Lest anyone think him immortalized and beloved because he was perfect, guess again. Secretariat lost his first race, as a promising 2-year-old. He was disqualified, and stripped of a victory, for running into a competitor during his 6th race. In the race prior to his victory in the Kentucky Derby, he came in a disappointing 3rd. During the Derby itself, he came from a last place position almost halfway through the race to a victory at the wire. He also won the Preakness by going from last to first in similar fashion. He was never challenged in the Belmont, although there were only 4 other horses in the race. Secretariat then lost 2 of his last 5 races. He was far from invincible, even at the peak of his powers. He ended his racing career with 16 victories in 21 starts. Impressive, yes. Insurmountable, no.
His vulnerability captured the imagination of the public, who appreciate any semblance of a rags-to-riches journey. Secretariat was rarely the underdog yet never seemed untouchable, except during his transcendent moment at Belmont. His defeats never derailed him and were quickly forgotten in his moments of glory. Spectators and fans thirst for a champion who overcomes odds and dominates, not an automaton who is never threatened. Defeat can never discourage the great man (or great horse) who gallops beyond past disappointment toward the finish line of future greatness. Be like Secretariat - shake off defeat and dominate when able!
From October 2010, http://raising-a-man.tumblr.com