Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Because it's Derby weekend, and because awesome things don't need a news peg, we wanted to share this gem with you: the last days of the world's greatest racehorse.

In 1989, at the age of 19—young for a thoroughbred—the long-retired Secretariat was struck by laminitis, a painful, crippling, and often incurable disease of the hoof. His owners at Claiborne Farms, in Paris, Ky., attempted treatment, but the horse wasn't going to get better. On Oct. 4 they put him down, and buried him on the farm's grounds.


Just three days earlier, an employee at a local news station on a trip with his kids had driven to the farm without an appointment. The owner took them around the place anyway, and even showed them Secretariat, who was slowed but not above a frolic. These are the home movies he took—the very last film of Secretariat alive.

(Update: Jeff tells us this is Nashville's WSMV-TV, and the anchor with the sublime sweater is longtime fixture Rudy Kalis, now the station's sports director.)

The next spring Bill Nack wrote a classic piece on Secretariat for Sports Illustrated. The very first paragraph was a quote, from the doctor who performed the horse's necropsy:

"We were all shocked," Swerczek said. "I've seen and done thousands of autopsies on horses, and nothing I'd ever seen compared to it. The heart of the average horse weighs about nine pounds. This was almost twice the average size, and a third larger than any equine heart I'd ever seen. And it wasn't pathologically enlarged. All the chambers and the valves were normal. It was just larger. I think it told us why he was able to do what he did."

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