Ask Penny

Ask Penny is proud to share our “Ask Penny” portion of the website. Here you will find favorite and frequently asked questions in a variety of subjects answered by the “The First Lady of the Turf” herself. A “Dear Abbey” of the horseracing world if you will and as close as you can be to getting the scoop straight from Secretariat’s mouth!


Dear Penny:
I heard that Secretariat was a mean horse, I know all red horses are “feisty” to say the least, just wondering how he acted when you came into the barn. Did he winnie? Did he acknowledge that he knew you? How was he with strangers?

Dear Dee, There was nothing mean about Secretariat. He was feisty but only in a high-energy way. He did know me, which he demonstrated by coming to the door and looking at me, attempting to nip me and generally playing. Horses don’t generally whinny to greet to people, but rather to ask for food. So he would address that to his groom and not to me. I don’t think color has anything to do with disposition. Sincerely, Penny


Dear Penny:
At what time and place and who was first to realize that there was something very special about your colt later to be known as Big Red. I also had a special horse in my life, but was to young and foolish to appreciate what God had allowed me to touch.

Thank you for your question. As with all young horses, I waited to see what Secretariat was capable of. As good as he looked, I hoped but did not know Secretariat would be an exceptional performer. We granted him champion status only as he won each race and showed us new dimensions. Some horses mature more quickly than others and you have to give them time. We were lucky enough to have such good blood lines that all of our horses had potential. We never considered selling any horse, and certainly not Secretariat. We only culled horses after they had substantial opportunity to show ability and had not done so. Sincerely, Penny


Dear Penny:
Not a question. Just to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and to tell you, again, how that wonderful horse helped me get through a very difficult time in life. I adored him. I am so thankful that we had him.

Dear Donetta, Thanks for your kind words and I am glad he touched you as he did. I hope you have a wonderful 2007. Sincerely, Penny


Dear Penny:
Ms. Chenery; I am a “died in the wool” thoroughbred horse racing fan and a member of Toastmasters International. I open with these to explain why I am writing to you. My father and grandfather (John E. and TW Gatewood respectively) owned and trained thoroughbreds from the 1930s through 1971, and my tackroom is plastered with the pictures taken of them with their horses in the winner’s circle. They were both gone by the time Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973, but I cheered hard enough for all three of us as I watched him take the Belmont. My next project in the Toastmasters is to “Bring A Historical Moment to Life” and I would very much like to deliver a portrayal of you as you watched your “Big Red” cross the finish lines at the Derby, Preakness and Belmont. Can you refer me to any previously published interviews of yourself that I could use to create my 7 minute presentation? I know it’s way too little time to cover his magnificent history, but I would like to share the excitement I felt in 1973 with my small club.
Thank you for your help.
Janell Carson

Dear Janell. Thank you for writing. I love to hear from folks like you who have their own history of racing. You really can appreciate what it might be like to own such an amazing horse. As to your Toastmaster speech, thank you for choosing that great moment in history. For sources I can recommend three. First Bill Nack’s book, The Making of a Champion, is the most detailed as well as being a spellbinding retelling of his whole career. Raymond Wolfe’s book, Secretariat, is also very good, and has lots of color pictures. For a video, I suggest The Life and Times of Secretariat. All three are available to order on I don’t know of any good articles that tell the story better than those three. I wish you luck with your presentation and thanks for your support and kind words. Sincerely, Penny


Dear Penny:
Dear Ms. Chenery, Thank you for sharing Secretariat’s legacy with his fans. This is a wonderful place to come and remember such a triumphant horse. He really was so spectacular! And I miss him every day, as I am sure you do as well. I am recalling a quote that was so eloquently written after his passing, something along the lines of “Like a mighty oak had fallen, leaving a space in the grey Kentucky sky”. Could you clarify for me? I just can’t seem to get it right, and I am sending a copy of William Nack’s book to a friend and wanted to include that quote. I would greatly appreciate your help. Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas, and a New Year filled with joy, good health, and love.
Therese Dyer

Dear Therese, Thank you for your question. I think it is a Red Smith quote and I think it is in Bill Nack’s book. But if not, I can’t readily identify it, and I will need some time to get back to you on it, as I will have to go through my file of clippings. Thanks for your good wishes for the new year and I send back the same to you! Sincerely, Penny


Dear Penny:
Penny, years ago you and Martha Gerry taught a seminar at the New School. ( I was one of the priveleged few who took the class ). I remember it like yesterday. My question – Does the blue and white block still have racehorses. It’s always on our minds come spring time.
Namaste Stephen

Dear Stephen, Thank you for your question. I am pleased you were able to attend our seminar. If I understand your question right, you want to know if I still have my colors and if I am still racing under them. The answer to both is yes, although the numbers are few and the victories sparse. The blue and white blocks (Meadow Stable) will remain mine and active as long as I can keep them! Sincerely, Penny


Dear Penny:
Are there any of Secretariat’s offspring living?
Gene Eggemann

Dear Gene, Thank you for your question about whether any of Secretariat’s offspring are still alive. Secretariat died in 1989 so his youngest offspring would be foals of 1990. So yes, I am sure there are several. But I have no way of knowing who or how many. Of course, lots of his descendants are still alive. It would be hard to know the exact numbers of direct offspring, but you might refer to the Online Fact book of The Jockey Club ( to see what you can find there. Best wishes for the New Year. Sincerely, Penny


Dear Penny:
What was his favorite treat you would give him after a race… do you think he knew his was a winner…

Secretariat’s favorite treat was carrots. Yes, he knew he was a winner and very full of himself.


Hi Penny!

Let me say how gracious it is of you to answer
the “Ask Penny” questions. I enjoy all the Q&A’s.

I would like to know how Secretariat got his name. I have read two different accounts, Nack
says your dad’s personal secretary chose the name. The Woolfe book says he was named in her honor. Do you have a favorite Secretariat book? After reading these two books I would tell my wife and son different things about Secretariat and would tear up each time.

It is very interesting how one could be so emotional and only know the horse through these books and witnessing his career from a distance. I think it must have been the affection that he had for those around him and the genuine personality he was and still is.

Thank you!

Marion Rogers

Dear Marion,

The actual story is that my dad’s secretary, Elizabeth Ham, picked the name because it was a favorite of her’s. Her job before the Meadow was working at the United Nations which is a “Secretariat”.

Dear Penny:
Just curious as to the height and weight of “The Great One.”
Thank you.

Naomi Scott

Dear Naomi,

In his prime Secretariat stood 16. 1 1/2 hands and weighed 1155 lbs. Later in life he was 16.2 hands and 1200 lbs.

Dear Ms. Chenery,
You and Secretariat hold a very special place in my heart, as I was a child when I watched Secretariat win the Triple Crown. I would like to ask you what is your favorite memory of Secretariat?
Thank-you and God bless you.

Cindy Gierszewski
Houghton Lake, MI

Dear Cindy,

My fondest memory was when Secretariat was ill during and after the Whitney. We took him out for a 3 furlong practice on a rainy morning and he ran it in a convincing 33 2/5 seconds, as if to say ” I’m back!”.

Dear Penny, at any point during the Belmont did you think that the horse ran off with Turcotte, and that he blew the race?


During the race it crossed my mind. But when I observed horse and rider through binoculars it was clear that Secretariat was running smoothly and Ronnie was making no troubling movements on the horse.

Dear Penny,
I was wondering did Secretariat ever disappoint you or make you mad in any way? If so how? Was Secretariat mean? Did he bite or kick? Was he extremely high strung,a bit spirited, or easy to handle? Sorry about all the questions but they were just things I was wondering. Thanks a lot.

Secretariat never disappointed me and he was never mean. As for high-spirited, you would always try and get a race horse high-strung, and full-of-himself to give you that “edge” on the racetrack. Male thoroughbreds also have to assert who’s boss and might nip at times, but Secretariat also was quite a joker and would goof around when the moment struck him.

What ever happened to Billy Silver? Also, how has the research about laminitis advanced from 1989 til today?
Jan Lubold

Dear Jan,

I do not know what happened to Billy Silver but he died young. As for laminitis research, I refer you to the Grayson Jockey Club Foundation web site.


If I can ever make it to visit Claiborne, do they allow people to visit Secretariats grave?

Certainly! Just call ahead to let them know you are coming.

Dear Penny,
In my mind, Secretariat is the greatest racehorse of all time, better then Man o’ War, Funny Cide, Seabiscuit, Seattle Slew, and so on. Is there any horse that you think comes close to being such a legend, or an older one like Man o’ War that you think could defeat him? I doubt it, but would like to hear your comment.
Siobhan Rosalie

Dear Siobhan,

Each era has its own champions and I try to shy away from comparisons that might detract from their greatness.

Secretariat was the horse that got me “into” horses, and more than 30 years later, I still own and ride horses! I never got to see him “in person” – one huge regret of my life. I was wondering why you never brought him out to the West Coast. We really missed out not getting to see him race out here.


Dear Carolyn,

It is unfortunate that Secretariat never made a showing in the West. As you know, he only raced for 16 months and the best opportunity for him to have gone “west” was during August of 1973 when he was sick, and since we were a New York based stable, his races were concentrated in the East.


Dear Penny: I’m 10 years old and I live near Charlottesville, VA. I love horses and I’ve been taking riding lessons for 3 years. We have 6 horses. One of the horses is an ex-race horse named Shammy Davis. His broodmare sire was Sham. Do you think that ex-race horses make good eventers.

Sincerely, Hannah Gardner.

Dear Hannah,

Certainly! Given an ex-race horse’s athletic ability, their courage and intelligence, you have the ingredients for a great eventer. Just insure enough time and patience is given for the transition from speed to specific task training.

Hi Penny!

I just got done reading both William Nack’s book on Secretariat and Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit. Clearly, “Big Red” was a success from the first day he took to the track, whereas Seabiscuit required special training and patience – as he did not come into his own until he was a 4 year-old.

Based on what you know about the two horses, do you think Seabiscuit (in his prime) would have any chance of beating your horse in a match race?

S. Parisi
Saratoga Springs, NY

It is difficult for the best experts to speculate on race comparisons. Each era had its horse “greats” and we are simply privileged to have had the opportunity, past or present, to share in their greatness.


Dear Miss Penny: Just an honor, again, to say hi to you. We met back in ’73 @ Belmont. My ex-father-in-law was a trainer Ron rode for at times & we were introduced then. Hope you are well. I just found a couple of photo’s of ‘Big Red’ & if you leave me an address I’ll send copies if you like. Take care, Sincerely, Brian.

Dear Brian,
I would love to have any photos of Secretariat you might like to send me. You may send them to, P.O. Box 4865, Louisville, Ky 40204. And thank you for the offer!


Hi Penny. I was 9 years old when Secretariat won the Triple Crown. I was a sports fanatic. I marveled at the Great Ali, was in awe of the undefeated Dolphins, liked the flamboyant A’s, and looked in amazement of the giant Wilt the Stilt. No words can explain how I felt when I watched Secretariat win the Belmont by 31 lengths. I still cry when I read about his death. Tell me though, behind the scenes you were going through so much. Without a family to lean on, how did you stay so focused? What was the guiding force which kept you going and allowed you to follow your dream? With all the negatives, what was it that pushed you through each trial? Thanks.

I actually had family to lean on and my father’s precept that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to. I never felt I was being put through “trials”, I was having too much fun!


I realize that you and Ron Turcotte are in attendance at the Kentucky Derby every year to promote thoroughbred racing and the memory of Secretariat, but do you communicate with each other the rest of the year? Is there any way to contact Ron through the way we are able to contact you? Also, where is Somethingroyal buried?


Pat Reavy

Dear Pat,

Somethingroyal is buried at the Meadow. Yes, Ronnie and I chat each month and would be happy to forward any correspondence you might have to him.

Dear Ms. Chenery,

Two questions for you:

1) In his biography of Secretariat, William Nack discusses an Irish syndication offer that was made to you. What made you decide to turn down the Irish offer in favor of the syndicate that Seth Hancock put together?

2) If Secretariat had raced as a 4-year-old, how well do you think he would have done – in particular against Forego, who was just coming into his prime at that time? What races might you have run him in?

Thanks in advance for considering my questions, and for graciously agreeing to participate in “Ask Penny!” Good luck with your current horse-racing activities, as well.

Erwin Wodarczak

Dear Erwin,

I am not aware of any Irish syndication offer. My family did have strong ties with Claiborne Farms and we certainly wanted Secretariat to stay in the States. Forego was a strong and determined horse, and a race with Secretariat would have been fun to see. As a four year old, Secretariat would have been run in any number of New York races with a good purse.


Dear Mrs. Chenery,
Do you think that if Riva Ridge and Secretariat were in the same foal crop, the Triple Crown would have been similar to Affirmed and Alydar?

Dear Lauren,

No. I don’t think Riva Ridge could have ever beaten Secretariat, but he would have given it his all to try!

First, I loved Secretariat! The Triple Crown is the only sporting event I would ever want to attend. My question is are you disappointed that Secretariat could not reproduce a foal as good as himself, and of his offspring (within 3 generations), which one do you think was the best racehorse overall?
Vesna Britton

Dear Vesna,

Scientifically, you could not expect Secretariat to reproduce something so far “off ” the chart as he, since nature governs “regression to the norm”. I did not have time for disappointment. I was too busy enjoying Secreatriat’s life and times.

I was barely two years old when Secretariat won the Triple Crown, but hearing, reading and watching what he did and what he meant to everyone is perhaps my favorite story of all time. As a huge horse-lover Secretariat is all alone at the top! No matter how many times I watch ESPN’s Sportscentury feature on him, everytime my body shakes with goosebumps and tears flow. The announcer’s legendary quote, “…he’s moving like a tremendous machine” was so spontaneous and rang so true and made that moment feel so incredible. hat a magnificent creature!! Was it true that following his death they discovered his heart was larger than normal and therefore was able to have such incredible stamina, especially in the Belmont?

Yes, very true, at least twice the size of a normal thoroughbred. It did not seem right to separate Secretariat from his heart during his autopsy for an official measurement.

Dear Mrs.Penny,
My name is Katiland Langston. I am in the racing world big time. I am probably going to be adopted by someone who runs the Louisiana racehorse operation for Steve Asmussen. I am writing a book about Secretariat. I love to hear stories about him, he is the greatest person in my eyes. I want to have a horse just like him – that is the reason I quit barrel racing and I’m a jockey in training. I want to be a jockey just like Ron. I’m honored to write a book about my favorite person, maybe one day I could see you and meet the lady who believed in Secretariat and just to let you know you are my role model. The kids at school laugh at me. I just turn the other cheek and I say one day I will be a great woman like Mrs. Penny.

Your biggest fan

Dear Katiland,

Thank you so much for your wonderful letter. Good for you! I’m glad you are writing a book about Secretariat. He needs fans like you. Always believe in your dreams and you will be a great woman someday. Wishing you all the best of luck. Penny

Hi Ms. Tweedy (Chenery) Forgive me, but I will always know you as Mrs. Tweedy. We will never see another like Secretariat!!

My question:

Please tell us what it was like the night after the 1973 Belmont? You must have been floating. I’m sure you were at some sought of gathering. Did they show the race there? We will NEVER see that again. 30 years later and there isn’t even any discussion on whether they will break the record. Heck, it would be a miracle if they got within 2 seconds. LOL

Good Luck and thank you

There was no planned party, I didn’t want to jinx us. After the race we spent 1 hour with the media and other owners in the Trustee’s Room. Later, there was a big spur of the moment party at the Barn and lots of horsemen came by. We finally found a restaurant open late and had dinner. It was the Laurins, Turcottes, and my family… and quite a celebration!

Although Secretariat has died and the Breeders’ Cup was not yet a thought, if there was a chance for Secreatriat to run in the Breeders’ Cup, would you have considered it? It would have been interesting.

I would have loved to enter Secretariat in the Breeders’ Cup had it been available then.


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