Former Claiborne Farm general manager John Sosby recalls some of his memories of Triple Crown winner Secretariat in an interview with Jennifer Wirth at the Saturday Post.
Secretariat was retired to stud near the end of 1973 and began his stud career at Claiborne the next spring. Sosby began his tenure as the farm’s manager in 1975 and was there until 2006, long after the great red horse was put down due to complications from laminitis in the fall of 1989.
Sosby is an interesting and genial man who has put decades of his life into nurturing Thoroughbreds at Claiborne.
When I interviewed him a few years ago for a book about Claiborne, Sosby recalled some of his memories of breaking yearlings at the farm. One of those we talked about was Ruffian. He said, “We knew her as the Shenanigans filly because she was still just a big baby and didn’t have a name yet. You had to notice her because she was big, that made her stand out some, and she had a nice frame. But there wasn’t anything at the time that told you she’d be the kind of runner she developed into with Mr. Whiteley. From a little distance, you’d have thought she was a colt because she was big, kind of a tomboy, and had a little more rugged look to her like some colts will.”
“Breaking” at Claiborne didn’t have much of the bronco business to it. The work, as Sosby described it, was based on patience and determined gentleness. The horses were important to him and to their owners. The crew at Claiborne knew this and understood that they were training young, powerful horses to do their life’s work. Neither the horses nor the humans around them needed to get hurt, and Sosby and the crew at Claiborne worked day after day to familiarize the young athletes with the routine that fitted them to be good racehorses on the world stage.