After his easy victory in the Arlington Invitational, Secretariat went to Saratoga Springs, New York. It had only been a year since he had last been there as a rookie two-year-old horse. At that time, which was August of 1973, he had returned as the champion that had shattered the records in all three of the Triple Crown races. So a large crowd of his fans flocked to see him win yet again. Yet it didn't turn out the way they had expected.
The Saratoga racecourse, nicknamed the Graveyard of Champions, has a really interesting history. Throughout all the many years since it has first been used, many famous racehorses have met their match on that track. Even so, the outcome of the Whitney Stakes of '73 came as a surprise to many racing fans.
One of the lesser known horses that had raced against Secretariat in the Whitney Stakes was Onion, who had set a new track record a few days previously. Onion posed a problem for Secretariat.
The horse called Onion took a early lead in the Whitney. Secretariat sped forwards and both horses battled neck-to-neck for first place until they reached the last sixteenth of a mile. Then, against all expectations, Secretariat slowed down and Onion crossed the finish line in first place.
The audience was stunned. The great Secretariat, after winning the prestigious Triple Crown, had lost to little-known amateur. How could something like that happen to a record-breaking horse?
Coincidentally, Secretariat was not the only champion racehorse that had lost to an amateur that week. Another Kentucky Derby winner from his stable, Riva Ridge, had recently lost to Wichita Oil, so the public wanted both amateur horses to be raced against each other. The public had to know which amateur was better.