Secretariat Birthday Celebration at The Meadow

SECRETARIAT BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION AT THE MEADOW MARCH 29-30 KICKS OFF 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF SECRETARIAT’S 1973 TRIPLE CROWN  sec logo_v3_final_outlined_rgb.2

Come Join Us Where the Legend Began!   

 Forty years ago in 1973,  the big red horse pounded the turf in the Belmont Stakes like a “tremendous machine” and clinched the first Triple Crown in a quarter-century. 

Forty years and his fame is undiminished, his fans’ adoration unabated and his record unequalled.  Of the 11 champions who have won the Triple Crown since 1919, only the mighty Secretariat broke all three track records. His Derby was 1:59 2/5; his Preakness 1:53 (finally corrected this year) and his phenomenal Belmont was 2:24.

 On March 29-30, fans from all over the country are converging on Big Red’s birthplace at The Meadow in Doswell, VA to celebrate his birthday and kick off the 40th anniversary of his Triple Crown. It promises to be a historic gathering.

 Penny Chenery, Kate Chenery Tweedy, Ron Turcotte and Charlie Davis are all scheduled to appear. They will be joined by some of the original grooms and riders who assisted with Secretariat when he was a colt at the Virginia farm. This will be the first time that all of them have been together at the farm.  Also, for the first time ever, both of the very first training saddles worn by Secretariat and Riva Ridge will be on display by their owners.

 Fans will have the unique opportunity on Friday March 29 to watch the Secretariat movie at The Meadow with the Secretariat team.  There will be a panel discussion afterward as Penny, Kate, Ron and Charlie share their memories of Big Red.  

 The Saturday program will be chockfull of everything a fan could want:

  • autograph sessions with the Secretariat team;
  • extensive display of Secretariat merchandise and memorabilia;
  • local Secretariat descendants on hand;
  • tram tours of the historic farm, featuring Secretariat’s original foaling shed;
  • continuous showing of the Triple Crown races;
  • horse industry exhibits;
  • local vendors;
  • a “Kiddie Corral” for children;
  • and a special musical tribute to Secretariat.   

 The complete program schedule and ticket info is on our website at https://secretariatsmeadow.com/events/2013-events/. Come join us where the legend began!

 The Secretariat Birthday Celebration at The Meadow is being co-hosted by Commonwealth Fairs and Events of Virginia and Secretariat.com of Louisville, Kentucky.

 

by Leeanne Meadows Ladin

co-author of

“Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend” and “Riva Ridge – Penny’s First Champion”Secretariat's Meadow Book

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Happy Birthday, Penny Chenery

Penny in blueWe want to be the first to send the “First Lady of Racing,” Penny Chenery, our warmest wishes for a Happy Birthday on January 27!  

Last year was a milestone birthday at age 90, but this year will also be very special for Penny.  It marks the 40th anniversary of Secretariat’s historic Triple Crown of 1973.  His fame remains undiminished by time, largely due to Penny’s tireless efforts as his ambassador and her dedicated stewardship of his glorious legacy.

As legions of fans know and appreciate, Penny did not retire from the scene after Secretariat retired from racing. She continued to graciously greet her horse’s admirers at events all across the country, signing autographs for hours at a time. She served as president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association from 1976-1984. She was also president of the Grayson Foundation supporting equine research in 1985-86. In 1983, she was elected to membership in The Jockey Club,  one of its first women members. A leading advocate for the health and welfare of retired Thoroughbreds, Penny was instrumental in creating the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. She established the Secretariat Foundation to help support worthy causes, such as laminitis research.  

 In 2005, Penny received the Eclipse Award of Merit for lifetime achievement in racing. In 2012, the Thoroughbred Club of America’s honored her at its 81st Testimonial Dinner.

At the TCA dinner, Julie Cauthen, club president said, “Through all of these years, Penny Chenery has remained the epitome of a grand lady of racing, always representing the highest ambitions and standards of those to whom the Thoroughbred is an important part of life. We can all be truly proud that she is a part of our sport.”

We in Virginia are proud of Penny’s ties to our state as the birthplace of Secretariat at The Meadow, the farm founded by her father, Christopher Chenery.  Under her leadership, Meadow Stable produced not only Secretariat, but Riva Ridge, who won the 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont.  Together they won five of six consecutive Triple Crown races in 1972-73, something no other stable has ever done.

Moreover, we are thrilled that Penny is scheduled to attend the SECRETARIAT BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION AT THE MEADOW  on March 29-30.  This event, the bulk of which takes place on Secretariat’s birthday of March 30, will kick off the official celebration of his Triple Crown anniversary.  Ron Turcotte, Secretariat’s jockey, and Charlie Davis, exercise rider, are also slated to attend.

Penny said, “I am delighted to join Ronnie and Charlie on Secretariat’s birthday at The Meadow to kick off the celebration marking the 40th anniversary of his 1973 Triple Crown. Virginia holds such fond memories for me and I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.”

To read more about the event, see www.secretariatsmeadow.com/events and also get updates on our Facebook page. For announcements of future 40th anniversary events and more info about Secretariat, see www.secretariat.com

In the meantime, Happy Birthday, Penny, with deep gratitude for your magnificent champions and your inspiring career!  We will see you soon!

Leeanne Meadows Ladin

co-author “Secretariat’s Meadow –  the Land, the Family, The Legend” and “Riva Ridge – Penny’s First Champion”

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REMEMBERING CHRISTOPHER T. CHENERY, FOUNDER OF MEADOW STABLE

 Saratoga CTC portraitWe’re interrupting our “Ancestors of Secretariat” series to take a moment to remember the visionary founder of Meadow Stable, Christopher T. Chenery.  He died 40 years ago on January 3, 1973 at the age of 86.  The man who created “an empire built on broodmares” in Caroline County, Virginia, never lived to see his greatest horse win racing’s greatest prize – the Triple Crown – on June 9, 1973. And now, as we prepare to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Secretariat’s historic victory, it seems fitting to pay homage to the man who set it all in motion. 

Chris Chenery evinced a passion for horses starting in early childhood. Perhaps it began in 1888 when his father Jimmy Chenery lifted him aboard a horse as a toddler at The Meadow, the family’s ancestral homeplace owned by their cousin, Mary Ann Morris. Chris spent many happy summers there, riding over the fields and by the brambly riverbanks on a borrowed horse. 

Later, he would walk seven miles from his house in Ashland to exercise the Thoroughbreds owned by his cousin Bernard Doswell at his farm at Bullfield, once a legendary racing stable. There, young Chris soaked up the lore of Bullfield’s glory days and admired the gleaming trophies won at tracks from New York to New Orleans.  It inflamed his imagination and quite likely set the stage for what was to come.  

The horse-crazy boy grew up to become an accomplished horseman, teaching equitation for the U.S. Army during World War I.  Rising from humble roots, he became a self-made millionaire in the utilities industry.  Finally achieving financial security for his family, he could indulge his passion for horses further.  Robust and vigorous, he played polo, foxhunted and even started his own riding club, Boulder Brook, in Westchester, New York. 

 But Chenery longed for more.  In 1936, he made a decision that would forever change his life, his family’s life and the sport of horse racing.  In the middle of the Great Depression, he went back to Virginia and bought back The Meadow, which had been sold out of the family in 1912.  As a man accustomed to shaping his own destiny, Chenery was determined to restore and reshape the dilapidated property into his vision of a first-class Thoroughbred horse farm and racing stable. 

Once he rebuilt the farm, he set about building up his foundation stock.  Known to have “an eye for a mare,” Chenery purchased well-bred but affordable broodmares. Several of them, such as Hildene, Iberia, Imperatrice and her daughter,  Somethingroyal, became some of the most influential broodmares of the 20th century.

By 1950, Chris Chenery and his upstart Meadow Stable produced Horse of the Year, Hill Prince.   Hill Prince  won the Preakness and several other notable races that year, but ran second in the Kentucky Derby.  For the man who seemed to possess the golden touch in all his pursuits,  Chenery would find winning the golden trophy of the Kentucky Derby his most elusive goal.  

He sent two more Derby favorites to the post: First Landing in 1959 and Sir Gaylord in 1962.   First Landing finished third and Sir Gaylord broke down before the race.  Cicada, the favorite for the fillies’ race, the Kentucky Oaks, in 1962, could have run in the Derby after Sir Gaylord was injured.  However, Chenery kept her in the Oaks, which she won handily.  

Not until 1972 did Chris Chenery’s dream of breeding a Kentucky Derby winner finally come true.  Riva Ridge, by First Landing, avenged his sire’s defeat and brought home the roses for Meadow Stable. But by this time, Chenery was not in his customary box seats at Churchill Downs. He lay mute and immobile, confined to a hospital bed in New Rochelle,   felled like a giant timber by the ravages of Parkinson’s disease and what was then called hardening of the arteries.  When the nurse pointed out his daughter Penny in the winner’s circle with Riva, a tear rolled down his withered cheek. 

Penny had taken over management of Meadow Stable when her father fell ill in the late 1960s. Over the protests of her family, she vowed to keep racing the horses and to keep her father’s dream alive.  “At least he knew,” she has said about Riva winning the Derby.

 Of course, the next year in 1973, Secretariat, who was born and raised at The Meadow,  took  Chenery’s dream to heights no one imagined. Secretariat, the first Triple Crown winner since 1948, broke the track records for the Derby, Preakness and Belmont, the only champion to ever do so.  Together he and Riva Ridge won five of six consecutive Triple Crown races in 1972 and 1973, something no other stable had done. 

The bloodlines that Chris Chenery established for Meadow Stable produced 43 stakes winners.  Most outstanding were:

Hill Prince:  1949 Champion two-year-old colt; winner of 1950 Preakness; 1950 Champion three- year-old colt; 1950 Horse of the Year; 1951 Champion handicap male; elected to Racing Hall of Fame

First Landing:  1958 Champion two-year-old colt

Cicada:  1961 Champion two-year-old filly; 1962 Champion three-year-old filly; 1963 Champion handicap female; elected to Racing Hall of Fame (additionally she ranked as the top money-winning female for nine years)

Riva Ridge: 1971 Champion two-year-old colt; winner of 1972 Derby and Belmont; 1973 Champion handicap male; elected to Racing Hall of Fame

Secretariat:  1972 Champion two-year-old colt; 1972 Horse of the Year; winner of 1973 Triple Crown; 1973 Champion three-year-old colt; 1973 Champion turf male; 1973 Horse of the Year; elected to Racing Hall of Fame

Additionally, the great mares Hildene, dam of Hill Prince; Iberia,dam of Riva Ridge; and Somethingroyal, dam of Sir Gaylord and Secretariat, were named Broodmares of the Year. Sir Gaylord, after his pre-Derby injury, distinguished himself as a sire of international importance through his best son, Sir Ivor.

Today, Chris Chenery’s legacy lives on.  Many of racing’s brightest stars in the 21st century can trace their bloodlines back to Secretariat, who became a great broodmare sire.  His daughters such as Weekend Surprise, Terlingua and Secrettame  produced such outstanding sires as A.P. Indy, Storm Cat and Gone West.  The progeny of those stallions  – think Smarty Jones, Bernardini, the late Pulpit and his son, Tapit, for example – have further distinguished themselves in the sport.

And so we celebrate Chris Chenery, the  “Virginia gentleman” as sportswriters called him, whose dream turned into an American legend!

NOTE:  Look for our upcoming post on Penny Chenery, who celebrates her 91st birthday later this month and has kept the legacy of her father and Secretariat alive for over 40 years.

 by Leeanne Ladin

co-author of “Secretariat’s Meadow –  The Land, The Family, The Legend”  and “Riva Ridge – Penny’s First Champion”

  In our book “Secretariat’s Meadow,” Chris Chenery’s granddaughter, Kate Chenery Tweedy, chronicles how her grandfather’s driving ambition lifted him from humble beginnings to the heights of corporate America and into the top tiers of Thoroughbred racing. You can order the book at  www.secretariatsmeadow.com

Setting Secretariat’s Preakness Record Straight…It’s About Time!

                                           

One second.  That’s all that stands between Secretariat and a complete record-breaking sweep of the Triple Crown. If Penny Chenery and the president of the Maryland Jockey Club, Thomas Chuckas,  can prevail, this situation will finally be rectified after 40 years.

As his fans know, Secretariat shattered the Derby and Belmont records, but his winning time in the Preakness became instantly controversial on May 19, 1973.  On that day, the electronic timer at Pimlico registered Secretariat’s win at 1:55.  However, two Daily Racing Form professionals at different vantage points hand-clocked him at 1:53 2/5.  The slower time was hard to believe, especially after watching Secretariat’s astonishing  surge from last to first on the first turn, passing the rest of the field in an eighth of a mile.

Track officials  acknowledged some “extenuating circumstances” with the teletimer.  Supposedly, according to some accounts,  the crowds of people walking across the track to the infield to watch the race somehow interfered with the timer.  In any case, Pimlico decided to go with the time recorded by their hand-clocker, which was 1:54 2/5, for the official track record. The Daily Racing Form  resolutely stood by its time of 1:53 2/5 and lists it as such even to this day.

CBS, who broadcast the Triple Crown series, stepped into the fray, challenging the Pimlico officials with videotape they said proved Secretariat undeniably set a then-record time of 1:53 2/5.  But even their half-hour broadcast and the national public outcry failed to change the disputed statistic. Over the years,  supporters made other efforts to correct the record, but to no avail.

Fast forward to 2012 and the video technology of the 21st century. Armed with “compelling evidence,” Penny and Mr. Chuckas have requested a hearing on this issue by the Maryland Racing Commission.  The hearing will take place at the Commission’s meeting on Tuesday,  June 19 at Laurel Park .

As Mr. Chuckas states, “During the last 40 years, video technology has been accepted in other professional sports as a supportive mechanism for officials to ensure fairness and accuracy in their decisions. It is important for horse racing and the record books to confirm the correct time in this historical race. It is the appropriate thing to do.”

Penny, who at age 90 is still a champion for her horse,  said, “For me, revisiting this dispute on a new day is matter of resolution – for historians, for sportswriters and for racing fans. Their voices are supported by sound evidence, and they deserve to be heard.”

We sincerely hope that these efforts quite literally turn the clock back and give Big Red the full honors he so richly deserves.   After all, next year marks the 40th anniversary of  his  Triple Crown…so it is about time!

By Leeanne Meadows Ladin

co-author of “Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend”          

www.secretariatsmeadow.com

October 4, 1989…Remembering Big Red

 

It’s hard to believe that 22 years have passed since Secretariat died on October 4, 1989.    It’s hard to believe because, in many respects, his presence seems stronger than ever.  

 Kate Chenery Tweedy and I see the unquenchable passion for this horse firsthand as we travel around the country doing book talks and signings for “Secretariat’s Meadow.” Everyone wants to share their Secretariat story. For countless fans,  his Belmont win stands as one of the defining moments of their lives. Many fans cry unashamedly when they talk about him. And now a whole new generation of fans has emerged, thanks to the Disney movie about Secretariat.

He continues to make his presence known  at the racetrack. Every year, at the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont, sportscasters ask  what has become a rhetorical question – “Will there ever be another Secretariat?”

His presence at the track is much more than symbolic.  Secretariat’s progeny continue to carry his influence well into the 21st century.  As a great broodmare sire, Secretariat figures in the pedigrees of such champions as A. P. Indy, Storm Cat, Smarty Jones, Summer Bird, Rags to Riches, to name a few.  Bernardini, a great-grandson of Secretariat, is one of the most successful Thoroughbred sires today.  

For Penny Chenery, Secretariat has remained a constant presence in her life.  For nearly 40 years, she has been a tireless ambassador for her horse and the true “keeper of the flame.”   At age 89, she continues to be accessible to fans, who turn out in droves when she makes an appearance at an event.   She is their link to a legend.

 As we reflect on Secretariat’s life and legacy, Penny’s eulogy for her horse expresses what he meant to people and most of all, to her. It ran in the New York Times and was excerpted in our book “Secretariat’s Meadow  – The Land, the Family, The Legend.” 

(from Penny Chenery’s eulogy for Secretariat:)

“Secretariat’s death on Wednesday marked the end of a wonderful dream I have been privileged to live. In my eyes, he was the finest thoroughbred performer of the last 50 years and he certainly provided me with a unique experience.

I used to think that we had created him but, having tried to duplicate him for 15 years, I now realize it was just the luck of the draw. A marvelous horse was born and he happened to be born to us.

…. Secretariat seemed to realize his role then was to be a folk hero. His demeanor was that of a champion in whatever he was asked to do.

….I’m going to miss him terribly. My family and I join the many people who have been his loyal fans in great sadness at his loss. He was not only a champion race horse, but a cherished friend. “

 by Leeanne Meadows Ladin

co-author  “Secretariat’s Meadow”

www.secretariatsmeadow.com

copyright 2011

A Rocky Mountain High for Secretariat’s Meadow

Have been on a “Rocky Mountain high” since our whirlwind trip to Denver for the advance screening of the Secretariat movie on Sunday September 12.  Over 400 guests of the Chenery family attended and so did Entertainment Tonight! They interviewed Penny and Kate and shot a lot of footage of the crowd.  The LA premiere is September 30 and this segment is supposed to air sometime before that, we think.

The movie was everything I had hoped it would be. Three things impressed me the most :  the thrilling, hoof-pounding (and heart-pounding) racing scenes; Diane Lane’s portrayal of Penny facing her many challenges with determination, class and style; and the emphasis on The Meadow, Secretariat’s Virginia birthplace. As a Virginian, that was very meaningful to me.

After the screening, the crowd, which had filled two theatres, surged back into the lobby, buzzing about the movie. People were saying that  even though they knew the ending, the  movie was still very exciting .  There were many comments about how the movie would show what a great role model Penny Chenery was (and is!) especially for women and girls.

 The movie is sparking a resurgence of interest in this great champion by letting us “boomers” relive those glory days of his Triple Crown  and it’s introducing him to a whole new generation.    Never did I imagine, as I sat in front of our black and white TV in 1973, screaming as Secretariat won the Belmont in another zip code from the rest of the field, that I would be signing a book about him at a movie screening. We sold 10 cases of books in one hour!

And I get to do it all over again on September 22 with the Virginia Thoroughbred Assoc. in Northern Virginia at a special screening they are hosting.  Hope we can do as well as we did in Denver!  I certainly don’t mind this kind of writer’s cramp!

Leeanne Meadows Ladin

Kicking off our Barnstorming Book Tour!

 

And they’re off!”  

 We are out of the starting gate for our “Barnstorming Book Tour” to promote “Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend.”  Kate Chenery Tweedy and I are the co-authors of this new pictorial history about Secretariat and his Virginia birthplace, The Meadow.

This blog will be our report from the field as we embark upon a book tour that is taking us from Doswell, Virginia to Denver, Colorado, from Saratoga to Santa Anita and many places in between.   So saddle up and come along for the ride!

We’ve been doing “pre-publication” events since March when we formally announced the book at the celebration of Secretariat’s 40th birthday at The Meadow, his birthplace in Doswell, VA. 

This summer we knew we had to be at Saratoga, where the nation’s Thoroughbred racing community has been gathering for over a century.  Our publisher Wayne Dementi acquired a quantity of advance copies  so that Kate could do sales and signings at the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame August 14-15 and with the TRF on TRF Day at the track today on August 18.

The timing was perfect for giving a sneak preview of Secretariat’s Meadow. Thirty-eight years ago on August 16, 1972, a strapping chestnut colt burst onto the racing scene with his electrifying win in the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. Kate was with her mother Penny Chenery at the track and saw Secretariat’s bold run.  As she says in our book, ” It was my first inkling that Mom’s rollercoaster ride in racing may not end with Riva Ridge.”

Riva Ridge had won the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont in 1972 , two -thirds of the Triple Crown, catapulting Penny Chenery and Meadow Stable into the national spotlight.  No one could have imagined what was in store for 1973.

So far,  Secretariat’s Meadow is showing  lots of promise at its first official sales outing.  Kate says the book got a tremendous reception at the racing museum, at Saratoga Impressions gift shop, and at Saratoga Saddlery. I’m awaiting her report on TRF Day.  Then she jets off to Chicago for the Arlington Million this weekend.

More book tour news  coming soon as we get closer to publication in early September!

Leeanne  Meadows Ladin