On May 5, 1973, a brilliant chestnut colt named Secretariat took his first steps toward racing immortality with a 2.5-length victory in the Kentucky Derby on his way to sweeping the Triple Crown - consisting of the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. "Big Red" set a track record for 1.25 miles at Churchill Downs that day and, later, shattered the track and world record for 1.5 miles at Belmont Park for good measure.

Those records still stand today. But Secretariat did something else that Saturday afternoon - something that changed the Sport of Kings forever.

In Pictures: 8 Money Saving Tips For Sports Fans

From Racing To Breeding
Although he earned $155,050 for his Derby win (equal to about $760,000 today), that amount paled in comparison to the $190,000 that Secretariat was assured to make every time he, well, expressed his affection for the opposite sex. And that $190,000 was guaranteed before Big Red had even notched his first victory as a three-year-old, as part of a then-record $6 million syndication deal, which included a stipulation that the colt be retired at the end of his sophomore season.

According to a feature story that ran in Time magazine prior to the 1973 Belmont Stakes, Secretariat's owner Penny Tweedy Chenery was against the multimillion dollar deal, but the family needed money to pay estate taxes following the death of her father, Christopher T. Chenery.

"I personally would prefer to race him as long as he stays sound," Ms. Chenery told the magazine.

Where the Money Truly Is
Of course, at its core, thoroughbred horse racing has always been about promoting the breed, but many blame Secretariat's record-setting syndication agreement for shifting the focus from the racetrack to the breeding shed.

"The economics of horse racing is totally cockeyed," noted Time. "Nobody would ever think of retiring a pitcher as soon as he throws a no-hitter, a quarterback as soon as he wins in the Super Bowl. But horse racing, heavily taxed by every state where it exists, requiring tremendous investments in racing plants and breeding farms and the manpower required to train and run its animals - has been turned into a sort of rich man's lottery."

In the five years prior to Secretariat's Romp for the Roses, every whole (non-gelded) Kentucky Derby winner came back to race at age four, except for Majestic Prince, who was injured. Yet, today, a Derby champ competing at four is about as rare as an infomercial demanding full and immediate payment rather than offering three easy installments. In fact, Monarchos, in 2001, was the last Derby victor to race the following year - and he started exactly one time.

Of course, this is understandable given the fame and fortune the "Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports can bring. After his win on the first Saturday of May in 2008, Big Brown was syndicated for over $50 million by Three Chimneys Farm of Midway, Kentucky - nearly twice the amount, in real dollars, that was paid to secure Secretariat's procreation services.

This Year's Drama
All of this leaves one to ponder the millions of dollars that Ahmed Zayat may have lost when his stable star and morning line favorite for this year's Kentucky Derby, Eskendereya, was withdrawn from the big race due to a leg injury on Sunday.

Not that Zayat isn't used to losing money. Recently, his Zayat Stables was sued by Fifth Third bank for allegedly being delinquent on $34 million in loans. After counter-suing, Zayat immediately filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is now being investigated by various racing commissions regarding his possible financial dealings with convicted bookmakers Michael and Jeffrey Jelinsky.

In any event, with Eskendereya's defection, the focus will inevitably shift to Lookin At Lucky, who, like Secretariat, was a two-year-old champion. Trained by Bob Baffert, who has won the roses three times (in 1997, 1998 and 2002), Lookin At Lucky is already a millionaire and could add to his bankroll, as well as to his stud value, with a win on May 1.

But whichever horse wins, one thing is sure: it won't be racing at four. And you can blame Secretariat for that.

Find out what else is making news this week Water Cooler Finance: Everything Old Is News Again.

Related Articles
  1. Investing Basics

    This is What Donald Trump's Portfolio Looks Like

    Find out what Donald Trump's portfolio looks like and gain some interesting insights into the way the billionaire's investment mind works.
  2. Personal Finance

    4 Famous People Whose Finances Were Under Conservatorship

    Understand what conservatorship is and how it comes about during the legal process. Learn about four celebrities who were placed under conservatorship.
  3. Stock Analysis

    7 Trump Businesses You Didn't Know Existed

    Understand what Donald Trump is best known for and the types of income streams he's created. Learn about seven obscure businesses he owns.
  4. Estate Planning

    A Look At Robin Williams' Net Worth and What Happened to His Estate

    Understand what happened to Robin Williams' estate and what his estate included. Learn about the court battle over his remaining possessions.
  5. Your Clients

    What Working with Celebrity Clients is Really Like

    Expect excitement as well as the mundane when dealing with celebrity clients. Some will be charming; others...not so much. Here's what else to anticipate.
  6. Your Practice

    How to Add Celebrities to Your Client Roster

    The trick to landing celebrity clients is a subset of the skill of acquiring clients in general. Here are some strategies to help break into this world.
  7. Wealth Management

    A Look At Britney Spears' Net Worth and Her Conservatorship

    Discover how Britney Spears' net worth plunged in 2007 and has since been growing under the management and direction of her conservatorship.
  8. Economics

    Management Strategies From A Top CEO

    Jack Welch is a legend in the business world: during the two decades he was CEO of General Electric, the company’s value rose by 4000%.
  9. Investing

    From Supermodel to Entrepreneur: Gisele Bündchen's Sejaa Pure Skincare

    As one of the highest-paid models in history, Bündchen has turned her name and image into a worldwide brand, and Sejaa is part of her massive empire.
  10. Investing

    Oprah Takes a Big Bet With Weight Watchers (WTW)

    Does "The Oprah Effect" still work, and can Winfrey reinvigorate a brand that's been struggling for years?
  1. What causes politicians or governments to begin "pork barrel" spending?

    Pork barrel spending occurs when the government taxes the general population to hand out concentrated benefits to special ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
  2. Discouraged Worker

    A person who is eligible for employment and is able to work, but is currently unemployed and has not attempted to find employment ...
  3. Ponzimonium

    After Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme was revealed, many new (smaller-scale) Ponzi schemers became exposed. Ponzimonium ...
  4. Quarterly Earnings Report

    A quarterly filing made by public companies to report their performance. Included in earnings reports are items such as net ...
  5. Dark Pool Liquidity

    The trading volume created by institutional orders that are unavailable to the public. The bulk of dark pool liquidity is ...
Trading Center