Horse Racing

Penny Chenery, owner of Triple Crown winner Secretariat, dies

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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Penny Chenery, who bred and raced 1973 USA Triple Crown winner Secretariat as well as realising her ailing father's dream to win the Kentucky Derby in 1972 with Riva Ridge, has died. She was 95.

Chenery died Saturday in her Boulder, Colorado, home following complications from a stroke, according to her children. They announced her death Sunday through Leonard Lusky, her long-time friend and business partner.

In 1973, Secretariat captured the imagination of racing fans worldwide when he became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. He won the last leg by a whopping 31 lengths in one of the greatest performances in sports history. The previous year, Riva Ridge won the Derby and Belmont Stakes. Both colts were inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

“We are deeply proud of our mother, her accomplishments, and her courage,” daughter Kate Tweedy said. “As we mourn her loss, the example of her strength, her intelligence and her enduring spirit continue to inspire us.”

Chenery developed a love of horses as a child and learned to ride at age five. She attributed her affinity for horses to her father, Christopher Chenery, who founded Meadow Stable, a thoroughbred racing and breeding operation, in Caroline County, Virginia.

After graduating from Smith College in 1943, Chenery worked as an assistant for a company that designed landing craft for the Normandy invasion. Before the invasion, she quit her job and at her father's urging, she volunteered for the Red Cross. In 1945, Chenery travelled to France as a 'Doughnut Girl' to help war-weary soldiers transition to ships headed home at the end of World War II.

Chenery returned from Europe in 1946, and at her father's urging, she attended Columbia University's business school, where she was one of 20 women in her class. Six months from graduation, she got engaged to Columbia Law graduate John “Jack” Tweedy. Her father encouraged her to quit and focus on her wedding. The couple married in 1949.

For nearly 20 years, Chenery was content to be a housewife and mother to the couple's four children in the Denver area. She and her husband helped found and raise the initial money for Vail ski resort in the early 1960s.

Her life changed in 1968 when her father's health and mind began failing and her mother died. His Meadow Stable, which had been profitable, began losing money. Her two siblings had planned to sell it when their father could no longer run the operation.

By 1971, her colt Riva Ridge swept the juvenile stakes and won two-year-old of the year honours. In 1972, Riva Ridge won the Kentucky Derby, fulfilling her father's dream in the last year of his life. That same year, Secretariat burst onto the scene, so dominating the two-year-old races that he won Horse of the Year honours.

In 1973, Secretariat became a pop culture icon with his Triple Crown victory, landing on the cover of Time magazine. For the next four decades, Chenery served as a careful steward of the colt's legacy.

She charmed as an engaging and quick-witted owner who represented her equine champions with poise, dignity and a keen business sense.

“The horse can't talk, but I can,” she said.

Chenery was portrayed by actress Diane Lane in the 2010 movie “ Secretariat.” Chenery had a cameo role as a spectator at the Belmont Stakes.

Chenery's marriages to Tweedy and Lennart Ringquist ended in divorce. She is survived by her children from her marriage to Tweedy: Sarah Manning, Kate, Chris and John. Her other survivors are seven grandchildren and stepson Jon Ringquist.

Lusky said a public memorial was pending.

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