How 1 Bettor Won Thousands on Secretariat By Swindling His Poker Group
Picture via Getty Images.
Fifty years ago today, a crowd of 69,138 was gifted with seeing one of the most amazing feats in sports history — Secretariat winning the Triple Crown at the Belmont.
His time that day in 1973 — like his Kentucky Derby and Preakness times — will likely never be broken, as will his winning lead length of 31.
And while the emotion of the day is what seeps through a half a century later, bettors that day seemingly didn’t have much to wager on.
Secretariat only beat his main competitor Sham by two and a half lengths in each of the first two Triple Crown races.
Sigmund Sommer, the owner of Sham, developed the strategy of sending another horse of his, Knightly Dawn, out to be the rabbit to tire Secretariat early on in the Belmont. But Knightly Dawn was scratched. The field of six became a field of five.
When the Belmont program went to print on the Thursday before the race, Secretariat was 2-5 (-250), but when Knightly Dawn was pulled and the field went to five, Secretariat shortened to a remarkable 1-10 (-1000).
Because of NYRA rules on the number of horses, bettors could only bet on wins, places and exactas.
The only reason to bet on Secretariat would be to keep the slip as a collectible, but the memorabilia business wasn’t a fraction of what it is today.
As recounted later in his local paper, a Virginia man was sent to the Belmont with $500 ($3,416 in 2023) from his poker buddies to plunk it down on Secretariat, but when the man saw that a Secretariat win would net them only $50 ($341 today), he decided to do something else.
The “no chance” horse in the race was a horse named Twice A Prince. This was despite the fact that Twice A Prince’s bloodline included Princequillo, the leading broodmare in the country from 1966-1970. Princequillo’s progeny did well in longer races, and both Secretariat and Sham were bred out of Princequillo.
Twice A Prince's last race before the Belmont was the Kentucky Derby, where he finished 12th out of 13 horses. In the Derby, the horse threw his jockey off in-gate, and in the days leading up to the Belmont the horse had even more gate trouble, leading Sham’s trainer to say that the horse should be left in the barn.
Loaded into the gate on June 9, 1973, with a blindfold to prevent any mishaps, Twice A Prince was 50-1 in a five horse race.
For half of the race, Secretariat and Sham battled as they usually did, but when Secretariat left Sham in the dust, Sham was in shambles.
He was caught at the top of the stretch by the remaining three horses in the field. Secretariat’s mind-blowing 31-length lead makes one forget about all the other horses.
Except in the eyes of this bettor.
In a race not many were watching, Twice A Prince beat out My Gallant for second place. The $2 exacta paid a decent $35.20.
Looking for some value, the poker player had bet the 2-5 exacta with his poker friends' money and won thousands of dollars.
He then wrote the paper’s ethical columnist to inquire whether it was morally acceptable to pocket the money he won and only give his poker buddies the $50 they were promised by betting on Secretariat to just win — instead of splitting the thousands he earned with their money on a Secretariat-Twice A Prince 1-2 finish.