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Spotlight

Penny Chenery


Penny Chenery, “The First Lady of Racing,” passed away September 16, 2017, at the age of 95. She embraced a life filled with joy and accomplishment and will always be remembered for her strength, dignity, and indomitable spirit. Her love for horses, devotion to their welfare, leadership within the industry, and impact upon the sport will be felt for generations to come.

The entire Secretariat.com team is proud to have had the opportunity to work with Penny, and we share our heart-felt condolences with her family, friends, and fans.

 

Secretariat.com is proud to spotlight several notable figures associated with Secretariat. Appropriately, our inaugural spotlight features “The Mistress of the Meadow,” Penny Chenery, owner and breeder of Secretariat, and her introduction for Secretariat.com.

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“I am so glad that there is now a Secretariat.com where everyone can learn all there is to know about my hero and share each others’ memories and recollections.

The Secretariat legacy is an amazing gift to horse lovers of every kind. He is cherished in my heart but I am astounded by the number of devoted fans he has and by the fact that they keep multiplying. This website will be a service to them and also a place where new friends can get to know him, and each other. Enjoy the Site!”

Penny Chenery
June, 2002

11/13/2017 – PENNY CHENERY WINS BIG SPORT OF TURFDOM AWARD

The Turf Publicists of America (TPA) announced today that the 2017 Big Sport of Turfdom award, which recognizes a person or group of people who enhance coverage of Thoroughbred racing through cooperation with media and racing publicists, will be presented posthumously to Penny Chenery.

Chenery, the owner of 1973 Triple Crown hero Secretariat, philanthropist, and one of the industry’s preeminent figures for five decades, won in a vote determined by the nearly 150 active members of the TPA, a trade organization of Thoroughbred racing publicists and marketing executives. She was also the winner of the Big Sport of Turfdom award in 1973.

“Mrs. Chenery was such an ambassador for our sport and was so incredibly generous in sharing of herself and the legacy of Secretariat all these many years to the media and fans alike,” said TPA President Rhonda Norby. “It is most fitting that she has been awarded the Big Sport of Turfdom a second time to bookend her
incredible contributions to racing.”

The Big Sport of Turfdom will be presented to Chenery’s daughter, Kate Tweedy, at the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program’s annual awards luncheon on December 5, emceed by Santa Anita Park track announcer Michael Wrona. The luncheon is part of the 2017 Symposium on Racing & Gaming at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Ariz.

The luncheon is included in registration fees for the symposium. Additional information about the luncheon may be obtained by contacting TPA Secretary/Treasurer Dave Zenner.

Chenery, who realized her ailing father’s dream to win the Kentucky Derby with homebred Riva Ridge in 1972, passed away September 16 at the age of 95.

“This honor is such an appropriate way to remember Mom’s devotion to racing and to its fans,” said her daughter, Kate Tweedy. “Like the TPA, she believed in sharing the excitement of racing. She would be thrilled to be recognized once again in this way.”

In 1973 Secretariat became a pop culture icon, and for the ensuing years Penny Chenery was a careful steward of the legacy of “Big Red.” Always charming, engaging and quick-witted, she represented her equine champions with poise, elegance, eloquence, and excellence, and she also had a keen business sense.

She was the first female president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. She became one of the first women admitted to The Jockey Club and helped found the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Chenery created the Secretariat Vox Populi award, annually honoring racing’s most popular horse, as well as the Secretariat Foundation, which assists and supports various charities within the racing community. She received the 2006 Eclipse Award of Merit for lifetime contributions to the Thoroughbred industry, and in recent years, she advocated for laminitis research and care advancement.

The Big Sport of Turfdom has been presented annually since 1966 and Chenery is the fourth two-time winner, joining jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. and trainers Carl Nafzger and Bob Baffert, who won in 2015 as part of “Team American Pharoah.” Last year’s winner was Art Sherman, the trainer of 2014 and 2016 Horse of the Year California Chrome. Other previous winners include jockeys Mike Smith, Pat Day, Chris McCarron, Bill Shoemaker, Angel Cordero Jr., Eddie Arcaro and Gary Stevens; trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Jack Van Berg; as well as other individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport, such as announcer Tom Durkin, author Laura Hillenbrand, broadcaster Jim McKay, turf writer Joe Hirsch, and actors Tim Conway and Jack Klugman.

A list of past Big Sport of Turfdom winners can be found online at http://www.turfpublicists.com/awards.html.

 

February 2016 – PENNY CHENERY JOINS WATER HAY OATS ALLIANCE

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 27, 2016) – Penny Chenery has joined the Water Hay Oats Alliance and lends her support for the passage of federal legislation to grant the United States Anti-Doping agency oversight of drug and medication policies in horse racing. Her statement is below:

It took me a long time to fully appreciate one of the benefits of owning a Triple Crown winner. All at once, you become a public figure and inherit a platform from which you can make your voice heard.

When Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes on June 9, 1973, to become Thoroughbred racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, I had no idea of the opportunities it would provide for the ensuing 42 years. I have spoken up on various issues in Thoroughbred racing, always with the best interest of the sport in mind. This is one of those times.

Our sport recently received a healthy dose of positive publicity, thanks to the exceptionally talented American Pharoah. (And, yes, I was rooting for him to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner.)

But we have practices that compromise equine welfare and the integrity of the sport. Rules can vary greatly from state to state, and drug-testing labs in one state find substances that drug labs in other states do not. We lack reciprocity. When a trainer is penalized in one state, he is still free to race horses in another state. And importantly, penalties in many states amount to the proverbial slap on the wrist. They are looked upon in some quarters as just the cost of doing business and not a deterrent.

The abuse of therapeutic drugs and the use of illegal drugs are not new issues for horse racing. In May 1982, I was invited to speak at a U.S. Senate hearing on a proposed piece of legislation, the Corrupt Horseracing Practices Act, calling for pre-race testing of all horses and a ban on all race day drugs, and I used that platform, over 30 years ago, to explain, “What I am for–what every Thoroughbred breeder in America is striving to do since Bull Rock was imported in 1730–is to breed sound horses that race on courage.”

At that time, some states were taking steps to reform their medication policies; others lagged behind in their commitment to medication-free racing. I felt we were moving in the right direction. Sadly, time has proved me wrong. The National Uniform Medication Program–a voluntary protocol featuring a list of controlled therapeutic medications, standardized drug testing labs and uniform penalties–has been fully adopted by only nine of 38 jurisdictions. Breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys and horses should be competing on a level playing field if we hope to attract new fans and retain current fans.

Today, I firmly believe that the time for federal legislation of our sport has come. And I am glad to know that a recently proposed piece of legislation would not require additional taxes or be paid for by those who wager on our sport. The horseracing industry would absorb the cost, as it must. The Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015 (HR 3084), introduced by Reps. Andy Barr, R-Ky., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., would encourage the adoption of a national uniform standard for drugs and medication in American Thoroughbred racing and grant rule-making, testing and enforcement oversight to an entity created by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Every competitor and everyone betting on a race would be getting a fair shake if this legislation becomes law. It would undoubtedly enhance the welfare of our equine athletes and the integrity of our sport. I am not alone in my support for this bill. Several racing organizations have formed an advocacy group known as the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, or CHRI, to encourage the adoption of this legislation.

The 1970s are often referred to as “the glory days” in horse racing because Seattle Slew and Affirmed followed in Secretariat’s footsteps by winning the Triple Crown in 1977 and 1978. But even another succession of Triple Crown winners would not return this sport to the glory days. We need to reform our medication policies. We need uniformity. We need passage of HR 3084.

 

August 2012 – PENNY CHENERY TO BE HONORED BY THOROUGHBRED CLUB

Helen (Penny) Chenery, renowned for the last four decades as the key owner of the great horse Secretariat, has been selected Honor Guest of the Thoroughbred Club of America’s 81st annual Testimonial Dinner, Club president Julie Cauthen announced today. Mrs. Chenery was selected by the Thoroughbred Club’s board of directors and will be honored at Keeneland Race Course, Lexington, KY, on the evening of September 30th.

“In selecting Mrs. Chenery, I believe our directors have made an exemplary addition to the highest ideals of the Testimonial Dinner,” said Mrs. Cauthen. “When you look back at such honorees as Col. E. R. Bradley of Idle Hour, William Woodward Sr. of Belair Stud, Warren Wright of Calumet Farm, three generations of Claiborne Farm’s Hancock family, and such as Woody Stephens, Bill Shoemaker, Wayne Lukas, and Mack Miller, you get an appreciation for the high standards set for this honor. Certainly, Mrs. Chenery’s stewardship of Secretariat’s ongoing legacy and her other services to racing fit this mold very admirably.”

Mrs. Chenery is a daughter of the late Christopher T. Chenery, who re-established his family’s ancestral Meadow Stud in Virginia and rose to the highest ranks in the sport and business of Thoroughbred racing. Mr. Chenery bred and raced champions Hill Prince, First Landing, and Cicada. Mrs. Chenery was raising a family in Colorado when Mr. Chenery’s health deteriorated to the point that Meadow Stud and Meadow Stable were threatened. She chose to meet the challenge of maintaining The Meadow and was foremost among Mr. Chenery’s children in her determination to continue operation of the breeding farm and racing stable.

The champion Riva Ridge emerged to win the Kentucky Derby and Belmont for Meadow Stable in 1972, helping steady the enterprise. When Secretariat emerged as the champion 2-year-old and Horse of the Year in 1973, Mrs. Chenery recognized a unique opportunity and asked young Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm in Kentucky to syndicate him for stallion duty when he retired from racing. Secretariat thus became known as the Six Million Dollar Horse even before his surpassing run through the Triple Crown and a second Horse of the Year title.

The climax of the Triple Crown was Secretariat’s 31-length victory in world record time in the Belmont Stakes of 1973. Later that year he was retired to Claiborne Farm, where he sired Horse of the Year Lady’s Secret, fellow Belmont winner and champion Risen Star, etc., and prevailed as a broodmare sire of lasting importance.

Mrs. Chenery did not recede into a passive role in Thoroughbred racing when Secretariat’s racing career ended. 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, and was elected to membership in The Jockey Club in 1983. Mrs. Chenery has also been leading advocate for the health and welfare of retired Thoroughbreds and was a driving force in the formation of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. In 2005, Mrs. Chenery was voted the Eclipse Award of Merit, which ranks with the Thoroughbred Club of America’s Testimonial Dinner among racing’s high honors.

“Mrs. Chenery recognized the opportunity to utilize the public’s love of Secretariat for the good of racing and of race horses,” Mrs. Cauthen said. “She has been instrumental in a number of projects which utilize the image of Secretariat for positive causes. One is establishing the Secretariat Vox Populi Award, which she describes as ‘acknowledging the star horse who brings the most excitement and attention to the sport,’ regardless of whether it is a Derby winner or just an honest, consistent campaigner at another level. Another is the annual Secretariat Festival in Paris, Ky. Also, the website Secretariat.com, is a multi-faceted site which allows Secretariat lovers to keep in touch, purchase merchandise, and support charitable causes.”

Mrs. Chenery also was instrumental in assisting in the production and promotion of the Disney Movie “Secretariat,” which added to the appreciation of the remarkable horse for generations who had not seen him race.

“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,” added Mrs. Cauthen. “We call all be truly proud that she is a part of our sport.

For over 80 years, The Thoroughbred Club of America Annual Testimonial Dinner has honored persons who have rendered distinguished service to the sport of thoroughbred racing.

 

January 2006 – PENNY CHENERY RECEIVES ECLIPSE AWARD OF MERIT FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN THOROUGHBRED RACING

Helen “Penny” Chenery, whose captivating charm and enthusiasm as the owner of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat earned her the unofficial title of “First Lady of Racing,” was honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing.

Chenery received the honor on January 23 at the 35th Annual Eclipse Awards at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, Calif. The ceremonies were carried live by TVG.

“I am just tickled to win this award,” said Chenery, who recently relocated to Boulder, Colo. “I’ve had a wonderful time in racing, with the fans, my peers, and of course, the horses. The greatest sight in racing is seeing your horse with your silks on coming down the stretch in the lead. The second greatest thing is seeing a foal born. That’s God’s gift to us.”

In 1973, the Secretariat phenomenon was one of the biggest sports and news stories of the year. During a period coinciding with the end of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War and the emerging Watergate scandal, “Big Red” of Meadow Stable gave the nation an unexpected lift, becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, when he swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Secretariat’s photo appeared on covers of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated during the same week.

Throughout the campaign, Chenery, who took over the Meadow operation for her ailing father, Christopher, embodied grace and elegance in the spotlight. Secretariat’s 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes is forever intertwined with the image of Chenery, arms held high in triumph.

Meadow Stable also won two of the three Triple Crown races in 1972 when Riva Ridge captured the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. Nearly two decades later, Chenery bred 1992 3-year-old filly champion Saratoga Dew.

In the 33 years since Secretariat’s Triple Crown, Chenery has been widely recognized as racing’s goodwill ambassador throughout the world. She also became extremely active in Thoroughbred causes and foundations. Chenery served as president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) from 1976-1984. She was also president of the Grayson Foundation for equine research in 1985-’86, and was elected to membership in The Jockey Club in 1983. Chenery has also been leading advocate for the health and welfare of retired Thoroughbreds and was a driving force in the formation of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) 25 years ago.

Chenery received the Eclipse Award of Merit nearly 33 years to the day after accepting the Horse of the Year trophy on behalf of Secretariat for his 2-year-old season and 32 years after accepting the Horse of the Year trophy following his 3-year-old campaign.

Eclipse Awards are given to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing. Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements have earned them the title of Champion in their respective categories. Awards also are given to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing.

The Eclipse Awards are named after the great 18th-century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse, who began racing at age five and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbies.


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