Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Secretariat Timer Controversy

One of the most famous disputes in sports history has to do with the malfunctioning timer in the 1973 Preakness Stakes. Two Daily Racing Form clockers hand timed Secretariat as having bested Canonero II's 1971 record, but the track's timer showed him running considerably slower.

Thanks to new technology examining Secretariat's race, the controversy will be revisited:

Had Secretariat’s time been officially recorded as 1:53 2/5--the time still recognized today by Daily Racing Form--he would have beaten Canonero II’s track record of 1:54 for the 1 3/16-mile distance set during the 1971 Preakness. Instead, the Preakness wound up being the only jewel of Secretariat’s three Triple Crown race victories in which he did not establish a new track record.

“For me, revisiting this dispute on a new day is a matter of resolution--for historians, for sportswriters, and for racing fans,” Chenery said. “Their voices are supported by sound evidence, and they deserve to be heard.”

“During the last 40 years, video technology has been accepted in other professional sports as a supportive mechanism for officials to ensure fairness and accuracy in their decisions,” Chuckas said. “It is important for horse racing and the record books to confirm the correct time in this historical race. It is the appropriate thing to do.”

If Secretariat is officially given the stakes record for the Preakness, it will be an unheard-of feat for any horse to have run in each of the Triple Crown races in record time. Of course his Kentucky Derby and Belmont records still stand today.

More here:

The matter of how quickly Secretariat traversed the 1 3/16 mile course at Pimlico has been an issue since literally seconds after the race. The electronic scoreboard showed 1:55, while two separate hand clockers from the Daily Racing Form showed 1:53 2/5 (the publication has stuck with that time in its records ever since), beating the previous record of 1:54 set by Canonero II in the 1971 Preakness. While track officials admitted that the electronic scoreboard had malfuntioned, they reverted to the time clocked by a track employee, 1:54 2/5.

Chenery challenged the ruling later that summer but was told the rules prevented a change from being made. The issue has simmered ever since. She again made a push to have her horse recognized in time for the 25th anniversary of his Triple Crown, which resulted in the Maryland Racing Commission re-writing its laws to allow adjustment to a disputed race time with sufficient evidence. Though the group considered the issue in 1999, no change was made.

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