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HRN Original Blog:
A New York State of Racing

So You Think You Know the Secretariat Story?

Secretariat 615 X 400
 
If you fancy yourself an expert on Secretariat, then you will not want to miss the new documentary DVD, Penny & Red: The Life of Secretariat’s Owner. This 2013 release was produced, directed, and edited by John Tweedy, the youngest child of Big Red’s owner, Penny Chenery.
 
This documentary offers racing fans a unique perspective, as Penny Chenery talks about her life growing up with thoroughbreds and her role as Secretariat’s owner during the turbulent 1970’s. During the interviews Chenery reveals information that up until now had never been told. In addition all of the racing scenes in the documentary were digitally remastered and we get stunning new looks at the 1973 Triple Crown, Riva Ridge, and Secretariat at Claiborne Farm.
 
Even though this video is about Ms. Chenery we get to hear plenty about Secretariat. Much of what we all grew to love about Big Red happened because Chenery thrust herself into the spotlight. She thought it was vital that racing fans felt that they were part of her inner circle with trainer Lucien Laurin, jockey Ron Turcotte, and the Meadow Stable. Chenery begins the video by saying that, “I always keep reminding myself that the horses can’t talk, so I can.”
 
 
Chenery discusses growing up in a “tough and ultra competitive family” and her struggles with what she felt was the restrictive roll of a mother and housewife. She very candidly reveals many of her deepest feelings. She is not bashful when talking about her marital woes and her own personal demons and shortcomings.
 
Chenery took the opportunity to run Meadow Stable as a way to reinvent her life, to go from housewife to national personality and a role model to women of the 1970’s. At that point she said that, “I liked my life. I was having a good time and I didn’t want people to get in my way.”
 
There are plenty of great images of the Meadow Stable stars spaced throughout Chenery’s dialogue, from the earlier days of Hill Prince and First Landing to the superstars, Riva Ridge and Secretariat. She talks about how early in his training, a skeptical Laurin said, “Your Bold Ruler colt, he’s just fat and lazy and he doesn’t show me anything.”
 
There are never seen before images of a blistering Secretariat workout and races spanning the upset in the Wood Memorial to his final start at Woodbine in the Canadian International.
 
One of her most revealing moments came when she talked about the extreme pressure, stress, and tension that had built up after Secretariat’s then record $6 million dollar syndication and during the run for the Triple Crown. She confessed that, “Lucien and I kind of became cohorts …” You may have already heard the conclusion to that statement, if not I will not spoil the amazing story that she goes on to tell.
 
The DVD is narrated by actress Diane Lane, who we remember played Penny in the 2010 full length Disney movie Secretariat. Fortunately, the only similarity between that disappointing movie and this documentary is the subject matter and Lane’s voice. Penny & Me goes a long way to help racing fans forget the contrived and self-indulgent story lines that director Randall Wallace forced into Secretariat.
 
Make no mistake about it that the star of this documentary is Penny Chenery, and thus it becomes clear that a lot of what we love about Secretariat is deeply entwined with the turbulent life she led as Penny Tweedy. This DVD left me with a deeper appreciation for Chenery while, at the same time, I learned new things about my favorite thoroughbred.
 
Click on this link that will take you to Secretariat.com if you want to purchase Penny & Red: The Life of Secretariat's Owner

 

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Older Comments about So You Think You Know the Secretariat Story?...

The life story of his groom is a tad darker. Race relations were defined by rigid class lines before the Civil rights act was entrenched. Even today the Jim Crow mentality has not moved. Aren't they all tired of still fighting the civil war? I found this book fascinating and it's author's message relavant to today. http://thenewpress.com/index.php?option=com_title&task=view_title&metaproductid=1617
We went to the Keeneland showing. I thought it was great. It was a wonderful, the crowd was nice size, small enough to make it feel like and intimate evening with Penny, Charlie, Ron, John Tweedy and William Nack.
Mrs. Chenery has ALWAYS made it quite clear that Riva Ridge was her favorite and that he was vital to saving the Meadow, but that Secretariat became the star.
What an amazing woman, an amazing horse an amazing team. We will never see that combination again.
the movie was pure CRAP..Without Riva Ridge they might not have been able to run Red at three..He was half of the success!
  • nayrod64 · The movie was well done and Ms Penny was behind the scences assisting the whole time and advising. Compared to mostly all horse movies, this was on point. · 227 days ago
What the movie never said
  • tonyzag · Riva Ridge put Meadow Stables back into the black not "Big Red"if it were not for Riva the Farm and Stable would have been sold. · 228 days ago
Kinda' reminds me of Herb, the salesman, on WKRP in Cincinnati.
LOL, Mike in SB, the attire of some of the people around Secretariat in the DVD is pretty amazing, too. I can say for sure that I did not have any plaid pants in the 70's!
One thing is for sure, people dressed funny in the 1970's. I think I still have a pair of plaid bell bottom pants like the guy on the left.
about to buy this! thank you so much!
Really looking forward to seeing this one ... Thanks for the review, Matt.

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Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

 

Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

 

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