Horse Racing

Friends, family celebrate Penny Chenery, owner of Secretariat

Friday, October 13, 2017

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A large audience packed the Keeneland sales pavilion on Monday last to remember the life of Helen “Penny” Chenery, the United States “First Lady of Thoroughbred Racing”, who died September 16 at age 95.

Remembered by many as an ambassador for the sport, a pioneer for women in racing, a fierce competitor, a charming friend, a thoughtful mentor, and an icon for many racing fans, the memorial service had a number of speakers sharing their favourite stories of Chenery.

NBC reporter and analyst Donna Brothers started by saying that she had admired Chenery even before she met her, especially for being a trailblazer for women in the sport.

Secretariat and Penny have been a fabric of horse racing since my earliest memory,” Brothers said. “I always thought she handled herself remarkably well for a woman who was predominantly in a man's world.”

Chenery's son John Tweedy spoke next, sharing memories of his mother and saying how overwhelmed and grateful his family is for all of the support and outpouring of love after Chenery died. He recalled various memories of his mother, including some from when she took him to the racetrack.

“When she showed me around the racetrack, she didn't see people divided by class ... she saw people united by a love of the horse,” he said.

Next was 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew's co-owner Sally Hill, who became a friend of Chenery's when Seattle Slew was running.

“I know Penny wasn't thrilled that another Triple Crown winner came along so quickly. But she was exceptionally nice to take me under her wing,” she said.

Viewing Chenery as a mentor, Hill cherished the advice given to her from the owner of the 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat.

“Take all of your friends and all of your family along for the ride because if you do, you'll have such wonderful memories from it,” Hill said of one such piece of wisdom Chenery gave her about Seattle Slew's 1977 campaign.

And Hill shared another life lesson from Chenery which received a few laughs from the crowd.

“Make sure you get a facelift just before you need one,” she recalled her friend telling her.

Retired jockey Pat Day shared a letter from Ron Turcotte, the rider of Secretariat and 1972 Kentucky Derby winner Riva Ridge, among others.

“Penny was a champion and a competitor, and she pushed all of us to do better. For that and for a chance to ride Meadow Stable's best horses, I'm forever thankful,” he read.

The last speaker was Chenery's daughter Kate Tweedy, who shared a side of her mother not always seen, including her zest for life that was apparent even in her final days.

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