By Ed Schuyler Jr. AP Racing Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - Eddie Maple recalls being nervous that dark, cold, wet October day in 1973. He was about to ride Secretariat in the last start of Big Red's career.
``But I wasn't any more nervous than anybody else would have been in that situation,'' Maple, now retired, said Wednesday at a screening of ESPN's 35th greatest North American athlete of the century.
On the tape, however, Maple recalls thinking before the Canadian International at Woodbine, ``If he doesn't win, they just might tar and feather me.''
The 30-minute profile of the 1973 Triple Crown winner will be shown at 10:30 p.m. EDT Friday, the 21st.
Secretariat was one of 11 Triple Crown winners, a horse that transcended his sport. Charismatic can join the Triple Crown elite by winning the Belmont Stakes on June 5.
Not everybody, however, feels a racehorse should be among the century's 50 greatest athletes.
``We've been getting mixed reactions on this,'' executive producer Mark Shapiro said. ``Things like, `Come on, how can you have a four-legged animal above Mickey Mantle, above Walter Payton?'''
The athletes were selected by a 48-member panel, and some panelists said, ``You can't put an animal in there. You can't equate apples with oranges,'' Shapiro said. ``Others said, `Such a professional.'''
Shapiro said voting was based on athletic ability alone.
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines athlete as ``one who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports or games, requiring physical strength, agility or stamina.''
Secretariat's record was not spotless (16 wins in 21 starts), but he was exciting and at his best a perfect blend of speed, power and stamina. No horse ever has put together three races to compare with his Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
``He might have taken to the air and flown,'' Heywood Hale Broun, a television commentator, says in the profile.
``Nobody else could run like him ... still can't,'' Maple said Wednesday. Maple rode Secretariat in that farewell race because regular jockey Ron Turcotte was under suspension for a riding infraction in New York.
That one ride made Maple part of the Secretariat legend.
``I couldn't win the Belmont (which he did twice) without somebody mentioning in the newspaper that I was the last one to ride Secretariat,'' Maple said.
The names of the top 34 ESPN selections have not been released. But those in the second 50 have been, and they include two horses - Man o'War (No. 84) and Citation (No. 97).
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