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  • Patricia McQueen

Secretariat's Horse of the Year Descendants

Almost fifty years after his Triple Crown exploits, Secretariat’s influence is still seen in the pedigrees of many of today’s greatest racehorses. Through 2021, there have been 12 Horses of the Year who descend from Secretariat, including every single one since 2012! And it’s almost certain that 2022 will add yet another year to the streak.

First came Secretariat’s own daughter Lady’s Secret. The little gray filly was remarkable, one of the last of a breed of horses that danced all the dances and then some. She made 15 starts in her 1986 Horse of the Year campaign, winning 10 of them, including a record eight grade 1 races. She performed admirably against the boys, winning the prestigious Whitney Handicap, pushing champion Precisionist to a swift time in the Woodward, and finishing ahead of champion Turkoman with a game third in the Met Mile. As a 3-year-old filly the year before, she had an eight-race winning streak. For all these accomplishments, she was inducted to racing’s Hall of Fame in 1992.

The 1992 Horse of the Year was A.P. Indy, a son of Secretariat’s daughter Weekend Surprise. By Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy signaled his quality by winning the Hollywood Futurity at two in 1991. The next year, his victories included the Santa Anita Derby, Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic. An ill-timed foot bruise kept him out of the Kentucky Derby, or he might have done more. Still, it was enough to earn racing’s top honor, and he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2000. And of course, A.P. Indy went on to become one of the greatest sires in history.

Weekend Surprise’s other major son, Summer Squall, got his own Horse of the Year as a sire with Charismatic in 1999. When the year started, he was not on anyone’s radar, having won only a claiming race in seven starts at two. He finally started coming around for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, and won the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland to set him up for the Kentucky Derby. He surprised in the Derby as a 31-1 longshot, then won the Preakness for a chance at the Triple Crown. In the Belmont Stakes, Charismatic was brave to finish a close third before pulling up immediately after the finish line. Jockey Chris Antley was credited for saving the colt’s life by his quick action, as he hopped off and cradled the horse’s injured leg until help arrived.

Next came A.P. Indy’s son Mineshaft, who started his career in Europe with just one win in seven starts in England and France. Returned to America, he blossomed at age four in 2003, winning seven of nine starts, all stakes races. His victories included four G1 events – the Pimlico Special, Suburban, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Physical concerns forced his retirement before he could contest the Breeders’ Cup, but he had done enough through the year to secure Eclipse Awards as champion older horse and Horse of the Year.

The current streak of Secretariat’s Horse of the Year descendants started in 2012 with Wise Dan, who repeated the title in 2013. He carries Secretariat through both his sire and dam: sire Wiseman’s Ferry was a grandson of Storm Cat, while the gelding’s second dam was the Secretariat mare Askmysecretary. Primarily a turf specialist, Wise Dan also won important races on the dirt. In 2012, he won five of six starts; his only loss was a head defeat in the Stephen Foster on the dirt. He capped his year by setting a course record in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. He did even better in 2013, winning six of seven starts including a second Breeders’ Cup Mile. Wise Dan showed no signs of slowing down in 2014, starting the season with two big turf wins before undergoing emergency colic surgery in May. Remarkably, he came back three months later to win two more important turf events before an injury ended his season. A comeback in 2015 was aborted after another setback and Wise Dan was retired to trainer Charlie LoPresti’s farm. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020.

The 2014 Horse of the Year was 3-year-old California Chrome, whose sire Lucky Pulpit was by A.P. Indy’s son Pulpit. As a 2-year-old, the colt won three of seven starts, then started 2014 on a roll, winning five straight races, including the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He came up short in his Triple Crown bid with a fourth in the Belmont Stakes, but late in the year he took the Hollywood Derby to cement his championship year. A 2015 campaign was interrupted by physical issues, but he came roaring back in 2016 to earn a second Horse of the Year title. Among his victories were the Dubai World Cup, Pacific Classic and Awesome Again Stakes.

The historic year 2015 produced the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, American Pharoah, so he was the obvious Horse of the Year. His dam Littleprincessemma is by the Storm Cat stallion Yankee Gentleman. After being named champion 2-year-old colt in 2014, American Pharoah stormed through the Triple Crown the next year. After that series, he won the Haskell before being upset in the Travers. He avenged that defeat with a runaway win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and that plus his Triple Crown sweep became known as racing’s Grand Slam. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 2021.

It was Gun Runner’s turn in 2017. One of the top 3-year-olds in 2016, he took it up a few notches as a 4-year-old. His dam is Quiet Giant, a daughter of Storm Cat’s son Giant’s Causeway. Gun Runner’s only defeat in 2017 was a second in the Dubai World Cup, so he had a perfect year in North America. After returning from Dubai, he won the Stephen Foster, Whitney, Woodward and Breeders’ Cup Classic. He closed out his career in January 2018 with a win in the rich Pegasus World Cup. Now a young stallion, Gun Runner has quickly become the newest sire sensation with a champion and several G1 winners in his first crop of foals.

Another Triple Crown-winning Horse of the Year was Justify in 2018, who has two appearances of Secretariat in his pedigree. His sire is Scat Daddy, a great-grandson of Storm Cat, while his dam Stage Magic is a great-granddaughter of A.P. Indy. Justify was unbeaten in just six lifetime starts; the Triple Crown followed victories in the Santa Anita Derby and maiden and allowance races.

In 2019 it was another grass specialist who rose above all others. Bricks and Mortar showcased the versatility of his sire Giant’s Causeway, who has also proven to be a top broodmare sire. Bricks and Mortar went undefeated in six 2019 starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Turf, the Arlington Million and the Pegasus World Cup Turf.

Authentic was the top horse in the strange pandemic year of 2020, which changed racing schedules dramatically. His sire is Into Mischief, a great-grandson of Storm Cat, and his dam Flawless is a granddaughter of Gone West. Among Authentic’s victories were the Haskell in July, a September Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. In all, he won five of seven starts to secure Horse of the Year honors.

And in 2021, Knicks Go became the first descendant of a son of Secretariat to earn Horse of the Year honors (all previous Horse of the Year descendants except Lady's Secret came from Secretariat’s daughters). His third dam Aube d’Or is a stakes-winning daughter of Medaille d’Or, Secretariat’s champion son who earned a 1978 Sovereign Award as the top 2-year-old colt in Canada. Knicks Go had closed out 2020 with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, then in 2021 his victories included the Pegasus World Cup, Whitney and Breeders’ Cup Classic.

For a photo gallery of these horses, click on the image of Knicks Go below.


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