In the early '70s sponsorship in sports was very uncommon. Companies were still advertised in sport events, but many teams did not have an official sponsor. Then Jack Landry, a horse racing fan, saw the money in sponsoring the racing legend Secretariat and decided to hold a race on September 15. Secretariat and Riva Ridge were to run in this race. It was to be called the Marlboro Cup.
Just about a month before, Secretariat had been defeated by little-known horse by the name Onion, and a horse from his stabled named Riva Ridge, another Kentucky Derby winner, had likewise been beaten by the unknown Wichita Oil. It was no wonder that the press dismissed the idea and suggested that Onion and Wichita Oil race instead.
Another problem also prevented this race from taking place. At Belmont Park, New York, rules prohibited pari-muteul betting(a form of betting in which all bets of a particular type are put together in a pool, which is divided among all winning betters) when the horses racing are from the same stable.
However, fans were not discouraged, and the New York Racing Association had an even better idea that sparked the interest of many people. Instead of having only Riva Ridge and Secretariat race, all the top horses would race. This include Riva Ridge, Secretariat, Kennedy Road, America's top turf racing horse; Cougar II, the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap; Onion, who had defeated Secretariat against all odds; Annihilate ''Em, and Key to the Mint, Riva Ridge's rival from Rokeby Stable. They made quite a field.
Right out of the gate, Onion took the lead. Riva Ridge followed close behind him, and Secretariat settled for fifth place, where he waited to strike.
Then, somewhere near the far turn, Riva Ridge made his move, followed by Secretariat. After that, the race was just between Riva Ridge and Secretariat. Secretariat moved ahead, winning by 3 1/2 and beating the world record time for 1 1/8 miles on dirt with his own time of 1:45 2/5 seconds.
The last time the record had been broken was in 1972 when the Kentucky Derby winner of 1971, Canonero, defeated the 1972 winner, Riva Ridge. His time had been 1:46 1/5.
It seems as if Secretariat was not only destined to win almost every race he entered, but also to shatter the track record, or even the world record for that distance.