144 of 148 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2000
This book was originally published in 1975 as BIG RED OF MEADOW STABLE. I read the book when it first came out, and I thought it was one of the greatest books ever written on thoroughbred racing. I finally bought a copy of my own in 1989, just a couple of months before my visit to see the great horse in Kentucky.
Perhaps because I saw Secretariat just weeks before he was put down, this book still brings the tears to my eyes when I read it. It takes a truly outstanding writer to write about such a magnificent subject, and Nack fills the bill beautifully. He traces Secretariat's lineage and of the history of Claiborne Farm in Kentucky, long the leading breeder of thoroughbred race horses. He writes in depth about Secretariat's races leading up to the legendary Triple Crown triumph of 1973. He writes about observers such as Charles Hatton, who spotted Secretariat's greatness immediately and who called Secretariat the greatest horse he had ever seen.
The only flaw in this great book is that it stops at Secretariat's retirement. There is no updated edition of this book. Perhaps someday Nack will write the rest of the Secretariat story. He certainly wrote a magnificent obituary about him in Sports Illustrated called "Pure Heart."
All in all a great book.
81 of 87 people found the following review helpful
A brief and probably pointless quiz: Who is the horse described in the following paragraph?
He was a physically awesome Thoroughbred and a superb broodmare sire. When he was born at ten minutes after midnight, March 30, 1970, his owner took one look at him and said, "There is a whopper." His own firstborn was an Appaloosa colt named 'First Secretary'. Another son - a draft horse cross - is still alive and well and recently retired from the Southwest dressage circuit. Yet a third son won the Belmont by a margin of 21 lengths, in what was the second fastest running and third largest margin in history.
Of course, his Daddy still holds the record for both margin and time.
And who is Risen Star's Daddy?
Secretariat, of course. No one who admires this special breed of horse could possibly have flunked this quiz.
When we watched Big Red hit the wire 31 lengths ahead of Twice a Prince in 1973, crushing the Belmont stakes record by two seconds and change, many of us knew that we would not see his like again. According to his jockey, Ron Turcotte, Secretariat was retired before he had reached his full potential at the longer distances. We would have loved to watch that big red horse run all day and smash every record there was, but it was not to be.
At any rate, reading William Nack's, "Secretariat: The Making of a Champion" is the next best thing to watching him run (unless you are lucky enough and rich enough to own one of his 'blue hen' daughters). At least his fans can relive the races Big Red did run, and Nack has the knack (sorry) of bringing them vividly back to memory. This book and "Wild Ride: The Rise and Tragic Fall of Calumet Farm, Inc., America's Premier Racing Dynasty" by Ann Hagedorn Auerbach are my two favorite reads on all aspects of the Thoroughbred racing industry in the United States. "Secretariat" reflects the brilliance of the Thoroughbred and its human interface. "Wild Ride" reflects the dark side of that same relationship.
My only complaint regarding Nack's treatment of Secretariat is that although it starts in the right place (the birth of Somethingroyal's whopping, chestnut foal), it didn't extend much beyond Big Red's last race. I would have liked to follow him through at least part of his career at stud.
However, that might be asking too much of a book that was published only two years after this great Thoroughbred retired from the track.
At the beginning of the new millennium, Man O'War was voted 'Thoroughbred of the Century' by a panel that was assembled by 'Blood Horse' Magazine. But those of us who saw Secretariat win the Belmont will remember him as first, and (as they said about one of his most famous ancestors) the rest nowhere.
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 1999
Mr. Nack has done a wonderful job telling Secretariat's story, and what a story it is. I have allways loved Secretariat, but Mr. Nack has taught me about things such as running a "twelve clip" and changing leading legs in the turns and about lineage and people as well. But beyond that, it's great to read something about Secretariat that reaffirms how so many felt about the greatest horse of all time. I'm glad Mr. Nack loved that horse as so many of us did. He has written it into his book and I couldn't put it down. I wanted to run right out and find more books on Secretariat. Thank you Mr. Nack!
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2004
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I read this not long after reading Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit"--and I enjoyed "Secretariat" far more. I was reading it on the train and could not hide the tears running down my face. When he won the Triple Crown, one writer said of Secretariat, "He ran so far beyond known reference points, he left us with no measurable comparison." Secretariat transcended all the limits. His feat was deeply inspiring to me. The author was actually there with Secretariat and his connections day by day during his career, and writes with authority and obvious affection for his subject. The book was so well written that I absorbed that affection and ended up feeling as if I, too, knew this horse personally. He even unfolds the tale of Secretariat's pedigree in such an interesting and engaging way that it is helping me to understand current Derby prospects better. This is the best horse racing book I ever read, and I would give it more than 5 stars if I could.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2002
I bought William Nack's original writing of this book which was published in 1975. Although I was too young to follow Secretariat's racing career, reading this book gave me a very detailed and full account of his performance as a two-year old in 1972 and as a three-year old in 1973.
I have been a big horse racing fan for some 20 years now, and I have read many books on throughbred racing. This is definitely the best book on the subject that I have ever read!
Not only is it an excellent description of Secretariat and all of his connections. It tells the racing fan a lot about what goes into training a horse and bringing him along before he runs his first race.
My favorite chapter is the author's narration of the 1973 Belmont Stakes. I never get tired of reading how Secretariat was running down the backstretch so effortlessly while Sham could barely keep up with him. Ron Turcotte didn't realize how fast they were going until he saw the clock near the end of the race.
If you love thoroughbred racing you'll certainly love this book.
This is quality writing! You'll know Secretariat's career so much better after reading this book.
It's too bad that Secretariat never got to race at the age of four. He might have been even better than he was at three.
One can only guess what might have been!
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2002
The original book by Nack was a hardback version entitled "Big Red of Meadow Stable". I have a first edition - don't EVEN think about buying it!
Seriously, this is a wonderful book. Anyone who loves horses should read it. Yes it's about Secretariat, but all facets of horse racing, too.
I guess I'm not a very good spokesperson, but really, the book is excellent - I can't count how many times I've read it (or let others read it, with some consternation)- not that I'm a ditz, it's like one of those movies you watch over and over - how many times can one say that about a book?
It's just that another fact or piece of history jumps out at you each time you read it. (Oh geez, I missed that before!)
Wonderful piece of writing by Mr. Nack - who some call Secretariat's "personal biographer" - it fits.
He was there to almost the end.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 1999
This is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. Like me, you don't have to be very knowledgeable of the horseracing world--this book will give you a lot of insight in words you'll understand. And it doesn't matter that you already know Secretariat won the Triple Crown--the trip there is an awesome one. You don't just read this book, you become part of it. I laughed, cried, got nervous, got frustrated, felt anticipation, and at times even found myself talking to the people in the book, who you'll get to know as if you've known them all your life. This book is for everyone, whether you're into horseracing or not. It's a story of love, faith, perseverence, patience, and trust. In essence, it is a love story, and I guarantee you'll fall in love also. William Nack has done great justice to Secretariat and the people who were a part of his life.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2004
Secretariat, the Making of a Champion by William Nack is an excellent read. I think that's it's very hard to write about an animal, even a famous one like Secretariat with empathy, but the author acheives this and more in this riviting narrative about the horse, who probably was the greatest thoroughbred racehorse of the 20th Century.
William Nack covers everything from Secretariat's impressive lineage, to the people who owned, trained, rode & cared for him. You follow the great horse from his birth on a cold night in early Spring to his last walk into the Vet's trailer for his fatal overdose of barbituates. It's all interesting, and the author is obvious in his affection not only for Big Red, but horses and the sport of kings in general.
I especially enjoyed reading the Author's description of the races, he really makes them an exciting read.
Iremember Secretariat from his spectacular Triple Crown Season, and remember watching him run the Belmont, he made the other horses look like thay were walking! He was a magnificent creature, more like a god than a mere mortal. William Nack brings all the majestey and nobility of Secretariat to the pages of his book. I loved the part where he describes how on his way to the starting gate, the horse would always pause to check out the action from his vantage point between the stables. Also, how Secretariat would sulk in the back of his stall on race day.
Somehow, it's a comfort to know that even Pegasus had his quirks.
Reading about the great horses' last day on earth had be crying my eyes out. Also, the updated edition I read had William Nack's eulogy which was very moving.
Even if you are not a big fan of Horse racing, this is a very good book, and I highly recomment it.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2000
This book is just great. Even though I knew the story of Secretariat and even saw him run and win the Kentucky Derby, there were a lot behind the scene stories I did not know. The book was brilliantly written. The book includes so much more than just the story of Secretariat. It included stories about other great racehorses in relation to Secretariat - the jockeys: Turcotte, Pincay and others - the owners: Penny Chenery and others. I found the love Penny Chenery had for Riva Ridge in spite of Secretariat's accomplishments heartwarming. There was an incredible amount of suspense and beauty in reading this book - not a dull page included. Secretariat has always been my favorite racehorse and this book just compounded my feelings for this awesome animal.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Growing up Derby Day ranked right up there with Christmas and my birthday.
No, I was not a member of a Bluegrass equine dynasty. I was a Midwestern horse crazed farmkid who memorized thoroughbred bloodlines and racing stats. I dreamed of watching the creation of a War Admiral, Count Fleet or Citation. Many tried and failed. Then a chestnut colt sired by Bold Ruler and trained by the skilled hand of Lucien Lauren granted my wish.
In 1973 Secretariat captured our nation's imagination, no longer did Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley report just on Nixon's Watergate shame and the body count in Nam. We watched him shatter course records as all the racing analysts commented on what heart he possessed. Secretariat captured my heart on Derby Day and nearly 40 years later still has it. One of my few lifetime regrets is that I never got to see him personally, whether racing or later in retirement.
In this book you can feel Mr. Nack's geniune love for racing and most especially spending time with Big Red. My compliments with the updating of his original book on which this one is based. The writing waxes just the right amount nostalgia and sentiment for me while being factual. Mr. Nack's eloquent obituary/tribute to Secretariat in Sports Illustrated is included in this book. If you are not moved to tears when you read it then you have never really loved an animal, especially this one. There will be a movie released in October based on this book. Mr. Nack is a consultant. I sincerely hope his affection for Secretariat and Thoroughbred racing transcends to the Big Screen.
Secretariat was the rarest of his species, a Triple Crown Winner.
A legend with heart.
Enjoy the read! Enjoy the movie!