Sunday, June 03, 2012

Two Degrees of Separation from Secretariat

It’s been a year or two since Affirmed last captured the Triple Crown in 1978. And now I’ll Have Another, with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness jewels already stashed in his saddlebag, is attempting to become the 12th Triple Crown winner.

Coincidentally, Kate Chenery Tweedy, author of Secretariat’s Meadow and daughter of Penny Chenery, was in Fort Worth this weekend as a presenter at the AmerEquine Festival. Kate would be the hippie, older daughter for those of you at home following along with your Secretariat movie.

Anyway, Thursday night she held a book signing; an opportunity to meet an individual that had been closely associated with the great racehorse, Secretariat. Kate Chenery Tweedy is a genuinely fascinating and vivacious woman, willing to share her rich family history and anecdotes about growing up, and her familiarity with horse racing. She is truly lovely and I felt privileged to have almost touched history. Magical!

Okay, but you know that I didn’t drive all the way to Fort Worth and elbow my way into a crowd of people just to hear about Granddad Chenery and the wonderful Meadow. So, I asked about her mother’s comments that were recently published in Andrew Cohen’s article in The Atlantic,

“I don't know Mr. Reddam personally but I think he should be embarrassed that the trainer he has chosen does not have a clean record.” [Penny Chenery]

Kate, as she invited me to call her, laughed. “Oh, you know about that article, do you? Well,” she continued, “Mom’s ninety and she’s done playing politics.” Sorry, Doug. The Grand Dame of Racing is speaking her mind - racing is not as clean as it once was; too many issues with drugs as opposed to Mama Chenery’s Old School Racing.

However, everybody in the book-signing vicinity all were genuinely excited about I’ll Have Another’s Triple Crown bid. A true champion! Unable to keep my mouth shut (as usual), I woefully lamented, “A great champion that runs straight into the breeders’ shed."  Kate grimaced and agreed; “champions” usually depart post haste from the racetrack to stud. But she admitted that she feared Secretariat may have been one of the first stallions to blaze the trail to direct stud duty. “Mom sold the breeding rights to a syndicate in order to pay the bills. The syndicate did, however, ‘allow’ her to race Secretariat for the rest of the year.”

Finally, I had to ask Kate’s opinion one last burning question: Did Diane Lane do a good job portraying Penny Chenery in the movie Secretariat? That question sent Kate into gales of laughter. “Oh, we love Diane Lane! She is so wonderful! But you have to remember that it was a Disney movie. Diane Lane portrayed Mother as a good, dutiful housewife. And I assure you, Mother was not much of a housewife! She should’ve been running a business.”


Jeff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff said...

My dear friend Sue, can't help but agree with your statement “A great champion that runs straight into the breeders’ shed" but alas times have changed. It is truly sad when you can no longer really enjoy a horse's career knowing that as soon as he wins an important race, he is most likely on the way out for breeding purposes. Which is why I have always found myself following the ladies. Top flight fillies and mares seem to be given the opportunity to have successful campaigns which only seems to entertain the race fans that much more. To be able to follow a stakes placed horse for numerous years is an honor. See you at the track.