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Secretariat: The Making of a Champion

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,085 Ratings  ·  270 Reviews
There has never been a horse like Secretariat. Winner of the Triple Crown in 1973 and record setter in all three races—an unprecedented feat—he still owns the track records at Churchill Downs, Pimlico, and Aqueduct. William Nack, formerly the racing writer for Newsday and currently contributing editor to Sports Illustrated , fell in love with the horse the first time he s ...more
Paperback, Da Capo, 352 pages
Published March 21st 1988 by Da Capo Press
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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
This story of 1973 triple crown winner Secretariat is packed with statistics on blood lines & racing stats; William Nack really knows his stuff. However, it is not a dry read at all. His behind the scenes look at the world of horse breeders is fascinating. I particularly liked his spin on the owner Helen Tweedy (aka Penny Chenery), and thought it pretty cool that both the jockey & trainer were Canadians. Now I know what “going the distance” really means, and it’s got nothing to do with F ...more
Jul 31, 2012 Lucinda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A legend is born…

A true story of a remarkable Thoroughbred racehorse that has now also been made into a film for the big screen, Secretariat has to be one of my favorite books on racing ever written. Equivalent to works such as Seabiscuit, Arle and Red Rum this racehorse’s story is one that is heartwarming, magical and truly inspirational proving that the sky is the limit. Fast-paced at a thrilling gallop this story maintains its momentum throughout, where you ultimately loose yourself within th
Jun 09, 2011 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did you see the movie? I did, and can definitely say that the 'feel good' movie barely touched the surface of Secretariat and all that was going on before and around him....and was written by William Nack, who was a new Turf Reporter when Secretariat made his 2-year old appearance. So impressed, he decided to keep a journal and a side-focus on Secretariat for the long term.

Therefore, this book starts with the history of the major players in Secretariat's life. The Chenery family, and how The Mea
Nov 03, 2011 Mario rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like History or Sports. People who wanted more from the movie.
Recommended to Mario by: Andy Ihnatko
Shelves: audio-books
I picked up Secretariat for different reasons than most. It had nothing to do with Diane Lane or the Disney movie. I don't really even like horse racing. But a gentlemen I trust recommended it to me on Twitter. Andy Ihnatko (@Ihnatko) included this book as one of his Picks of the Week. Having a stack of credits to burn through, I decided to give it a listen.

Secretariat begins slowly. You begin with a thorough foundation of lineage. At first that put me off. Why do I care about horse

Maybe it's not fair to compare Secretariat to Seabiscuit, but here I go. While I can't judge who would have won in a race between the two horses, one's story is far superior, and that is Seabiscuit's.

Secretariat came from basically a royal bloodline, he was big and beautiful and upon his death was discovered to have an enlarged heart which may have been what helped him run so fast. I can appreciate that he was quite an amazing animal and probably pretty wonderful to watch (I haven't actuall
Sep 16, 2011 Rachelle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really thought I would like this book and couldn't wait to read it but then once I started to read it I realized it was not at all what I expected. There were times in the book when I thought I was reading Genisis when they were going through the lineage of the horses. I really don't understand or care who parented who. I also am not into horse racing so all the timing and how they placed them in the race was foreign to me. I should take the time to learn something new but horse racing is at t ...more
May 30, 2011 Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. I liked it a lot more than the movie. I think that if you are a person who is not 'into horses' or does not know a lot about horses, you will like the movie better. This book is so well researched and filled with every single fact you could imagine, but could get confusing if you are not into horses and racing. Great writing, captured me within the first 3 chapters. I learned a lot about racing history in that time period and some of the facts stunned me. This book is a great collect ...more
Do you like equine genealogy? This book is for you!
Do you love horse racing? This book is for you!
Do you like loads of minutiae detail? This book is for you!
If you don't mind a story that jumps around and shifts focus constantly than this book is for you!
Everyone else I would suggest reading a summary or doing a bit of Google research and call it quits. What a slog. Secretariat isn't even introduced until chapter SEVEN! I was so close to putting this one down.
This might be one of those times whe
Jan C
Sep 22, 2012 Jan C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jan C by: Roger Ebert (in his blog)
Shelves: animal, non-fiction
What a wonderful read. What a wonderful horse. What wonderful memories come flooding back of watching him run in the Triple Crown. It is so very nice to see the behind-the-scenes story.

I had to laugh at the thought of the horse raking after watching one of the grooms raking. It made me laugh out loud.
Julia Langevin
Jun 12, 2014 Julia Langevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I've always had a love for race horses since my first horse was a OTTB turned eventing horse. The author does an amazing job of sharing Secretariat's story, and the love he had for this horse really showed throughout the entirety of the book. It was amazing to read about his journey leading up to the triple crown, and continuing on after the triple crown. I also learned a lot about the ins and outs of racing, and how even at the speed they're going, horses ca ...more
Apr 05, 2012 Marnie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the book that the popular Disney movie was based on. How anybody was inspired to create a movie from this particular book I have no idea. The book was very dry and boring.
Michele A
Oct 28, 2010 Michele A rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book a little slow reading in the beginning
The first fifty-plus pages contain a detailed explanation of the lineage that led to Secretariat; the pedigree of the horse that in 1973 won all three races of the Triple Crown - - a feat not completed in twenty-five previous years or the thirty-eight-plus years that have followed. This book was the inspiration of the recent film of the same name. Bill Nack's biography does justice to the horse's amazing accomplishments. At this point, Secretariat is arguably the greatest racehorse of all time. ...more
Oct 05, 2011 Mundi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Parts of this book really took me back to being a horse-crazy 12-year-old who read every Marguerite Henry book I could get my hands on!

The first 3rd of this book was all about the background of the breeding operations - the horses themselves and the farms & families who bred them - that culminated in the big red colt. It kind of boils down to his sire, Bold Ruler who brought the speed, and his dam, Somethingroyal who brought the stamina, but it takes 100 pages to get there.

Then we go into Se
Joy H.
May 05, 2011 Joy H. marked it as watched-film-only  ·  review of another edition
Secretariat: The Making of a Champion by William Nack
Published 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published 1975)
Original title: Big Red of Meadow Stable
Added 5/5/11.
I did not read this book, but I saw the movie:
MOVIE: "Secretariat" (2010)
Stars: Diane Lane, John Malkovich and Margo Martindale
"Penny Chenery Tweedy and colleagues guide her long-shot but precocious stallion to set, in 1973, the unbeaten record for winning the
Nov 16, 2012 Kia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, an informative look into the life of one of the greatest racehorses in the history of the sport.

It was a quick read, and Nack's descriptions of the races almost feels like he puts you at the racetrack. Nack's writing style, however, put me off right from the prologue. I found myself rereading sentences that were arranged in strange ways or getting disrupted by new paragraphs that seemed out of context. I was also often frustrated by the lack of explanation for racing and breeding jargon
Jul 07, 2014 Raven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This biography is written in a narrative form which is very compelling and was difficult for me to put down. The skill and knowledge of this writer is such that despite knowing the outcome of most of the races, I was so wrapped up in the story that I felt suspense and concern over how Secretariat would place. Somehow, this was especially the case for the Triple Crown series, which of course is his claim to fame!
The story of Secretariat is great but this book does not flow like a well written story. It veers between lots of names, dates, places, races; and a novel like attempt at description that often seems overdone, incongruous and unnecessary. I was glad that I did not have to take a test on it and was sorry it did not come with charts of bloodlines and race statistics. One of the problems with the writing, to my mind, was that he does not follow a timeline, he jumps back and forth in time in order ...more
Jul 20, 2015 Sophie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Mostly poor writing and a lot of minutia...I realize that horse racing is a detailed, rich (RICH RICH RICH) person's game but this book could be summed up as "An amazing horse/ rich people problems." That being said, the racing scenes were exciting to read and Secretariat is incredible.
Aug 15, 2015 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Am I the only person who doesn't adore this book?

It is written in lush, sweeping prose, like this:

"He is still galloping to the beat of twelve. Aglide, he turns for home in full flight. He opens twenty-one lengths. He increases that to twenty-two. He is running easily. Nor is the form deteriorating. There remains the pendulumlike stride of the forelegs and the drive of the hindlegs, the pumping of the shoulders and the neck, the rise and dip of the head. He makes sense of all the mystical page
May 05, 2015 Svangi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Secretariat: The Horse Who Beat All Odds
Secretariat, by William Nack, is a compelling novel about a racehorse who beat the odds and forever left an imprint on the thoroughbred racing world. The novel begins decades before Secretariat was born, pouring over thoroughbred lineage and the history of racing, as well as discussing how specific families became involved and stayed involved for numerous generations. Nack begins Secretariat’s story starting with how Penny Chenery Tweedy came to own Secret
Aug 26, 2014 Alicia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: If you like sports stories, horse racing, and recent history, this would be a good choice for you.
Shelves: equestrian, audio
I picked this one up as on Audible when I needed to use a bunch of my credits or use them. I try to pick longer stories so I get a decent number of listening sessions in. Since getting into horses, I had re-watched Secretariat, and really enjoyed it. I figured the book would be better, like most books are when compared to their film versions, and it was about 15 hours of audio.

I would not say that this is necessarily better, but it is real. I don't think I would have been able to get through thi
Apr 04, 2011 Lkelley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Almost done. Not a book I would recommend unless you like sports history...which I don't. Mostly about the lines of various horses.
Sep 22, 2014 Evan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An exceptionally compelling bio of the greatest thoroughbred in U.S. track history. One has no doubt after reading this book that Secretariat was a genius of a horse, blessed with extraordinary instinct and intelligence to go along with his unparalleled size and power. The powerful chestnut colt was considered also to be a beautiful animal. Nack makes the races come alive. He captures track life from the groom to the breeder. Horse breeding never surrenders its mystery. At moments, the reader fe ...more
Mar 25, 2011 Mj rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Horse race lovers or just horse lovers will enjoy this book immensely. The rest of us will enjoy the movie more.
Apr 12, 2011 Kelly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Lots of detail. Enjoyed the movie better
Jul 03, 2015 Smh624 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another great vacation book. Fun to read in the wake of American Pharoah winning the Triple Crown this year...25 years since the previous winner, just like Secretariat. I will always remember watching Big Red's performance in the Belmont in 73 in complete amazement. The book provided a real inside look at Secretariat and the group around him. The book was written in the mid-70s with some additional information in this version which came out with the recent Disney movie...which is also a decent m ...more
Jan 31, 2014 G.G. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1973 a horse named Secretariat won the Triple Crown by 31 lengths! No horse had ever done that nor has one since. It's possible it may never happen again. For a look at the race check out:

But "Secretariat: The Making of a Champion" is also about a woman who became a champion. Penny Chenery Tweedy was a wife and mother during the early years of women's liberation. She left her family to help her father run the horse farm.

Chenery took risks, like the fam
Nancy Rojo
Feb 08, 2012 Nancy Rojo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Nack may not have had the best editor in organizing this book, but he sure got it right in using the language of horsemen and bringing to light the incredible work and strategy in bringing together the greatest equine athlete in the last century.
I loved his adding every bit of notes he took and remembrances of conversations and comments about this great horse.

My husband and I watched the triple crown races knowing we were watching something rare and unlikely to be seen again in our lifetim
Feb 02, 2012 CD rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a horse lover, so this is biased. Secretariat was Pegasus come to earth for a few years.

This is a very well written story with far more history in it than one would expect. The breeding lines and heritage that led to Secretariat summoned up the great ones from the history of the American Bloodhorse.

If you have ever seen that run for the roses (i.e. the Kentucky Derby) where this horse did something never done before or since, or that legendary day at Belmont where the rest of the horses ap
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William Nack in his prime 3 9 Mar 22, 2014 01:22PM  
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William Nack is an American journalist and author. He wrote about sports, politics and the environment at Newsday for 11 years before joining the staff of Sports Illustrated in 1978 as an investigative reporter and general feature writer.

Since leaving S.I. in 2001, Nack has freelanced for numerous publications, including GQ and He also served as an adviser on the made-for-TV-movie Ruffia
More about William Nack...

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“Weave for the mighty chestnut
A tributary crown
Of autumn leaves, the brightest then
When autumn leaves are brown
Hang up his bridle on the wall,
His saddle on the tree,
Till time shall bring some racing king
Worthy to wear as he!”
More quotes…