Secretariat and Ocala
There are several local connections to Secretariat, who captured the 1973 Triple Crown, and Bridlewood Farm has a unique living link to the legendary thoroughbred racehorse.
George Issacs of Bridlewood Farm with Maritime Traveler, who belongs to an exclusive club of only two known living horses sired by Secretariat.
The 149th Kentucky Derby will take place May 6. In advance of what is called “the greatest two minutes in sports,” here is a look back to 50 years ago, in 1973, when a big red equine comet named Secretariat streaked through the Triple Crown races and left his indelible mark.
Secretariat set track record times that still stand: Kentucky Derby (1:59 2/5 for a mile and a quarter); Preakness Stakes (1:53 for a mile and three-sixteenths) and Belmont Stakes (2:24 for a mile and a half). His 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes is regarded as one the most spectacular feats in all of sports. “Big Red,” as he was called by his legions of fans, graced the covers of “Time” and “Newsweek,” both declaring him a “Super Horse.”
Retired to stud in 1974 at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky, Secretariat sired 57 stakes winners, including Lady’s Secret, the 1986 North American Horse of the Year. Fillies by Secretariat were highly sought after as broodmares and made him a leading broodmare sire.
Secretariat unexpectedly died of laminitis on Oct. 4, 1989. A necropsy conducted by the University of Kentucky Veterinary Sciences Department revealed his heart was almost three times the size of a normal thoroughbred’s. It was not diseased, just extraordinarily large, as befitting a once-in-lifetime champion racehorse.
One of several Ocala connections to Secretariat was Charlie Davis, who was the champion’s exercise rider throughout his racing career. Davis moved to Ocala not long after the Triple Crown winner was retired. He continued to exercise racehorses in Ocala until he injured his back in 1981. Thanks to his connection to Secretariat, Davis was a sought-after special guest at events over the decades. Davis died in Ocala in December 2018, at age 75.
With the racing world celebrating the 50th anniversary of Secretariat’s 1973 Triple Crown, Ocala-based Bridlewood Farm is home to no ordinary pensioner in Maritime Traveler, who belongs to an exclusive club of only two known living horses sired by Secretariat. Maritime Traveler, a chestnut colt foaled May 15, 1990, has the distinction of being the only known living member of Secretariat’s last crop.
Out of the Northern Dancer mare Oceana, Maritime Traveler was bred by the late E.P. Taylor’s Ontario-based Windfields Farm. His breeder consigned him to the 1991 Keeneland September yearling sale, where Arthur Appleton bought him for $55,000. Maritime Traveler made five lifetime starts, all at Canada’s Woodbine Racetrack, with his best finish being a fourth. His earned all of $1,572 and soon after his last start on June 12, 1993, Appleton retired him to Bridlewood Farm. That operation, one of Ocala’s legacy thoroughbred farms, was founded by Appleton and his wife Martha in 1976.
George Issacs, current president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association board of directors, was Bridlewood’s stallion manager from 1989-1992, leaving to become the general manager of Allen Paulson’s Ocala-based Brookside South Farm. In 1996, Isaacs returned to Bridlewood Farm as general manager, remaining in the position through the death of Arthur Appleton in 2008 and the ensuing Appleton Family Trust ownership. In 2013, John and Leslie Malone purchased Bridlewood Farm and Isaacs remains the operation’s general manager.
“When I returned to Bridlewood Farm in 1996, I found out that we had a son of Secretariat as a teaser. Maritime Traveler was initially the broodmare division teaser, and he did his job very well for years,” said Isaacs. “When the breeding shed teaser was retired, Maritime Traveler was moved into that position, and he took to it just fine.”
When Maritime Traveler lost his enthusiasm for being a teaser about five years ago, he was pensioned.
“He earned his keep. He’s 33 now and lives in a great paddock that backs up to 100 acres of forest. He has a great life,” Isaacs said.
Preserving A Legacy
Besides Maritime Traveler, the only other known living horse by Secretariat is Trusted Company, a 34-year-old chestnut mare. The New York-bred mare out of Star Snoop, by Stage Door Johnny, made only one start and earned $60. She became a successful broodmare before being retired and now resides at Bright Futures Farm, a Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance-accredited sanctuary in Cochranton, Pennsylvania.
Maritime Traveler and Trusted Company are included in award-winning photojournalist Patricia McQueen’s recently released book, “Secretariat’s Legacy.”
“After Secretariat’s death, I began to track his offspring over the years, documenting their lives with stories and photos. I was particularly interested in the foals of his last crop in 1990. And that’s how I came to Bridlewood Farm in March 1993, to photograph Maritime Traveler,” McQueen explained.
There are other Ocala connections to Secretariat included in the book (secretariatslegacy.com), among them the late George Steinbrenner’s Florida-bred Image of Greatness, one of Secretariat’s major stakes winners. When retired, Image of Greatness stood stud at Steinbrenner’s Ocala-based Kinsman Farm.
For information about this year’s Kentucky Derby, go to kentuckyderby.com