Dear Babe: My dad got four horseshoes from a friend who used to hang around Hialeah in Florida. He was told that they were worn by Secretariat. I believe it was in the early 1970s. They are aluminum shoes. Two Victory horseshoes that are size 5 and two Thoro'Bred shoes size 4. I have heard that Secretariat wore size 5 horseshoes. How do I go about authentication?-- Jim Kimbllin, Eau Claire, Wis
With the quest for racing's Triple Crown about to begin once again with the running of the Kentucky Derby on May 5, Secretariat's name will be coming up a lot. Many consider him to be the greatest racehorse ever. He captured the Triple Crown in 1973, winning the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths.
While his heart was more than twice the size of normal thoroughbreds, his hooves were the same as most other racers -- size 5.
That eliminates the Thoro'Bred plates, which is what he wore throughout his racing career.
In answering another question on Secretariat shoes, Da Babe was told that he did wear Victory racing plates at some point in his life. However, no one, including the folks at Victory, can confirm it or provide dates.
Even if the shoes were the right size and brand, there would be virtually no way to authenticate them. You would need a notarized note from when they were given to your dad.
Secretariat was at Hialeah Park racecourse in winter 1972 and 1973, so that part of the story rings true, said Leonard Lusky, president of www.secretariat.com. Based on the images supplied, it appears the shoes have been cleaned up and polished, but with all the advancements in forensic science, Da Babe wondered about DNA.
"I have never heard of this being a possibility," said Ed Kinney, president of Thoro'Bred Inc., the folks who made most of Secretariat's shoes.
"The shoe is applied to dead hoof tissue that is as hard as if you were filing across a piece of a bowling pin. The aluminum shoe oxidizes sometimes after being on the hoof for 30 days, leaving a white powder on the hoof side of the shoe, but I would doubt that the oxidation would trap any DNA," Kinney said.
Of course, just like on TV's "CSI" shows, you'd need something with Secretariat's DNA for comparison.
"A bunch of Secretariat hair is out there, so much it would make three horses," said Dick Herring of tbredhorseracing.tripod.com. "Forever, whenever anyone says they have a horseshoe from a certain horse, I run for the hills. I guess the blacksmith who actually pulled the shoes off a horse knows. I never deal in horseshoes -- or hair either."
Finally, Da Babe checked with Leila Dunbar, a racing memorabilia expert (leiladunbar(at)aol.com). She confirmed that prices for Secretariat shoes have not changed in the past year. Here's the info on values that Dunbar provided last year:
"I wasn't able to find any that were directly related to his Triple Crown races. One horseshoe, from Claiborne Farms vet Floyd C. Sager, sold at Leland's for $2,770.59 in 2004; a horseshoe from Secretariat's first win in 1972 at Aqueduct sold for $12,329.15 at Mastro's auction in 2004; and a mounted horseshoe with autographs by (jockey) Ron Turcotte and (owner) Penny Chenery, as well as a (letter of authenticity) from Claiborne Farms groom Jerry Richardson, sold for $1,751.93 at Mastro in 2006." On Secretariat.com, a horseshoe nail from the Belmont race sold for $6,100 in 2006 and a horseshoe from his maiden race sold for $10,721 in 2004.
(Babe Waxpak is written by Bill Wagner. If you have a question for Babe Waxpak, include your full name and hometown, the card number, year and manufacturer or send a photocopy. Please do not send cards. The address is: Babe Waxpak, Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)