The noted teller of tales and watcher of racehorses, Charlie Hatton, penned a column at the Daily Racing Form for decades, and he also wrote many of the individual essays about champion racehorses for the American Racing Manual over the years.
At the end of his career, he watched the development and continued success of a chestnut colt by the name of Secretariat.
Hatton was, with reason, one of the colt’s most ardent fans, and he also wrote the profiles of the champion son of Bold Ruler for the ARM in 1972 and 1973. The first of these is reprinted, in excerpted form, at Boojum’s Bonanza here.
Now as a rival admirer of His Chestnut Perfection, I could not pass the opportunity to read and to comment on the ruminations of Brother Hatton.
One of Hatton’s observations was the construction of Secretariat’s hindquarters and the horse’s action at a gallop and at the walk. He wrote:
The pelvis is exceedingly sloping, however, giving him a vaguely goose-rumped aspect at first glance. This is a characteristic of the Nearcos, including his classicists, though horsemen used to consider it the mark of a sprinter. The flag is set on low, accentuating the precipitate droop of the quarters.
Here again, as in the shoulder, a particularly desirable point rescues him, for below the pelvis is a massive and very low stifle joint, extending into gaskins muscled right into the hock in the straightest hind legs seen in years.
This construction comes to a sort of scooting action behind. He gets his hind parts far under himself in action, and the drive of his hind legs is tremendous, as he follows through like a golfer.
Ribot went in this fashion, and that wire-hung filly Top Flight, whose stifles were set on singularly low. Rather long, springy pasterns and legs like a deer’s combined with a gorgeous forehand to give her stealthy action.
Walking off after a race, Secretariat divulges nothing of his extended action. He goes frightfully short behind, like so many Princequillos, and wide in front, like most the Bold Rulers. At a glance, one might suspect he had bucked.
Hatton’s last comment was not intended as humor, I believe. But Secretariat kept that rather choppy shuffling action all his life, and it is worth pondering because this is the opposite of the extensive and elastic reach so preferred today in the sales rings.
It is also worth wondering how greatly his action behind and in front would be penalized by evaluators of yearlings and 2yos today, which would like him and which would not. And would the perceptions of his walk and motion have kept the horse from becoming a Triple Crown winner and two-time Horse of the Year?