Roger Ebert gives us another loving tribute to his old friend, the great take-out writer, Bill Nack. If you’ve never read Nack’s book, “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion”, do yourself a favor–it’s a classic.
Two two chums got together recently and Nack told Ebert stories about perhaps the greatest champion of them all:
Here is Nack’s wonderful story, “Pure Heart,” on the death of Secretariat (Sports Illustrated, 1990):
Just before noon the horse was led haltingly into a van next to the stallion barn, and there a concentrated barbiturate was injected into his jugular. Forty-five seconds later there was a crash as the stallion collapsed. His body was trucked immediately to Lexington, Kentucky, where Dr. Thomas Swerczek, a professor of veterinary science at the University of Kentucky, performed the necropsy. All of the horse’s vital organs were normal in size except for the heart.
“We were all shocked,” Swerczek said. “I’ve seen and done thousands of autopsies on horses, and nothing I’d ever seen compared to it. The heart of the average horse weighs about nine pounds. This was almost twice the average size, and a third larger than any equine heart I’d ever seen. And it wasn’t pathologically enlarged. All the chambers and the valves were normal. It was just larger. I think it told us why he was able to do what he did.”