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The Day I Touched Secretariat

Updated on May 9, 2019
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Donna Campbell Smith is an author, freelance writer, and photographer. She has an AAS degree in equine tech and is a certified instructor.

He had long, smooth muscles that screamed power and speed, his dark eyes were kind but held a king-like majesty in their expression. His copper-red coat glistened in the August 1986 sunlight.

I walked up to him and turned and asked the attendant, "May I touch him?"


My husband focused our new video camera on me as I stepped in closer and ran my hand down his neck, then turned and smiled into the camera. There I was, at Claiborne Farms in Paris, Kentucky, touching one of the most famous racehorses of all time - Secretariat. You could tell it wasn't his first photo session; he gave us his best side, posing like the star that he was. His attendant told us he was looking off in the direction of the mare barn at the bottom of the hill. The gentleman rattled off a memorized spiel of statistics: mares bred per year, stud fees, and winning offspring while we got it all on tape.

Our private audience with the king of racehorses was by accident, a matter of being in the right place at the wrong time. We were on vacation in Lexington, Kentucky visiting the Kentucky Horse Park. In the gift shop hubby asked where was Claiborne and did they have tours. The saleslady looked up the phone number for us and Alfred made the call. He was told we could "just come on by" in the morning.

When we arrived at the entrance office we were asked if we had an appointment. When we told the lady we'd come to see Secretariat she practically turned her nose up as she said, "You can't just drop by to see Secretariat, we have a year long waiting list. You have to have an appointment."

Disappointed we were about to leave when a man walked in the door just in time to hear our rebuff. He made a phone call, asked if there was a groom who could come down and take some people to tour the stallion barn. That is how we got a private tour and to meet one-on-one the 1973's Triple Crown Winner, Secretariat. The gentleman answered all our questions including the fact that although he had not produced another triple crown winner he was bred to 58-60 mares a year earning $125,000 per breeding in stud fees.

As we drove out the long land from Claiborne, my husband remarked, "That is the most famous person I ever met."

Secretariat lived out his life at stud at Claiborne. He sired 653 foals, 57 were stakes winners, but not another Triple Crown winner among them. He died October 4, 1989 and is buried at Claiborne. To learn more about this hero of a horse go to

Donna touches Secretariat

© 2008 Donna Campbell Smith


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