So he did. By the eighth pole Prove Out had more than a length lead, and he extended it to nearly five lengths at the end, crossing the line in the extremely good time of 2:25[4/5]. A year ago the distance had taken 3-year-old champion Key to the Mint 2:28[2/5] to run. The beaten Secretariat finished more than 2� seconds behind his world record, set in the Belmont on the same track.
As he accepted congratulations—including those from Prove Out's former trainer, Hirsch—about all the reserved Jerkens would say was, "I still can't believe it. It just doesn't seem real." Another one who could not quite believe it, perhaps because it was so real, was Laurin. "Don't let anyone tell you that the slow pace didn't matter," he said. "Of course it did. The pace did it. Absolutely. After those first two slow quarters Ron shouldn't have just opened up two lengths on the backstretch. This colt likes to run and he was ready to run. He should have been allowed to open up five or six lengths—or even more—and then he would have made those other horses come and run at him. He still might have been beaten, but he would have had a much better chance of winning."
Secretariat, who carried only 119 pounds in the Woodward to 126 on Prove Out and the other older males, had worked in the days before the race on Belmont's turf course and may start next in the Man o' War coming up. At the moment, that seems safer for him than the Washington, D.C. International at Laurel on Nov. 10. For one thing, Washington may sound like a dangerous word to Laurin: the only three races Secretariat has lost this year—the Wood, Whitney and Woodward—all, eerily, begin with the letter W.