Secretariat's triumph in the 1973 Kentucky Derby established a new (and still-existing) track record beneath the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs, emerging as a pinnacle moment in one of America's great sporting events. One of the very aluminum racing plates that the champion wore in this landmark racing achievement is now being offered for auction. The certified authentic shoe emanates from the personal Chenery family Meadow Stable Archives and manifests an impeccable provenance from Secretariat's Hall of Fame trainer Lucien Laurin.
Secretariat joined an elite list of immortals on May 5, 1973, defeating a talented Kentucky Derby field that included archrival Sham and future three-time horse of the year Forego. His final time of 1:59 2/5 broke the track record and still stands untouched almost a half century later. In this never-to-be forgotten performance, the chestnut champion set a remarkable series of fractions for the 1 1/4 mile distance in the world’s most celebrated horse race, running every quarter mile faster than the one before -- a truly incredible and solely unique speed statistic in the storied history of the Run for the Roses. It was the first shining jewel in his forthcoming Triple Crown, a campaign that also resulted in still-standing record wins in the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, where his legendary 31-length victory is unarguably one of the greatest moments in American sports.
The historic shoe exhibits a variety of race-worn scuffs, marks, and track remnants, and most important, the tell-tale rivet holes that secured the distinctive felt pads Secretariat typically wore during his racing performances on dirt. Interestingly, the shoe exhibits the embossed casting marks of "Made in Canada" found in the shoes of the Canadian Racing Plate Co. According to a 1974 United States Tariff Commission report, the long defunct company located in Niagara Falls, Ontario, manufactured shoes that were "virtually identical to those produced in the United States by The Victory Racing Plate Co. in Baltimore, Maryland, and Thoro'bred Racing Plate Co. in Anaheim, California." A much scarcer shoe than its domestic counterparts, Canadian Racing Shoe Co. sales constituted only about 10 percent of the U.S. market in 1972 and 1973. Secretariat wore Canadian Racing Plate shoes on at least two racing occasions as determined by Laurin, who was a native Canadian.
While several of Secretariat's documented race-worn shoes from his juvenile season were acquired by Meadow exercise rider Jim Gaffney, the significance of the Kentucky Derby dictated that the shoes worn by Big Red in the prestigious race were collected and specifically retained for the principal Chenery/Tweedy family members. Following the death of family patriarch Christopher Chenery in early 1973, his collective estate including the Meadow Farm and Racing Stable officially transferred to the oversight of Penny Chenery (then Tweedy) along with her older siblings - sister Margaret Carmichael and brother Hollis Chenery.
Following the Derby, Laurin presented this particular shoe to the family where it was cataloged with the hand-typed descriptive card certifying its authenticity and acquisition. It is displayed along with the card within a linen-backed wooden accessible shadowbox. The historical pairing has resided in protected storage within the private Meadow Stable collection for the past 45 years.
To put this offering into perspective: Of the nearly 1,900 horses who ever participated in the Kentucky Derby during the course of its 144-year history, this treasured artifact was worn in the electrifying racing performance that remains the fastest of them all. The rarity and significance of this shoe along with the magnitude of its offering simply cannot be overstated.