What name follows almost every superlative in horse racing? Secretariat
Secretariat's Meadow . . .
The Superlatives . . .
Who was the ninth of only twelve Triple Crown winners?
Who won the Triple Crown after a gap between winners of 25 years (the largest gap up to that time)?
Who set the track records in all three races that make up the Triple Crown that have never been beaten?
Who set the American record for 1 1⁄2 miles on the dirt?
Whose syndication for sire price set a record at $6.08 million?
Who was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame the first year after his retirement?
At birth, whose veterinarian said, "He's legs are perfect"?
At birth, whose owner said, "He's too pretty to be good"?
Whose autopsy revealed the largest undiseased heart of any racehorse?
Who unexpectedly won Horse of the Year honors at the young age of two, then again as a three-year-old?
Who was the only non-human on ESPN’s 100 Greatest Athletes of the Twentieth Century?
What was the nickname of the all-time top two American racehorses?
(OK. It wasn't "Secretariat". But it was the name he was given at birth: "Big Red" - also the nickname of the great Man o' War, who did not win the Kentucky Derby only because his owner thought he was too young. His final win of 1919 was a match race against Sir Barton, who had won what would later be known as the first American Triple Crown.)
The Greatest Horse Race Ever
In the long-run . . .
Secretariat's record-breaking fees paid off. Although he sired several successful racehorses, he ultimately was most influential through his daughters' offspring, becoming the leading broodmare sire in North America in 1992. Cases in point: Risen Star won the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes in 1988. Lady's Secret won more than $3 million and was Horse of the Year in 1986. And the tradition of greatness coming through the line of the broodmare has continued. Secretariat produced 135 daughters who won more than six and a half million dollars by 1992, more than any other stallion. By 2000, his stud fee had risen to half a million dollars.
As Leanne Meadows Ladin wrote in "Secretariat's Meadow" (cowritten by Kate Chenery Tweedy) Secretariat's greatness came through his mother. "Champions like Eclipse, Man o' War, and Secretariat each had this big heart, which they inherited from their dam's X chromosone." The X-Factor breeding theory was pioneered by author/reporter/photographer Marianna Haun.
Maianna Haun helped the Associated Press break the news that Secretariat had died in October of 1989. She was sitting in the Claiborne Farm office waiting to photograph the famous horse, when she learned Secretariat had died moments earlier. Marianna's reporter instincts immediately kicked in. She called Lexington’s AP office saying she wanted her old office in Carson City, Nevada, credited with the tip. Most readers never stopped to wonder why a Colorado AP office was breaking this important horse racing story.
Marianna later learned Secretariat had an unusually large heart – estimated at 22 pounds, while the average Thoroughbred heart is 8.5 pounds. This tremendous cardiovascular system, pumping oxygen into his lungs at an abnormally high rate, was clearly a source of his stamina and power.
Secretariat's daughters produced sires such as Storm Cat, A.P. Indy, Gone West, Dehere, and Chief's Crown. Even In this year's Kentucky Derby, Secretariat's bloodline is prominent. Of the 20 contenders in the field, 16 of them can boast Secretariat in their bloodlines. (verified through www.pedigreequery.com)
Secretariat's Kentucky Derby
By the numbers . . .
Since 1919, only 289 horses have won a single leg of the Triple Crown, 52 horses have won two of the races (23 the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, 18 the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, and 11 the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes).
Secretariat holds the undisputed track record at Churchill Downs (1 1/4 mile) and at Belmont Park (1 1/2 mile). His controversial time at Pimlico Race Course (1 3/16 mile) for the Preakness States was eventually recognized as a track record in 2012.
An electronic timer at the Preakness recorded a winning time of one minute, 55 seconds. But two independent clockers from the Daily Racing Form individually timed the race at 1:53 2/5. Officials admitted that there were "extenuating circumstances" with the electronic timer's recording and changed Secretariat's official time to 1:54 2/5. If Secretariat had run the race in 1:53 2/5, as the Daily Racing Form timed it, it would have meant a record at the time, but it has been matched (not beaten) since. Video technology forty years after the race confirmed the independent clockers' time, establishing an unbeaten record to go along with the other two for Secretariat.
That record-setting Preakness
Twice a Prince really came in second, but the movie had its own finish . . .
There was actually another horse . . .
In 1969, The Meadows wasn't becoming known for its green pastures. It was becoming known for its red ink.
The newest colt was not encouraging. Even with traces of a bloodline going back to the great Man 'o War, it was sickly and feverish a good bit of the time. Within a year, though, he grew to be a quiet but good-looking horse. He was named Riva Ridge after a hard-won battle by the U.S. 10th Mountain Division in WWII, the unit son-in-law Jack Tweety trained with before the war.
In 1972 Riva secured a hard-won battle for Chris Chenery by fulfilling the ailing Meadows' owner's lifelong dream of winning the Kentucky Derby. Hospitalized and mute by this time, Mr. Chenery's nurse made sure he understood that his horse had won. Her confirmation that he knew was a single tear trailing down his cheek.
But there would be no Triple Crown for Riva Ridge. Though he won the Belmont, the rain-soaked, muddy Preakness proved to be his undoing. Still, his winnings saved the family farm and its stock - including the big red stallion who would become known as Secretariat.
NOTE: Riva Ridge is not mentioned in the Disney film, "Secretariat," because they said there was only room in a movie for one champion.
Secretariat's Mom . . .
It came to pass . . .
Chris Chenery believed in building a racing dynasty through broodmares, the females, the mothers. Ironically, that belief proved true for his family as well.
In declining health and grieving the sudden death of his wife, he turned to his third child, Helen Bates "Penny" Chenery Tweedy, the only one of his children willing to take up the challenge of saving his life's work: The Meadows. His daughter held up against the doubts of her siblings. She mothered her own children untraditionally while fighting an uphill battle against the status quo of her day. The year after her greatest accomplishment was achieved in horseracing, the one thing the world expected her to do failed. Her marriage ended.
In the years that followed, after another attempt at marriage, Penny Chenery became the first female president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. She was one of the first three women admitted to The Jockey Club. In 2006 she was honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing sealing her place in history as "Secretariat's Mom." The ultimate broodmare.
Visit The Meadows in Doswell, Virginia
For information on the park, go to http://www.meadoweventpark.com/secretariats-birthplace-at-the-meadow-named-to-virginia-landmarks-register/
And/or read the book, "Secretariat's Meadow" by Kate Chenery Tweedy and Leeanne Meadows Ladin at https://www.amazon.com/Secretariats-Meadow-Leanne-Meadows-Ladin-ebook/dp/B0069CGVYM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UT
At The Meadows
Helen "Penny" Chenery died September 16, 2017, in her Colorado home following complications from a stroke at the age of 95.
Secretariat's Meadow - The Land - The Family - The Legend by Kate Chenery Tweedy, Leeanne Meadows Ladin
Racing Daily Forum, Mark Simon
NJ.com, Jerry Izenberg for the Star-Ledger
Kentucky Derby 2017 Contenders: Lineup and Pedigree for All Entries in the Field, Nate Loop, The Bleacher Report