LOUISVILLE, Ky. (FOX 56) — Every great horse is compared to the greatest of all time, Secretariat. This year marks the 50th anniversary of his historic Triple Crown win.
The Kentucky Derby Museum here at Churchill Downs is marking the occasion with a newly unveiled exhibit called “America’s Horse,” honoring the life and legacy of the legendary athlete.
There are few moments more iconic in the world of sports than Secretariat’s decisive victory at the Belmont Stakes, securing his Triple Crown victory. It’s a moment horse racing fans can now relive over and over again at the Kentucky Derby Museum.
“You only get to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Secretariat once. And of course, people laugh at that. But that’s also very true. So probably going back to 2021, we really started to have intensive conversations about what we wanted to do for Secretariat and what exhibition, whatever exhibition we did, what would it look like,” said Senior Director Curatorial and Educational Affairs Chris Goodlett.
The museum isn’t the first to honor Big Red. Disney immortalized his story with a feature film back in 2010.
“We actually have two costumes from that film. This one, the dress was worn by Diane Lane, who started as Penny Chenery in the Secretariat film, and this tuxedo was worn by John Malkovich, who starred his trainer, Lucien Loren, in the Secretariat film.”
Another highlight of the new exhibit is a massive confirmation shot, highlighting the physical attributes that made Secretariat so great, most notably his heart.
“We found out after Secretariat passed away, that his heart weighed about 22 to 24 pounds — about two and a half times the size of a normal thoroughbred heart. That’s just one of the things we focus on in that physical specimen projection that kind of lets people know, wow. People knew early on that this horse was going to be something special,” Goodlett said.
Leaders at the museum said it’s rare for them to dedicate a permanent exhibit to a single horse but they made an exception for this horse-racing legend.
“Most of our visitors are from out of town so they may come visit us because they saw the derby on television and they ask themselves why do 165,000 or so people come to this thing every first Saturday in May? What makes it so spectacular? so they come to us to kind of learn that when they come that door, even if they just know that minimal amount, they’ve probably heard that name Secretariat. So we want folks to come here and understand why that name is so special and really also learn why he is that horse, that one horse that really has transcended the industry and has become part of American popular culture in a way that really few other if any other horse has,” said Goodlett.
A little history for you: Secretariat ended a 25-year Triple Crown drought when he won the Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes.
To this day, he still holds the track record for all three races.