November 27, 2021

Four notable winners of the Secretariat/Bruce D. Stakes

Highland Reel rolled to a 1 3/4-length, wire-to-wire victory in the 2016 Turf (Cecilia Gustavsson/Horsephotos.com)

The Grade 1 race for three-year-olds at Arlington on Saturday will have an entirely new name and a largely different look to it than it’s had for much of its history. For its first 43 runnings, the $300,000 Bruce D. Stakes honored Secretariat, the all-timer who immediately followed up his 1973 Triple Crown sweep with a victory in the made-for-TV Arlington Invitational.

The Secretariat, inaugurated the following year, has been run at various distances, primarily at 1 1/4 miles. However, with the recent advent of the Saratoga Derby, the race was shaved to one mile in 2019.

The Secretariat/Bruce D. has been won by the many of the most prominent owners, trainers, and jockeys throughout the Western racing world, as well as a number of horses worth remembering. Here are four of the most notable names on the Secretariat/Bruce D. roll of honor.

Mac Diarmida (1978)

The first edition of the Secretariat contested at 1 1/2 miles was won by this Florida-bred, one of the earliest of Hall of Fame trainer Scotty Schulhofer’s champions. Undefeated in eight grass starts prior to the Secretariat, including graded wins in the Long Branch (G3), Leonard Richards (G3), and Lexington (G2), Mac Diarmida maintained that streak in the Secretariat, winning by three lengths as a 3-5 favorite under Triple Crown-winning jockey Jean Cruguet.

Although Mac Diarmida would meet defeat for the first and only time on turf in the Man o’ War (G1) two starts later, he capped off his campaign with victories in the Canadian International (G2) and Washington D.C. International (G1), and was voted the Eclipse Award as champion turf horse.

Half Iced (1982)

This son of Hatchet Man earned his first career stakes win in the Secretariat, which at the time was still contested at 1 1/2 miles. Like Mac Diarmida before him, he prevailed by three lengths as the favorite (in his case, at 7-5). The similarities largely end there, though, as the remainder of Half Iced’s career was largely undistinguished.

Except, that is, for the colt’s surprise victory in the second running of the Japan Cup in November 1982. In a three-way photo, Half Iced defeated by a neck All Along, who would go on to capture the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) and earn U.S. Horse of the Year honors in 1983. A neck behind All Along was April Run, the 1982 champion turf mare in the U.S. who, like Half Iced, was campaigned by Bert and Diana Firestone.

Farther up the track in that Japan Cup was the odds-on favorite from America, who wound up beating just two of his 14 rivals. It was two-time Horse of the Year and four-time grass champion John Henry.

Kitten’s Joy (2004)

The only horse ever to run a sub-2:00 mile and a quarter (1:59.65) in the Secretariat was Kitten’s Joy, who impressively romped by 3 1/4 lengths under a hand ride by Jerry Bailey. The fact Kitten’s Joy ran the distance faster than older horses did in the Arlington Million (G1) later on the card proved what an exceptional three-year-old he was.

Kitten’s Joy beat older horses in the Turf Classic (G1) in is next start. Despite losing the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) in his season finale, he became the second Secretariat/Bruce D. winner to earn the Eclipse Award as champion turf male. He was also the first U.S.-based three-year-old to win that honor since Sunshine Forever in 1988. No three-year-old has won the title since.

Highland Reel (2015)

No other Secretariat winner has made such a consistent, worldwide impact on the sport as Highland Reel. The Aidan O’Brien-trained son of Galileo was an easy 5 1/4-length winner of the 2015 Secretariat, but his best days were ahead of him.

A globetrotter in the truest sense, Highland Reel earned additional Group 1 victories in Europe (King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, Coronation Cup, Prince of Wales’s), North America (Breeders’ Cup Turf), and Asia (Hong Kong Vase twice). His travels also took him to Australia, where he placed behind the largely invincible Winx in the Cox Plate (G1).