There was a special treat for Laurel fans yesterday when Sacrebleu won the first race, in his first start, thus becoming the first son of daughter of Secretariat to win at a United States track.
Sacrebleu is a gray colt owned by Raymond Guest's Powhatan Farm in King George, Va. He scored by six lengths, returning $6.20 straight as the second choice after completing the sloppy seven furlongs in 1:28.
The victory was important to those bettors in the crowd of 6,409 who backed Sacrebley, to his owner, to his trainer, Patrick Graham, and to jockey J. K. Adams, who brought the colt from slightly off the pace to win going away.
But the strongest impact probably was felt in Lexington, Ky., where Secretariat stands at stud at Claiborne Farm, "Superhorse" will be 8 years old on Jan. 1 as he begins to prepare for his fifthseason as a stallion. His first crop to reach racing age, his 2 years olds of 1977, have been disappointing.
"I don't think you can judge any horse by his first crop off its first year," said Seth Hancock, the Claiborne owner who manages Secretariat's stud career. "His young horses that were disappointing at 2 may be outstanding at 3 or 4. Sacrebleu was his third winner. The others were Feuille d'Erable, who won in Canada, and Dactylographer. perhaps the best 2 year old in Europe."
So it is too early to brand Secretariat a failure. It's just that the public, and the industry, expected so much from the 1973 Triple Crown hero whose exploits against high-class competition, and against the clock, rapidly are becoming legend.
"That's the biggest thing going against him, the media and the public." Hancock offered. "Secretariat is expected to be the greatest, and it doesn't always work out that way. I have said that his later crops looked better than his first crop, and that's true. But I also will say that, in order to, Secretariat ought to have four or five stakes winners in every crop be-better than his first crop, and that's true. But I also will say that, in order to be judged a success, with the tremendous kind of mares he's been bred to. Secretariat ought to have four or five stakes winners in every crop before they're through."
Indeed, the mares in Secretariat's court read like the finishing pages of a thoroughbred finishing school. The demand for Secretariat's services continues to be solid; his yearlings in the market place continue to attract top dollar even though Canandian Bound, the record $1,500,000 yearling sold at Keeneland 1976, failed to break his maiden in France this fall.
"Secretariat was bred to 36 mares his first season," Hancock noted. "Thirty-four were pronounced in foal. Four of the mares slipped their foals. Two fillies died shortly after birth. That left him with 28 foals: 15 colts and 13 fillies. I'd say most of them made it to early training, or to the track, although a majority of them are being brought along with the '78 classic in mind."
Dactylographer is one of the early favorites for the Epson Derby. His early emergence as a high-class runner undoubtedly has helped keep Secretariat's hoped-for image alive.
The sire's syndication price was $6,080,000, or $190,000 a share for 32 shares. That price was a bargain, inas-much as several original shareholders were subsequently offered twice that amount. Even today an "outside" season to Secretariat, when available reportedly costs $40,000 (no guarantee) plus another $40,000 (live foal).
Secretariat recently ranked eighth among freshman stallions in terms of moneywon by offsprings, with earnings of nearly $100,000. Roberto, with five stakes winners and a total of 10 winners in his first crop, topped the lost at $333,000.
A criticism of Secretariat as a sire has been that he has failed to "stamp" his get. His sons and daughters tend to look more like their mother than their father, and Secrebleu was an excellent case in point yesterday at Laurel. The colt is light-bodied and resembles his Color Me Blue in both color and appearance.
"Mr. Guest paid $220,000 for Color Me Blue when she was carrying the colt," Graham said. "He bought her at the Keeneland November sale of breeding stock. Mr. Guest doesn't have a share in Secretariat, but he has bred two other mares to the sire. Both came up empty."
"I intend to run Sacrebleu at Bowie in a race for non-winners of two, as his next start," the rainer added. "So far this colt has done everything we've asked of him, and he's done it easily but he only does what he has to."