Secretariat's owner: American Pharoah doesn't measure up to all-time greats

If American Pharoah takes Saturday's Belmont Stakes and win horse racing's Triple Crown, he won't measure up to the likes of Affirmed, War Admiral or Secretariat – so says Penny Chenery, owner of Secretariat.

Penny Chenery reacts after Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973. (AP)
Penny Chenery reacts after Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973. (AP)

There's no doubt that American Pharoah could accomplish a historic feat with a win at Belmont, becoming the sport's first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. But even as history might be made at Belmont, Chenery doesn't think that this current contender has proven enough to be called an all-time great. Good, yes, but not a great.

Thoughtful and charming, Chenery told Yahoo! Sports that she hopes to see history made from her seat at Belmont Park, as she will be in attendance for American Pharoah's bid at history. But she gives a hard, objective look at this horse and his performance through the first two legs of the Triple Crown and says that American Pharoah isn't quite there

His time of 2:03:02 at the Kentucky Derby is the fourth-slowest time for a winner of that race since 2000. Then when he took the Preakness two weeks later with 1:58:46 time, it represented the slowest winning pace (albeit in a torrential downpour) at Pimlico since Citation in 1948.

Chenery doesn't see a resumé for greatness. When asked where American Pharoah would rank among the all-time greats should he win the Triple Crown, Chenery was honest if this horse was great.

"I would question that. Just on the basis of times," Chenery told Yahoo! Sports.

"His races have not been particularly fast. All he has to do is beat the other horse, but when you compare him with other champions – of course the condition of the racetrack is a factor in a horse's winning time but still – four seconds is quite a big gap."

American Pharoah's Preakness time (run on a sloppy track) was four seconds slower than California Chrome's last year, though AP's Derby time was actually slighter faster than Chrome's.

That doesn't mean that she isn't rooting for a Triple Crown win. She remembers that day in 1973 and being remarkably calm leading up to the Belmont Stakes, the race that would put Secretariat atop the legends. She knew she had a good horse and admits that she had more nerves before the Preakness three weeks earlier.

Now she has a horse in Secretariat that is considered among the all-time greats if not the greatest in history. And while fans sensed that her horse was special, it took a little while for them to realize just how great Secretariat was. She cautioned that "you need time to put a horse's [accomplishments in] perspective; you can't do that over night."

Hers was a horse, after all, that at Belmont set the fastest time in the race's history as well as the largest margin of victory.

With all that being said, however, she does see some similarities between the great Secretariat and this latest Triple Crown contender.

"[American Pharoah] has a wonderful, easy driving stride. He doesn't take a lot out of himself with awkward motions," Chenery said.

"They both have a fluid stride and confidence and intelligence. I think American Pharoah knows what he's doing."


Kristian Dyer is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports and can be followed on Twitter @KristianRDyer. He also can be emailed at


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