Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Red Legend

The rec room
red indoor/carpet with black flecks
The old green couch, nubbly,
pine tongue-in-groove panelling
the RCA colour TV.

ABC's The Wide World of Sports
broadcasting from Buffalo,
the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,
popcorn in a bowl, the family gathered around
to watch a sporting event.
Unheard of,
in the house in the Toronto suburbs.
Nobody watched sports at our house.
No Hockey Night in Canada.
No Stanley Cup, no Grey Cup,
no Bowling for Dollars.

The Kentucky Derby, though,
brought us together like it was Christmas.
It was 28 years before another horse won the race in less than two minutes.
When it was over, the red horse was still accelerating.

The Preakness Stakes,
he started last (he always started last).
Mud on the Canadian jockey's face, a fact of life
in the fast lane.
Ron Turcotte, our hero, a star as big as Bobby Orr,
a fearless giant in a cloak of small.
From last to first in a heartbeat, a huge beating heart,
with no challengers at the blazing finish.

June 9, 1973
The Belmont Stakes
Our breath catches in our throats,
our hearts race. We watch, we can't watch,
we chant his name, we wait,
we wait only 2:24 minutes.
He starts in the lead, he wants it, he keeps it.
Red flanks tear by, too fast to see,
Turcotte crouches down, fingers twisted in mane,
hanging on for his life as the cheering world screams by.
The lead widens, stretches, lesser horses, lesser men, fall behind
in dust from the great horse's winged hooves.

In the rec room,
the popcorn bowl tumbles over as we jump to our feet
and scream his name:
Secretariat! Secretariat! Secretariat!

February 9, 2011
The Disney movie tells the tale
many people never knew.
There are tears, sure.
Tears spilled in the memory of a red horse
a legend, a hero
and the memory of cheering him on
As a family.
In our rec room,
in his finest hour.


  1. This was before my time, but reading this, it feels like I was there. The thrill of victory, the joy of family. Beautifully woven, Cathy.

  2. As you say Cathy, it's the only sport that exists in our household then and to this day in my house! I don't remember actually seeing Big Red run the race but I loved seeing the real life clips in the movie, Secretariet. My favorite movie about a racehorse is Seabiscuit. Absolutly a must if you've never seen it. Loved your blog Cathy as you knew I would and I'll be sure to read it to Hailey cuz she's way more warped about horses than I am! It's been a lot of years but I'm still waiting for the thrill of the next Triple Crown Winner!

  3. As usual Cath you've done a great job! I remember it well, the spilled popcorn etc.Keep up the good work, Mom

  4. You've captured the excitement of a family joined together in an exhilarating moment. Must have been a great horse.


  5. I'm a huge horse racing fan. I was watching when Big Red made his Triple Crown bid. I went to the Kentucky Derby in 2007 and picked Street Sense to win!

    I haven't seen the movie yet, but I've heard only good things so far. I guess I better go get it before someone ruins the ending for me! ;)

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