Pimlico on Preakness mark: There ought to be a state law Record status may be sought for Secretariat


Secretariat's races are legend. Could one of them now become law?

Citing evidence that Secretariat was robbed of a record in winning the 1973 Preakness, racing mogul Joe De Francis said yesterday that he may appeal to the Maryland General Assembly to give the horse his due.

Secretariat won the Triple Crown, setting records in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. However, because of a malfunctioning timer, the colt was not credited with what many horsemen agree was a record for the Preakness. This week, on the 25th anniversary of Secretariat's classic run, De Francis urged the Maryland Racing Commission to reopen the case.

If that doesn't work, De Francis said he would press Annapolis to pass a law giving Secretariat his record status.

"If evidence is as overwhelming as it appears, I'd think [passing] a bill would be warranted," he said. "Secretariat is a sufficiently important historical figure that he shouldn't be denied the record because of a simple error.

"They [legislators] pass resolutions on things a lot less significant than that."

Secretariat was awarded a Preakness time of 1 minute, 54 2/5 seconds, though two independent timers in the press box clocked him one full second faster. At the time, a formal protest by the horse's owners was turned down by the Maryland Racing Commission. There was no appeal.

The commission cannot hold another hearing without new evidence, said Ken Schertle, its executive director.

Technology may be his trump card, De Francis said: "Our people just ran the tape of the Preakness over a timing machine that wasn't around 25 years ago." Result: Secretariat finished in 1: 53 2/5 -- matching the current Preakness record set by Tank's Prospect in 1985 and tied by Louis Quatorze in 1996.

Pub Date: 5/15/98

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