Secretariat Park opens Saturday in Paris

Published 10:05 am Thursday, November 9, 2023

By Tom Latek

Kentucky Today

A park dedicated to the legendary thoroughbred racehorse Secretariat will open to the public on Saturday in downtown Paris as part of a three-day festival on Main Street honoring Legends of Bourbon County.

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Secretariat Park, at 525 Main Street, is opening 50 years to the date that “Big Red,” as he was known to racing fans, arrived at Claiborne Farm for his breeding career. The event, which starts at noon on Saturday, is free and open to the public.

The dedication  ceremony will feature NBC Sports broadcaster Donna Brother;  Steve Buttleman, the bugler for both Churchill Downs and Keeneland; and Seth Hancock, of Claiborne Farm, among others.

The park tells the life story of Secretariat, from his foaling in Virginia to his Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown wins, to his breeding career.  The centerpiece is a life-sized bronze of Secretariat romping in the field at Claiborne Farm by artist Jocelyn Russell.  The park also includes a dramatic three-story mural of Secretariat winning the 1973 Kentucky Derby by equine artist Jaime Corum, a Kentucky native.

The park, funded with private donations from residents of Paris/Bourbon County and around the country, was designed by Thomas J. Nieman, a retired professor of landscape architecture at the University of Kentucky.

At the age of three in 1973, Secretariat not only won the Triple Crown, but he also set speed records in all three races.  His time in the Kentucky Derby still stands as the Churchill Downs track record for 1 ¼ miles, and his time in the Belmont Stakes stands as the American record for 1 ½ miles on the dirt.  In 2012, his actual time of 1:53 in the Preakness Stakes was recognized as a stakes record following an official review.

Secretariat is widely considered to be the most famous racehorse of all time, and for many people, the only thoroughbred whose name is known worldwide.  He’s been the subject of movies, books, TV shows and documentaries.

This new park celebrates that legacy.