Penny Chenery Tribute page at Secretariat.com.
And now, the original post:
First, pardon me while I air out a related matter regarding Penny Chenery.
When American Pharoah took the Triple Crown, NBC Sports flubbed coverage of a special moment in horse racing history.
While Pharoah’s trainer Bob Baffert hurried toward the winners circle, the most famous Triple Crown-winning horse owner still with us stood up from her box seat to welcome Baffert to horse racing’s most exclusive club.
Yes, NBC Sports cut away from a shot of Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery shaking hands with Bob Baffert after his horse ended the 37-year-long Triple Crown “drought.”
She wasn’t even identified as a well-wisher.
My TV engineer husband, who wasn’t into horse racing when I married him, and I were shocked.
Why it still matters
Penny Chenery, aka, the First Lady of the Sport of Kings, was a lifeling “horse girl” and a supporter of the horses who are the beating heart of horse racing.
Her horse Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973. She has served as an ambassador of horse racing ever since.
She also owned and raced Riva Ridge, the previous year’s Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes winner, so she knew how to breed and campaign winners.
Her record is impressive, yet the photo below says volumes about her. She kept one of Secretariat’s wolf teeth. (Between you and me, I bet she kept both but gave one to the museum.)
Those are just a few reasons why the TV snub bothers my husband and I.
Two and a half years later, the day I began writing this blog post, we were having lunch in a restaurant in downtown Hartford when I told him about the livestream of the memorial service. Maybe that’s why I became a little misty and needed to let the subject drop to sip some iced tea.
He was bothered, too. He’d met her once, back when we worked in Lexington TV. He’d been on assignment as a videographer at several Lexington horse farms. Someone had introduced him to a “Miss Penny, ” a nice lady who “seemed to be running things.” Back then, he had no idea who she was.
Several months later, he started dating me. The rest is history.
Rant over, aka, how to find the Livestream.
Down the road a-piece and west of the horse park, “Miss Penny’s” memorial service will be open to the public at the Keeneland Sales Pavilion. The service is free to anyone who can find a seat, so be in line when the doors open at 12:30 EDT.
Oh. Something else …
Also on that Belmont telecast two years ago, we saw a minor glimpse of the living Triple Crown winning jockeys, lined up on the rail watching the action near the finish line. No mention of them, either.
A couple of months later, I saw Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte at Saratoga. He looked a bit baffled when I handed him not one of the usual action photos of him and Big Red flying without wings, but a photo of Secretariat and Miss Penny having a cozy moment.
I might have been a bit misty, too, when I handed him the photo. I think that’s why he smiled.
While you’re at it, check out this “classic” blog post: “What does Secretariat mean to you?”
From Rhonda: Yes, I flubbed some numbers when I originally posted this story. I’d said 32 years, not the correct 37. I changed it in the body text. Anyway, thank you, M. E. Altieri, for catching that and giving me the chance to save face – though I insist on ‘fessing up.