Penny Chenery, “The Grand Lady of Thoroughbred Horse Racing”

Ron Turcotte, Mario Gutierrez, and Penny Chenery at a party on 2012 Derby night

We thought that everyone would enjoy this wonderful article about “The Grand Lady of Thoroughbred Horse Racing”, Penny Chenery. This is an article that was in The Times Dispatch and was written by Karin Kapsidelis.

Penny Chenery came home to Secretariat’s Meadow on Saturday to celebrate the birthday of her Triple Crown winner — with more than 1,200 devoted fans.

Escorted by the Richmond Mounted Squad, Chenery arrived in a horse-drawn carriage to be greeted by old friends from her days struggling to preserve her family’s racing tradition and by young children well-schooled in the story of the horse that made her farm a legend four decades ago.

At the urging of their 12-year-old daughter, Ron and Angie Clatos made a seven-hour drive from Morehead, Ky., with their four children and a dozen scale models of Secretariat for Chenery to autograph. “Everybody’s got two to their name,” Ron Clatos said. “We realized how limited the opportunity was” to meet Chenery and Secretariat’s jockey, Ron Turcotte, as well as other grooms and exercise riders who turned out for the celebration.

Turcotte autographed a 1973 copy of Time with Secretariat on the cover for Kathryn Lindquist, whose father had saved the magazine all these years. Her parents called her Big Red after Secretariat’s nickname, and she turned out to be both a horse lover and a runner.

The celebration at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County, now home to the State Fair of Virginia, included tours of Secretariat’s birthplace and a tribute performance by musician Steve Bassett, who wrote “When Big Red Ran” for the occasion.

“It was a moment in time,” said event director Leeanne Ladin of how the 91-year-old Chenery danced as Bassett sang “Big Red” twice at the urging of the crowd. Chenery came from her home in Colorado for the celebration.

The event also commemorated the 40th anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown run, which culminated in his 31-length victory at the Belmont Stakes.

That record has not been eclipsed, noted Kate Chenery Tweedy, who joined her mother for the reunion.
Secretariat, who was euthanized in 1989 in Kentucky after suffering the painful hoof condition laminitis, was found to have a healthy heart that was more than twice the normal size for a Thoroughbred, according to “Secretariat’s Meadow,” a book Tweedy wrote with Ladin.

Secretariat was born March 30, 1970, at The Meadow, and while his foaling shed and other original barns remain, the 1805 ancestral Chenery home was demolished in the mid-1980s by a subsequent owner.

The Virginia Farm Bureau this month completed the purchase of the property and the State Fair trademark from a Tennessee fair operator, which made the winning bid in a foreclosure sale last year.

Penny, whose family last owned the property in 1978, said the Farm Bureau purchase “is a wonderful thing. We’re very excited about that because they will preserve it.” The Meadow also was the birthplace of Riva Ridge, who won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

“This is my 50-years-ago family,” said Riva Ridge’s exercise rider, Wayne Mount, as he greeted people he had known at The Meadow in the 1960s and ’70s.