Memorial Service for Penny Chenery

By Posted on 3 min read 261 views

Penny Chenery Tribute page at

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.

Secretariat's wolf tooth
Penny Chenery donated one of Secretariat’s wolf teeth for display in the International Museum of the Horse in the Kentucky Horsey Park. Photo by Rhonda Lane

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.

The rest of us will watch the livestream on either or the Keeneland website.

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.

Ron Turcotte signs photo of Penny Chenery and Secretariat
I asked Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte not to sign an action photo for me, but one of Miss Penny with Big Red. Photo by Rhonda Lane

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. 




What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Checkbox GDPR is required


I agree

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
  • Marion Altieri
    October 5, 2017

    Aaaaarrrrrgggghhhhhhh….mainstream media. And THEY get media credentials. Go figure. Never trust an NBC man to do a woman’s job, i.e., when “generalist” sports media take on horse racing–it’s inevitable that it’s covered in the least-insightful way possible. Sigh.

    I was there, so I didn’t see this as it happened, except on the jumbotron–I was behind it all, on the second floor. But everyone was jumping up and down, screaming. (I thought that Belmont was going to collapse, it was a LITTLE terrifying.) But I heard about the slight, and saw it on YouTube later. Boobs. Thank you for writing about this, Rhonda. Sigh, again. 🙁