Book Review: Secretariat's Offspring Agonistes

Front Cover | Patricia McQueen


A stroll down the 500 block of East Maxwell Street in Lexington, Kentucky brings you to the awninged door of Black Swan Books. If your pursuits are less catholic, then Mike Courtney's seemingly endless maze of heaving shelves can accommodate even the most scrupulous bibliophile of rare Kentuckiana and equine sport culture.

Say, you're looking for a past volume on the two-time Horse of the Year Secretariat, then copious choices await. More recent works like William Nack's Secretariat: The Making of a Champion (2002) and Lawrence Scanlan's The Horse That God Built (2007) are ubiquitous.

But across the canon, you might find that there is something sorely lacking when it comes to  'Big Red' hagiography. No author has quite delved deep enough into the offspring of this champion who has continued to top Thoroughbred history by an unsurmountable 31 lengths.

That is, until now.

As the 50th anniversary of Secretariat's historic Triple Crown run is almost here, author Patricia McQueen has done all of us a massive service by rolling out her magisterial study, Secretariat's Legacy: The Sons, Daughters and Descendants Who Keep His Legend Alive, published this Mar. by SL Publications.

Despite its girth, this is decidedly not a traditional coffee table-style book with pretty pictures. Rather, this is a seriously sourced monograph, replete with revisionist perspective. Namely, that some of the bloodline critics got it wrong in memoriam, Secretariat's progeny were not agonistes. Instead, when we step back, they have on the whole made a sizable contribution to the future of this sport. Some did not 'stamp his get,' as the equine phrase goes, but there were those that certainly begat his running ability and passed it on. With an expert photographic portfolio as proof, McQueen effectively argues that the much-debated sire's influence deserves another look.

It all began for the author while she was in college. Curiosity in the Triple Crown winner took her on a pilgrimage to Kentucky in 1982 to see the fellow himself. The sire's subsequent death in 1989 propelled her down a path to locate and snap pictures of Secretariat's remaining band that would carry forth his legacy. One picture led to one story, and then the dominoes fell, as she documented as many offspring as she could.

McQueen's highly-readable style takes us along Secretariat's pedigreed shedrow where we meet Dactylographer–the sire's first stakes winner, sales toppers like Miss Secretariat and Grey Legion make an appearance, as does popular Old Friends social media darling Tinners Way. A bevy of international success stories inform us about the sire's reach that stretched from France to Japan.

We also hear some wonderful anecdotes, like the one the author tells about the unusual in-utero journey of Fanfreluche, one of Secretariat's most productive mares. Thieves absconded with her in June 1977 from Claiborne Farm, and after five months, an FBI sweep of the Bluegrass uncovered her location when she was discovered on an innocent farm after she was found wandering along a country road.

More evidence piles up, curated and culled expertly by McQueen. The chapter entitled 'The Lukas Touch' is especially rich with stories of how 'The Coach' believed Secretariat should be crossed with fast, precocious mares. Crimson Saint produced a number of these types, including Lukas runners like Terlingua, Pancho Villa, Navajo Pass and one of the last three of his progeny still alive, Border Run. From Lady's Secret and Risen Star to the influence of Storm Cat, Gone West and A.P. Indy and all the way to Bricks and Mortar, Authentic and Knicks Go, 'Big Red' is still with us.

With a foreword by Kate Tweedy and Leanne Ladin, plus an excellent appendix listing all 62 stakes winners, Secretariat's Legacy has closed the canonical 31-length gap in the scholarship. Patricia McQueen ensures that this 'Super Horse's' offspring are agonistes no longer.

Clearly, it's time to reserve a spot on the shelf at Black Swan Books.

Secretariat's Legacy: The Sons, Daughters and Decedents Who Keep His Legend Alive by SL Publications, 298 pages, photos, appendix, glossary, March 2023.


Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts.

Copy Article Link

Liked this article? Read more like this.

  1. Preakness Winner Seize the Grey Works, Confirmed for Jim Dandy
  2. Saratoga Notebook, Presented by NYRA Bets: Stall Off To Strong Start At Saratoga
  3. Seize the Grey to Gainesway Upon Retirement
  4. 'It's a Special Place': Racing Returns to Saratoga Thursday
  5. Early Impressions from Fasig: Whose First-Crop Yearlings Caught Your Eye?

Never miss another story from the TDN

Click Here to sign up for a free subscription.