The fans of EZ Horse Betting know that Secretariat was arguably the greatest racehorse of all time. It would also be correct to state that Penny Chenery, the owner of Big Red, was among the most loved racing personalities of all time. On September 16, 2017, Penny Chenery passed away at the age of 95. Her death follows that of Lucien Lauren and Eddie Sweat, two other individuals who formed the team that led Secretariat to greatness. Only jockey Ron Turcotte now remains as a living link to the legendary champion.
From Housewife to Horseman
Penny Chenery grew up around the business of horse racing. Her father, Christopher, owned Meadow Stable in Virginia. The farm had bred many moderately successful horses. When the elder Chenery became ill, however, young Penny was drawn into the work of helping preserve the family farm.
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One of her first daunting tasks came when she was required to stand in for her father at a coin flip with legendary owner Ogden Phipps. The two men had agreed on the coin flips to determine which of them would have first choice of horses they bred together. Chenery is said to have regularly lost the coin tosses and this time was no exception. But it didn’t matter because Chenery had set her sights on the strapping red colt that Phipps did not want. She got the horse she wanted.
The rest, as they say, is history. Secretariat went on the become a Triple Crown winner and help Chenery preserve her farm in the wake of her father’s death. Although the movie Secretariat dramatizes events in the history of Secretariat, the horse did in fact put Chenery in the national spotlight.
Penny Chenery was a Horse Racing Ambassador
Because of the way she handled herself in the wake of Secretariat’s Triple Crown victory, Penny Chenery became a de facto ambassador for horse racing. She spoke often with passion about her love for racing and the horses that changed her life. Chenery and trainer Lucien Lauren also captured the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes in 1972 with Riva Ridge but fell short of the Triple Crown by losing the Preakness.
Chenery often remarked upon the timing of Secretariat’s Triple Crown win. She stated that it came at a moment when America was in sore need of national pride. The Nixon administration had ended in disgrace, America was bitterly divided over the Vietnam War, and there was a general lack of morale in the country.
Secretariat came and gave Americans a reason to join together in a common cause for celebration. The horse united people of all cultures and ethnic backgrounds. The poor could cheer for the horse alongside the rich. Everyone was able to join in and partake in the happiness that Secretariat brought to his team of handlers.
The Eclipse Award of Merit
In 2006, Penny Chenery was honored with the highest award given to individuals in horse racing. She received the Eclipse Award of Merit for her contributions to the industry as a whole.
Chenery was characteristically humble throughout her racing career. She repeatedly gave credit for Secretariat’s success to trainer Lucien Lauren, groom Eddie Sweat, and jockey Ron Turcotte. She perceived her own role as minor in the overall scheme of things. While this was the attitude which Chenery displayed to the general public, those behind the scenes knew Chenery was calling the shots.
She could be firm when her job as an owner required it. After Secretariat failed in the Wood Memorial, some sources suggest that Chenery was livid with everyone involved. It was only discovered later that the horse had an ailment which compromised his performance.
Yet, there are other stories which show the compassion Chenery had. She was described as benevolent by her employees and longtime secretary. She did many good works for the workers on the backside of racetracks throughout the country. Chenery believed these individuals were not given proper recognition in many cases for their hard work.
Chenery’s death comes following a stroke. She was unable to recover from the complications of the medical emergency. Her family announced her passing and thanked race fans for all of their support. We at EZ Horse Betting send our condolences to the Chenery family.