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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Good Luck Reading My Shoe: The Rest of the Story about Secretariat's Raceplate Auction on eBay to Benefit Charity!

One of the original shoes worn by Secretariat in his Futurity Stakes win at New York's Belmont Park on September 16, 1972, has been put up for auction on eBay by, the official website of Secretariat. The shoe was mounted on a wooden plaque by the late Jim Gaffney, Secretariat's exercise rider for Meadow Stable from April 1972 through May 1973.

That day--September 16, 1972--was Penny Chenery's father's 86th birthday. She called him at a hospital in New Rochelle, New York where he was a patient to give him the news that their horse had won--again! The nurse informed her that he already knew that, according to the account in Bill Nack's book.

That day was also the day of Bull Hancock's funeral. He was the owner of Claiborne Farm, the great character in the film Secretariat who stares Penny Chenery down with the coin toss to see who gets the colt. Again, according to Bill Nack, he was buried at Paris (Kentucky) Cemetery, at about the time that Lucien Lauren was saddling Secretariat for the Belmont Futurity.

Working in concert with groom Eddie Sweat and regular Meadow Stable farrier George Collins, Gaffney collected many of Secretariat's racing plates, meticulously cataloging each one as the colt was routinely shod. The Futurity shoe was obtained on October 8, 1972, when Secretariat was re-shod after winning the Futurity Stakes and prior to his following race, a winning effort in the Champagne Stakes. The Futurity was Secretariat's third stakes victory and his first start at Belmont Park.

The Futurity shoe, from Secretariat’s left front hoof, is mounted on a wooden plaque with blue metal backing, and it contains a plate engraved by Gaffney that identifies the race. On the reverse side of the plaque, the frame has the handwritten inscription documenting the mounting by Gaffney along with the individual identification numbers. The plaque is signed by the Meadow Racing Stable team of Gaffney, owner Penny Chenery, and Secretariat's Hall of Fame winning jockey, Ron Turcotte. The shoe is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity and the official winner's circle photo from the race.

The nails from Secretariat's shoes were saved too, and you can buy them. Note that this is a Japanese Izumi nail. Now there's a bit of Secretariat trivia for you!
I shared the eBay photo of the shoe with Ed Kinney, president of Thoro'Bred Racing Plate Company, Inc. of Anaheim, California, which manufactured the shoe. Ed confirmed that, as far as he knew, Secretariat wore Thoro'Bred plates throughout his racing career. This shoe is what is called in racing circles a "low toe", referring to the height of the toe grab, and Ed estimated the size to be a 5 or 6. Neither of us could read the size on the shoe in the photo.

Here's what Ed said in an email, "It is a Thoro'bred Low Toe Front shoe.  The size is hard to see, it is either a 5 or 6.  The two marks under the number indicate Low Toe. I would say that it is authentic.  He raced in our shoes his entire career to my knowledge. (My) Dad knew George Collins, and the name is familiar to me too, but I don't remember, sorry."

The most interesting thing we noticed about the shoe are the little bumps back by the heels. These would be what's left of copper rivets that held either a felt or leather pad. Why did a two-year-old colt need a pad? Nowhere in Bill Nack's Big Red of Meadow Stable is there a mention that the horse had a definite problem, although he does mention rumors that Secretariat was not sound at that time. Did his soles sting? Did he have some kind of an infection? And what did Jim Gaffney do with the pad? We know he kept the nail heads--wouldn't he have kept the pad, too?

Here's a front Thoro'bred raceplate, also attributed to Secretariat, that was auctioned off by Claiborne Farm. It's a different shape from the two-year-old shoe, and perhaps a different size. Presumably this would be one pulled off Secretariat when he arrived in Kentucky from New York to stand at stud. He would have still had his raceplates on, so it would make sense that Claiborne Farm would have them.

If anyone reading this knows anything about George Collins, I would surely like to know more about him.

Proceeds from the sale of this shoe will benefit the Secretariat Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization created by Secretariat's owner Penny Chenery to assist the Thoroughbred industry in the areas of research, rehabilitation, retirement and recognition.

The auction will end December 19th at 9:00 p.m. (ET). As I write this, 60 bids have been placed on the shoe, which is now up to $5,950 and expected to go much higher. Bidding ends on Sunday, December 19, 2010 at 3:22 p.m. EST.

I noticed that there is another shoe up for auction on eBay that says it is off Secretariat; it is priced at $3500 (not an auction) and is for sale loose. That's not the one for the fundraiser!

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George Geist said...

As to the holes in the heels of this plate, There was not necessarily any pad at all. Oftentimes race platers will drill multiple pairs of shoes on their drill presses first thing in the shop as soon as they get them in order to have them ready to rivet pads on when needed. If a horse doesn't need pads they'll just get them with empty holes.

George Geist, Pennsylvania

Fran Jurga said...

Very interesting, George! I never would have known that! But wouldn't you think they'd have done Secretariat's shoes individually? Maybe not when he was a two-year-old, I guess. Thanks so much for checking in and offering that "Horseshoe CSI" clue!