Veterinary Researcher Swerczek, Who Discovered Secretariat's Large Heart, Dies - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Veterinary Researcher Swerczek, Who Discovered Secretariat’s Large Heart, Dies

Dr. Thomas Swerczek, longtime researcher and professor at the University of Kentucky, died on Jan. 9. Swerczek was best known to many laypeople in racing as the veterinarian who performed a necropsy on Secretariat and discovered Big Red's abnormally-large heart, which has been credited by many as the reason for his dominance on the racetrack.

Swerczek received his bachelor's degree in 1962 from Kansas State University, with a DVM to follow in 1964. He got a master's degree and a PhD from the University of Connecticut before taking a job in 1969 at the University of Kentucky's Department of Veterinary Science, where he worked until his retirement in 2018. Much of Swerczek's focus as a researcher was the potential impacts of electrolyte changes, particularly potassium and nitrate in winter pasture, and excesses or imbalances of those electrolytes in commercial grain.

According to an interview he gave in 2020, Swerczek came to believe such seasonal changes were responsible for the worsening of Secretariat's laminitis and that they could play a role in fetal losses in broodmares.

Swerczek served as a reviewer for the AVMA's American Journal of Veterinary Research, and had been on the editorial boards for the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science and Journal of Modern Horse Breeding.

A funeral mass is scheduled for Jan. 14 at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, Ky., with a burial to follow at Calvary Cemetery.

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