down the stretch or drive him with any kind of urgency, but Big Red ran this baby on his own. Looking at this clip, you can see him rocking down the stretch like a puppy chasing after a ball, with pure joy in his stride; I suspect if you were closer to him, you'd see his tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth.

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