Phil Georgeff called more than 96,000 races on the Chicago racing circuit over a career that spanned from 1959 to 1992, and it seems as if he remembers every single one of those races.
So it was no surprise that when the topic of the 1973 Arlington Invitational featuring Secretariat came up recently the Voice of Chicago Racing rattled off the rest of the 4-horse field as if he were holding the program from that very race in his hands.
"Our Native, My Gallant, Blue Chip Dan … how's that? the 79-year-old said with a laugh from his home in Alabama.
But it was a race, a day, an event that would be difficult to forget, what with the first Triple Crown winner in a quarter of a century coming to Arlington Park.
And Georgeff hasn't.
"The race was designed not to test him but rather to showcase his talent, he said. "But getting him to come here was a tremendous coup for Arlington. I was privileged to call that race.
Since Secretariat was coming off a record-breaking performance in the Belmont Stakes, Georgeff, who disdained calling out timing fractions during a race, decided to use them in his call of the Arlington Invitational.
"I knew they would be trying to set a record, he said. "It's the only time I recall using them. But all it did was break my momentum.
It was impossible to tell by listening to his call.
"He broke slowly but rushed up to the lead and I said, 'Secretariat is in command, Georgeff said.
Was he ever.
The big chestnut cruised to a comfortable lead on the far turn, expanded it down the stretch as the 41,000 plus on hand roared, and simply rolled to an easy 9-length win, just 1/5th a second off Damascus' track record.
"I remember saying, 'Here he is … America's superhorse!' I was very excited, Georgeff said.
Though Secretariat had a remarkable 3-year-old season, Georgeff remains firm in his belief that the best 3-year-old ever was Citation.
"No 3-year-old ever did what Citation did, the Chicago native said. "He beat older horses twice before the Triple Crown.
Still, for one day at least in the suburbs, it was all about the great Secretariat.
"It was amazing he was at Arlington, Georgeff said. "It was a wonderful day. A wonderful day.
More on Secretariat
• Daily Herald writer John Leusch tells how a desperate Arlington Park landed the superhorse for $125,000.
Section 1, Page 1
• Check out our slideshow Secretariat and his 1973 race at dailyherald.com.