Summary

Birth:
18 Mar 1912 1
Death:
26 Jun 2000 1
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Personal Details

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Also known as:
Trainer of Secretariat 2
Full Name:
Lucien Laurin 1
Birth:
18 Mar 1912 1
Death:
26 Jun 2000 1
Residence:
Last Residence: Key Largo, FL 1
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Occupation:
Horse Trainer 2
Race or Ethnicity:
Canadian 2
Social Security:
Card Issued: Unknown Code (PE) 1
Social Security Number: ***-**-2837 1

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Stories

Lucien Laurin, the Trainer of Secretariat, Is Dead at 88

Lucien Laurin, who trained Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner who was perhaps the fastest thoroughbred that ever raced, died yesterday at a hospital in Miami. Laurin, who lived in Key Largo, Fla., was 88.

He trained 36 stakes winners, he won an Eclipse Award as horse racing's leading trainer in 1972 and he was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 1977. But Laurin, a former jockey who spent more than 40 years as a trainer, achieved overriding fame as the man who saddled the charismatic chestnut Secretariat.

In the summer of 1971, Laurin became the prime trainer for Meadow Stable in Virginia. ''He had retired before I hired him,'' Penny Chenery, who bred and raced Secretariat, recalled. ''His son, Roger, was training for me, but he moved to the Phipps family. He said, 'My dad will help you out.' I called him 'my temporary trainer.' ''

Laurin had already captured a Triple Crown race, saddling Amberoid, the winner of the Belmont Stakes in 1966. When he arrived at Meadow Stable, Riva Ridge was in the process of becoming the 2-year-old champion. In 1972, Laurin saddled Riva Ridge to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

But Riva Ridge would always be second best to the handsome and powerfully built Secretariat, who was a 2-year-old when Riva Ridge was dominating the Triple Crown.

Chenery would remember what happened when Secretariat was beaten the first time he raced. ''Laurin kicked a chair across the box and said, 'Damn, he never should have been beaten.' Then I knew Lucien thought he was a great horse.' ''

Laurin and his fellow French-Canadian, the jockey Ron Turcotte, teamed up for five Triple Crown victories -- the two by Riva Ridge and then Secretariat's epic 1973 season when he became the first Triple Crown winner since Citation in 1948.

Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby in record time, captured the Preakness Stakes and then turned in one of the most memorable performances in sports history when he captured the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths in 2 minutes 24 seconds, the fastest mile and a half ever run on a dirt course in the United States.

As Chenery remembered the moment: ''When the race began, Lucien said: 'Oh my God, Ronnie, you're going too fast. This is a mile and a half.' And then, when it was clear Secretariat had passed all the other horses, Lucien said, 'For God's sake, Ronnie, don't fall off.' ''

Laurin broke into racing as a jockey, winning 161 races in Canada, including the 1935 King's Plate aboard Sir Michael. He achieved moderate success as a jockey in New England, but then his career almost came to an end. He was banned for life in 1938 when stewards at Narragansett Park in Rhode Island found a buzzer -- a device that can spur a horse with an electric shock -- in Laurin's jacket before the start of a racing card.

Racing authorities rejected Laurin's contention that someone had slipped the device into his jacket while he was playing cards in the jockeys' room.

Laurin got a job exercising horses at Alfred Vanderbilt's Sagamore Farm, rode briefly after the suspension was lifted in 1941, then turned to training the following year in New England, working for Reginald Webster. He later trained for A. B. Hancock Jr.

Laurin resigned as trainer for Meadow Stable in 1976 but returned to racing in 1983 as trainer and part owner of Evergreen Stable.

Recalling his ride on Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby, Turcotte remembered the faith that Laurin showed in him.

''In the paddock at the Derby that day, Mr. Laurin asked me, 'Do you really think he can go a mile and a quarter?' And I told him, 'Yes, but he hasn't proved it to me.' I told him, 'I don't want to push him, let him relax and gallop along.' Mr. Laurin told me, 'You ride him to the best of your knowledge, you won't be second-guessed.' He gave me confidence. Instead of making me tense, he made me relax. If he puts pressure on me, God knows what happens.' ''

What happened were victories at Churchill Downs that day, at Pimlico in the Preakness and then at Belmont Park in the Belmont Stakes that catapulted Secretariat to horse racing greatness and Laurin to a niche as one of the sport's foremost trainers.

''He could do everything,'' Laurin once said of Secretariat, who died in 1989 at age 19. ''There was never a horse like him.''

The Man Who Trained A Flying Horse Lucien Laurin had retired in obscurity before Secretariat carried him to fame William Nack

For six months in 1973-from the afternoon of Secretariat's record-shattering triumph in the May 5 Kentucky Derbyto that crisp November afternoon in Kentucky when the chestnut strode off the racetrack and into stud at Claiborne Farm, his trainer, Lucien Laurin, paced the colt's corner of the planet with a look of perpetual wonder on his elfin face.

Almost 30 years later I can still see Laurin on that early morning of March 14 at Belmont Park, when he hoisted jockey Ron Turcotte aboard Secretariat for the colt's final three-eighths-of-a-mile workout leading up to his first race in that magical Triple Crown season. "Let him roll, Ronnie," Laurin said. A few minutes later there was Laurin, draped on the rail with stopwatch in hand, as Secretariat raced through the Belmont stretch, running as fast as a horse can run, making the back of Turcotte's jacket billow. Snapping the watch as the horse crossed the wire, Lucien cried, "Oh, my god! He went 33 and three fifths!" Horses rarely break 34 seconds going three eighths.Laurin looked ashen. Moments later he was telephoning the clocker, Jules Watson, in his aerie high above the track.

Laurin's mouth dropped open as Watson read him the message. "Thirty-two and three fifths?" Laurin repeated. A full second faster than his own clocking, it was one of the swiftest workouts ever recorded in New York.

For the Canadian-born Laurin, who died on June 26 at age 88, nothing could have seemed more unlikely in the summer of 1971 than that rush to glory. After all, Secretariat was an unknown yearling on a Virginia farm, andLaurin had just retired as a horse trainer. He had begun as a jockey but had been suspended for three years when he was caught carrying an illegal battery—a device used to shock horses into running faster—at Narragansett Park in 1938. Laurin claimed that he had been framed, saying someone had slipped the buzzer into his pocket, but he never recovered as a rider, and in 1942 he turned to training horses. By '71 he had prepared one champion, the brilliant filly Quill, and he had saddled the winner of the 1966 Belmont Stakes, Amberoid, but they were notable exceptions in a 30-year career during which he trained a long line of mostly forgettable horses.

At 58 he was looking forward to a long retirement when his son, Roger, also a trainer, made what turned out to be the most momentous decision of his and his father's lives. Roger was training for Penny Chenery's Meadow Stablein New York, with a promising 2-year-old, Riva Ridge, in his barn, when he accepted the job of training for the powerful Phipps family stable of horses. That left Chenery without a trainer, and when she asked the departing Roger whom she should hire, he said, "How about my dad?"

So she did, as her "temporary" trainer, just as racing's Jupiter was aligning with Mars. Lucien turned Riva Ridge into America's 1971 2-year-old champion. The next year Riva Ridge won the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont StakesLaurin could hardly fathom his good fortune. "Can you believe this?" he muttered more than once. He regarded himself as the luckiest trainer who ever lived. And that was before Secretariat raced as a 2-year-old. By year's end Laurin had managed Secretariat through a brilliant campaign that ended with his being voted America's 1972 Horse of the Year.

Secretariat's record-breaking charge through the 1973 Triple Crown season transformed the formerly retired horseman into the most famous trainer on earth. Through that five-week ordeal, Laurin fretted openly. "I wish this thing were over," he'd say. He beamed as Secretariat roared through the stretch in the Kentucky Derby, winning what remains the fastest Derby ever run, and fairly danced into the winner's circle at Pimlico two weeks later, when the red horse won the Preakness. The night before the Belmont, I called Laurin at his Long Island home to talk about what the horse might do. "I think he'll win by more than he's ever won by in his life," he said, his voice rising. "I think he'll win by 10!"

The colt won by 31 lengths, smoking through the 1� miles in 2:24 flat, still a record, and became only the ninth Triple Crown winner—the first in 25 years—as well as the horse of the century. No wonder Laurin walked around for weeks grinning like a Cheshire cat, pinching himself and muttering incredulously at his good fortune. TheBelmont was his crowning moment, propelling him on the shortest, fastest journey ever taken to the Racing Hall of Fame.

Riva Ridge held the door. Secretariat carried Laurin inside. He belongs with them there.

 

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