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50 years after legendary triple crown, Secretariat's genes live on in Metro East

"There’s a lot of Secretariat blood out there but this is very close lineage."

O'FALLON, Ill. — Fifty years ago, the greatest racehorse in history kicked off his legendary season with a record-setting 1:59.4 run in the Kentucky Derby: the one and only, Secretariat.

Five decades later, some of those Secretariat genes live on at a Metro East stable with history and dreams of its own.

Secretariat's astounding triple crown in 1973 is a feat in horse racing, and all sports for that matter, that has no equal. Not only did the horse complete the triple crown, it set the time records in all three races, which still stand today.

“It’s like Pele, or Michael Jordan. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. And these are, equine athletes," Saddleback Stables owner Mike Moore said.

Credit: AP
FILE - Jockey Ron Turcotte hangs on as Secretariat romps along the final stretch just before the finish line and a victory in the 105th running of the Belmont Stakes, winning the Triple Crown at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., June 9, 1973. The colt nicknamed Big Red remains the heartbeat of an industry that has yet to see such dominance on and off the track replicated. (AP Photo/File)

In the sport of horse racing, you're always chasing that "once in a lifetime". 

“If you get a win, it’s great. But you have to get a win at a higher level, and get enough points for the Kentucky Derby… and 20 horses line up after 25,000 horses have been bred that year It’s a very tough game, but you’ve got to enjoy the ride," Moore said.

Since the early 2000s, the Moores have been enjoying the breeding and racing ride at Saddleback Stables in O’Fallon, Illinois. And they have some neat links all the way back to the legendary Secretariat. The closest of which is the now 20-year-old broodmare, Bud's Bandita.

“Her (Bud's Bandita's) grandmother is named Terlingua, who was one of Secretariat’s best daughters. So that makes Secretariat her great-grandpa. There’s a lot of Secretariat blood out there but this is very close lineage," Moore said.

Secretariat is known to have sired 663 foals over his lifespan, and this particular great-granddaughter even resembles her famous relative at least a little bit.

“They called her great-grandfather 'Big Red'. And he was a big, stout hardy chestnut. If you’ve seen any of his races he was something to behold and she has a similar tint," Moore said.

Credit: AP/KSDK

Of course, lineage doesn’t always result in winners, but there’s no denying a link to history nonetheless.

“When we were new to the business and we first bred Royal Bandita to get Bud’s Bandita, I saw that Secretariat was pretty close, and I thought, 'let’s do that'. Because I loved Secretariat when he was running," Moore said.

Bud's Bandita, Mary Jeans Wildcat and Cocoa Bandita all have links to Secretariat out at Saddleback Stables right now, and love a good peppermint and passerby along the fence.

Bud’s Bandita just had her last foal, sending those iconic genes down the line once more.

And who knows? Maybe someday the first Saturday in May will belong to a horse who calls our area home.

“You’re always hoping that next one is the good one," Moore said of the racing business.

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