Secretariat, King of Horses

The great master of horse painting, Xu Beihong (1895-1953)

The great master of horse painting, Xu Beihong (1895-1953)

The great master of horse painting, Xu Beihong (1895-1953) whose total auction revenue in 2011 was USD 233,488,776, was primarily known for his Chinese ink painting of horses and was one of the first 20th Century artists to articulate the need for artistic expressions that reflect a new, modern China at the 20th Century. The horses he painted were China local horses such as ‘Ha Sha Ke Ma’, ‘He Qu Ma’, ‘Sanhe Ma’, Yili Ma’ etc.

xu-beihong-a-galloping-horse-first-half-of-the-20th-century

xu-beihong-a-galloping-horse-first-half-of-the-20th-century

As for me, I love to paint Thoroughbreds, Arabians and warm blood horses for competition. Here I would like to share with you my most favorite horse depicted in my artworks, Secretariat, king of horse.

Secretariat (March 30, 1970 – October 4, 1989) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse that in 1973 became the first U.S. Triple Crown champion in 25 years.

He set race records in all three events in the Series – the Kentucky Derby (1:59 2/5), the Preakness Stakes (1:53), and the Belmont Stakes (2:24) – records that still stand today. He is considered to be one of the greatest Thoroughbreds of all time. In 1999, ESPN ranked Secretariat the 35th best athlete of the 20th century, the highest ranking racehorse on the list. He ranked second behind Man o’ War in The Blood-Horse’s List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century.

Secretariat, the greatest horse of all time

Secretariat, the greatest horse of all time

Secretariat, a red (chestnut) big colt, stood approximately 16.2 hands (66 inches, 168 cm) tall, and weighed 1,175 pounds (533 kg), with a 75-inch girth, in his racing prime. He had 3 white feet.

The three most important and famous races were his Triple Crown Races in 1973.I was born in 1970 (same birth year as Secretariat). I couldn’t witness these three super races as I was only three years old in 1973. Fortunately, I could watch Secretariat’s great races through ‘You Tube’. I feel thankful to the development of information technology which actually brought me to watch him and his races ‘live’ online.

I enjoyed watching every gait of him. Very often, Secretariat broke last but gradually moved up on the field in the backstretch, then overtook his competitors at the top of the stretch, pulling away to win the race. I know that it is impossible to go back to the 70’s, therefore I pay a careful observation on each race of Secretariat posted on You Tube. Frequently, I repay over and over again all the videos of his races. Whenever Secretariat moved forward and overtook his competitors, my soul was ‘galloping’! Each time I watch him in action, I get to know him better in despite of the images of these videos are quite blur and are not in good condition.

In the Kentucky Derby, Secretariat ran each quarter-mile segment faster than the one before it. The successive quarter-mile times were 251⁄5, 24, 234⁄5, 232⁄5, and 23. This means he was still accelerating as of the final quarter-mile of the race. No other horse had won the Derby in less than 2 minutes before, at it would not be accomplished again until Monarchos in 2001.As Secretariat prepared for the Belmont Stakes, he appeared on the covers of three national magazines: Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated. He had become a national celebrity.

In the stretch of the Belmont Stakes on 9th June 1973, Secretariat opened a 1/16 mile lead on the rest of the field. At the finish, he won by 31 lengths (breaking the margin-of-victory record set by Triple Crown winner Count Fleet in 1943, who won by 25 lengths), and ran the fastest 1½ miles on dirt in history, 2:24 flat, which broke the stakes record by more than two seconds. This works out to a speed of 37.5 mph for his entire performance. Secretariat’s record still stands; no other horse has ever broken 2:25 for 1½ miles on dirt!

Oh……9th June is my birthdate, too. I feel that I am with Secretariat so close. The 9th June is a very crucial and significant date for him and me.

Farewell-Secretariat Day at Aqueduct, November 6, 1973

Farewell-Secretariat Day at Aqueduct, November 6, 1973

In the fall of 1989, Secretariat was afflicted with laminitis—a painful and often incurable hoof condition. When his condition failed to improve after a month of treatment, he was euthanized on October 4 at the age of 19. Secretariat was buried at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky, given the rare honor of being buried whole (usually only the head, heart, and hooves of a winning race horse are buried, and the rest of the body is cremated).

Even though Secretariat has gone, his spirit lives in my heart forever. As an artist, I have a very strong desire to reborn his spirit through my horse paintings, the Secretariat Series.

And I call him ‘Xi Ge De Lie’. (What does this name mean? Please find out in my next article.)

Regards
James Phua
4th Aug 2013

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