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Secretariat's '73 Preakness time is a record, racing commission rules

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Thu June 21, 2012
Secretariat, left, races toward a record win in the Kentucky Derby on May 5, 1973, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
Secretariat, left, races toward a record win in the Kentucky Derby on May 5, 1973, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Officials rule that 1973 winner is Preakness record-holder
  • The official time of 1:54 2/5 was disputed by independent timers
  • Using video evidence commission revises time to 1:53 flat
  • Triple Crown winner now owns the official record time in all three races

(CNN) -- In 1973, Secretariat won horse racing's Triple Crown and set records that still stand today at the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. Now, 39 years later, the legend has been recognized as having also set a still-standing record at the Preakness Stakes.

The Maryland Racing Commission unanimously agreed Tuesday that evidence shows Secretariat's Preakness time was faster than originally recorded, said the commission's executive director, Mike Hopkins.

Penny Chenery, who owned Secretariat, and Thomas Chuckas, the president of the Maryland Jockey Club, made the request for the commission to review the evidence.

The hearing lasted three hours and involved watching digital tapes and video overlays as well as listening to expert testimonies, Hopkins said.

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The controversy over Secretariat's time goes back to the 1973 race day.

Secretariat's 1973 Preakness time reviewed

The electronic timer at the Preakness recorded a winning time of 1:55 (one minute, 55 seconds). However, two independent clockers from the Daily Racing Form individually timed the race at 1:53 2/5.

Officials at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, where the race is held, admitted that there were "extenuating circumstances" with the electronic timer's recording and changed Secretariat's official time to 1:54 2/5.

If Secretariat had indeed run the 1 3/16-mile (9.5-furlong) race in 1:53 2/5, as the Daily Racing Form timed it, it would have meant a record at the time, and one that has been matched but not beaten since.

But the commission changed the official time to 1:53 flat, meaning the then-3-year-old set an unmatched best in the race, the second leg of the Triple Crown.

"For me, revisiting this dispute on a new day is matter of resolution -- for historians, for sportswriters and for racing fans," Chenery said. "Their voices are supported by sound evidence, and they deserve to be heard."

Modern video technology can be used to settle the controversy, Chuckas said.

"During the last 40 years, video technology has been accepted in other professional sports as a supportive mechanism for officials to ensure fairness and accuracy in their decisions," he said. "It is important for horse racing and the record books to confirm the correct time in this historical race. It is the appropriate thing to do."

Animal welfare activists: Horse racing industry needs reform

Previously on CNN.com: Union Rags rallies to win 144th running of Belmont Stakes

CNN's Melissa Abbey contributed to this report.

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