Despite Lucien Laurin being a Hall of Fame trainer, there are very few people in the sporting world who know this legend’s name. In fact, even in the horse racing community, knowledge about Laurin is low.
If you mention the year 1972, then those of the era should prick their ears as their mind travels back to some amazing racing, but the youngins should recognize this legend too.
Laurin’s Career Begins in 1929
Laurin began his horse racing career in Montreal, Canada. Back in those days, you needed a connection already, to be part of the community. This meant networking with the locals and relying on nepotism. Even the bettors had a lower range of choice than we have today. There are so many different ways to wager online, that Laurin would be shocked to see how popular the sport had become.
Back in his day, as a jockey, Laurin was struggling to become popular. He had the pleasure of riding 161 race winners, but still never got a lot of attention. He struggled to maintain the low weight needed to become a jockey, which meant that after 13 years, Laurin decided to try something new.
Working In Two Stables, Created One Legendary Horse
Dropping the jockey stirrups for the trainer’s chair, Laurin was starting to find his feet. He moved to New England and worked for two stables owned by Reginald N. Webster.
Webster owned horses and wanted his animals to reach the best they could. Hiring Laurin was part of that plan, and it didn’t take long to see how well the business partner had planned his journey.
Laurin managed to produce a string of winners including legends Quill and Amberoid.
Quill was the first champion that Laurin ever produced, winning the 1958 Gardenia Stakes and the Marton States. She also went on to win the Mother Goose Stakes and Acorn Stakes in 1959, and lastly the Delaware Handicap and the New Castle Stakes in 1960 before retiring.
Amberoid however won one of the most famous races in horse racing – The Belmont Stakes 1966.
Bowing Out Into Retirement
After a fantastic run with a Belmont Stakes winner, Laurin could retire with his head held high. He was in the record books among the greats. His son, Roger Laurin, became a trainer himself. He worked at Meadow Stables run by Christopher Chenery.
Roger was starting to make a name for himself when Ogden Phipps asked him to join Penny Chenery Tweedy’s stables.
Although the reasoning isn’t clear, we do know that Roger instead recommended his father for a temporary replacement.
5 Years Of Rest And Ready To Return
After 5 years of retirement, Laurin was back in the trainer position working with Penny Chenery Tweedy. It was meant to be a short timescale, as Laurin was enjoying his retirement, but when Laurin saw Tweedy’s horses something special happened.
There was potential in his flock that Laurin hadn’t seen before.
A Race From The Bailiffs
Some people speculate that the reason for Laurin’s hire was because Penny Chenery Tweedy’s stable was going into financial difficulties. Roger didn’t want to tarnish his reputation or growing career, so instead asked his father to help.
This gave the old man an opportunity to get back into the sport he loved, and created a cheaper option for Tweedy. Well, it turns out this was the best decision any of them could have made.
The Year Was 1972
Laurin came out of retirement in 1971, and in just one year he cemented his name in history. Riva Ridge won the Belmont Futurity Stakes, the Champagne Stakes, and the Laurel Futurity Stakes all in one year.
With so much success, Laurin and Tweedy extended the training agreement. In 1972, they were cashing in from every angle. Secretariat won the Laurel Futurity Stakes, the Belmont Futurity Stakes, Sanford Stakes, Hopeful Stakes, and the Garden State Stake all in one year.
This horse’s success was legendary and to top it off, he took home the Triple Crown in 1973 winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. At that point in time, he was only the 9th horse to ever win that race – no one had claimed the Triple Crown since 1948, 25 years prior.
Secretariat also set the record for the fastest Belmont Stake finish of all time and is the fastest Triple Crown winner.
Laurin Attempts To Retire Again
With an outstanding and historical moment in his career, Laurin decided to retire. Leaving the training business on a high, Laurin could put his memorabilia of champion horse Secretariat on display.
7 Years Later, Laurin Returns
Of course, goodbye is never goodbye with Laurin. In 1983 the legend returned as a trainer and a shared owner of the Evergreen Stable.
Unfortunately, none of the horses from this stable became a winner.
Entering Into The Hall Of Fame
In 1977, 5 years after the amazing win from Secretariat, Lucien Laurin was finally added to the United States Racing Hall of Fame.
Although this is a tremendous feat, many were surprised. Laurin was Canadian after all, so shouldn’t he be added to the Canadian Hall of Fame too? Well, Canada agreed, and just one year later, Laurin made his way into two national Legendary halls.
Disney Movie Secretariat
In 2010, Disney made a movie to honor the story of Secretariat. It was an instant hit, making $60.3 million at the box office. The movie won the Christopher Award for Best Feature Film and the Movie Guide Award for Best Film For Mature Audiences.
However, the movie did come with controversy, as xenophobic and racist connotations were found. There were a lot of historical inaccuracies that were typical of Disney at this time.
The Passing Of A Legend
Laurin passed away in 2000 at the age of 88. His life was filled with struggle, small wins, legendary accomplishments, and continuous comebacks.
There hasn’t been another trainer quite like Lucien Laurin. One day we will see connections like Laurin and Secretariat again.