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Secretariat Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Elizabeth Hance

Elizabeth has taught elementary and middle school special education, and has a master's degree in reading education.

In this lesson you will learn about one of the greatest athletes of all time: a horse named Secretariat. Although he last raced over three decades ago, when he was only three years old, he is a legend well known beyond horse racing.

A Horse for the Ages

Born on March 30, 1970, a big thoroughbred horse quickly stood out at Meadow Stud, the horse farm he called home. Thoroughbreds are a breed of horse known for their size and speed. This particular horse's coat was a bright chestnut color, and he had three white ''socks'' on his feet. Early on, he was known as ''Big Red'' because of his large size and his huge personality. The name ''Secretariat'' had to be approved and was suggested by the secretary who worked at Meadow Stud.

A statue of the great Secretariat shows his long stride.
Statue of Secretariat

The big red horse started training to become a racer when he was about two years old. His trainer put blinkers on his face, a piece of fabric that covered his head and kept him from looking to the side. The blinkers helped him stay focused, and by July 4, 1972, Secretariat was ready for his first race. He came in fourth place, but over the course of his first racing season he quickly improved and won several awards.

Winning the Triple Crown

Picture a royal crown with three big jewels. As a three-year old, Secretariat set out to win that crown--but each jewel was not a diamond or ruby, it was a race. The three jewels of the Triple Crown are the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. A horse that wins all three in the same year wins the Triple Crown. And all three of these races are held within a few weeks of each other during the spring and summer of each year.

The Belmont Stakes is the third and final race in the Triple Crown.
belmont

Winning this prize is no small accomplishment: since 1919, only twelve horses have won all three races! Not only did Secretariat win all three, he won in style. The first jewel, the Kentucky Derby, set a record for having the most people ever attend a horse race. He then went on to set a record for that track--and his record still stands today!

Next up was the Preakness, the second jewel in the Triple Crown. Secretariat quickly moved from last to first, and set another track record. He was on the cover of several national magazines and became a major American celebrity. The stage was set for the last race in the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes. Secretariat was such a favorite that only four horses ended up competing against him in that race. Yet again, he set a record for the track and for the biggest win. He continued to race for the rest of his three-year-old year, and then retired to sire, or be a father to, another generation of thoroughbred horses.

The X-Factor

A statue of Secretariat at Churchill Downs where the Kentucky Derby takes place.
statue

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