Race of the Week 2018

HRN Original Blog:
Racing Hearts

A look back at Secretariat’s Daughter, Lady’s Secret

A look back at Secretariat’s Daughter, Lady’s Secret
Photo: A. E. Sabo

As with many of us who revered Penny Chenery and her tenacity in retaining and campaigning Secretariat after her Dad’s passing, we also can admire the exceptional ‘whoa’ factor excellence of other ‘ladies’ of the track. Songbird and Beholder. Winx and Enable. Now… Abel Tasman, Stellar Wind, Paradise Woods, and Unique Bella are among those fillies primed to go for all the marbles in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. I can remember the amiable (some not) arguments surrounding Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra, both fillies contested and bested top colts in graded stakes. Black Caviar, the Australian race mare inspired the same iconic respect and opinions. Equally dazzling was another Aussie, Makybe Diva (the ‘makybe’ representing the two letters of the champion owner’s three secretaries: Mabel, Kay, Beatrice) the mare who won the 2-mile Melbourne Cup three years in a row against top male world-class stayers. Yet there is one racing image that will last through the ages without regard to gender or country of origin.  Worldwide racing fans, like me, will always hold onto the incandescent video of Secretariat’s Belmont Stakes 31-length win, one of the most resounding sports victories ever recorded and one that affirmed Mrs. Chenery-Tweedy’s jaw-dropping, multi-million-dollar risk in syndicating ‘Big Red’ before the final Triple Crown event was run. The back-story of his Triple Crown chase is equally memorable.

As Mark Twain once wrote; “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Penny was much like her Dad, Christopher Chenery. The savvy and robust genetic character traits flowed through her veins, especially in her moves within the male-dominated racing establishment and in the public eye. Penny was a lioness as much as Big Red was a track warrior. In a big cat pack, it is the female who stalks, provides and protects her cubs from males anxious to kill the cubs and breed their own progeny. Red, as a sire, was limited with his breeding of champions of his caliber as comparative history will allow. However, Secretariat’s eighth crop of foals produced one validation, a little filly by Great Lady M (Icecapade x Nearco), a black type mare, that bore the pale grey coat imprint of Lady’s tail line, her great grandsire, Native Dancer. Named Lady’s Secret, the filly never weighed more than 900 pounds and stood at 15.1 hands when fully grown, slight when compared to her massive, muscular, chestnut sire. Small as she was, Lady’s Secret carried, within her bantam frame, the racing heart and the drive of the legend, Secretariat. And in that, she was much like her Dad and much like, again, her Dad’s owner. She liked to fight. And as we say, tongue planted in cheek, she ran, or fought, like a girl.

As a racehorse, Lady’s Secret was both tough and speedy. Although slight in stature, Lady dictated the races that she ran. She was quick to launch every race from the gate and preferred to control the pace from the front of the herd.  Lady dominated the fillies in her division and stretched into the battles with the top colts, particularly in her fourth year campaign where she chased the 1985 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion, Precisionist, in the ’86 Phillip Iselin at Monmouth where she finished third behind his second and then again less than 15 days later, got a second to Precisionist’s win in the Woodward at Saratoga. For many of her races, the elegant Pat Day rode her sans the whip as this Lady understood her game and needed no reminder to change leads or to focus. Shortly after those stakes, Lady’s Secret proved much the best of the fillies lined up against her, including the classy Fran’s Valentine, in the 1986 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (hate that word) on the opposite end of the continental United States while her male rival, Precisionist, with Gary Stevens up, settled for a game third in the BC Classic. Her trainer, Hall of Famer, D. Wayne Lukas, had recognized her toughness early in her training and campaigned her accordingly, much like Lucien Laurin had prepped her sire for his Triple Crown campaign. Lukas, like Laurin, and, also like Winx’s Chris Waller, was heavily criticized for the strain of her schedule, as Lukas was of the training mindset that if a horse was fit, he/she should compete and maintain that level of energy.  And compete this Lady did. She was the 1986 Eclipse Horse of the Year as well as receiving Older Filly honors, one of the five fillies to ever receive the top U.S. racing acclamation.

It wasn’t until the following summer of her fifth year that this ‘Iron Lady’ signaled that she was through with her racing schedule, propping during an August allowance race at Saratoga whereby, Chris McCarron, her jockey, was forced to pull her up. New York Racing Association stewards advised Lukas and the Eugene Kleins, her owners, that they required visual evidence of further lane schooling before she could be allowed to race in New York again, something that challenged their plans for several Belmont fall race dates. Her dam sire, Icecapade, had shown a similar late career mental glitch.  Icecapade, Lady’s dam sire, linked her to another famous filly as he was a half-brother to the tragic Ruffian. Glitch or no glitch, as always, Lady’s Secret had determined the outcome. She was finished with racing. A difficult decision ensued and Lady was retired and consigned to a November Keeneland sale shortly after. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992, Lady’s Secret passed away in 2003, in California, at the age of 21, reported to be seven hours after delivering a General Meeting colt, her twelfth foal. The cause of death was recorded as being a ruptured uterus. The foal, a large bay colt, subsequently named Cool Valley Cowboy, was then nursed by Lady’s paddock buddy, another grey named Superbe Dawn. Lady’s Secret was buried, intact, at Oak Valley Farm, a breeding establishment that has changed ownership twice. The memorial garden commemorating her life was developed by a dedicated fan group, Celebrities for Lady’s Secret (Facebook) and is now registered as the Lady’s Secret Preservation Society, a non-profit entity, led by Sisi Lauer. Previously stalled, it is currently being re-configured to honor the legacy of Lady’s Secret, Secretariat’s Daughter. 

Artwork by A.E. Sabo at www.offthepace.net 


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Meet Kate Richards 

From an early age, Kate liked to watch horses run and get dressed up. And while she has outgrown the patent mary-janes, the sport of horse racing still holds a magical allure for her. 

“It’s the whole look, smell and feel of the track” says Kate. “I like to watch the people in all their craziness, the drama of the actual race and fashion statements during the big days.” Yet it is the whole industry that has her in thrall…the business side of it, from the boutiques selling racewear to the bars shilling specialty beverages, the track backside thick with intrigue and secrets to the colorful track employees it’s the whole magilla that makes the sport have flavor unlike anything else. 

Everyone has an event, a person or a situation that is cathartic. For Kate, it was Barbaro who induced the awareness of rescue and retirement in to her consciousness. One vow that she made from that acknowledgement was to support rescue and retirement facilities, jockey and equine safety. Protecting the athletes is a key issue. “With any sports entity that is ticketed there is the duality of exciting entertainment and risk” says Kate.”Both are needed…the entertainment value to keep the sport worthy of new fans and the risk to remind the industry to be diligent about safety.

Kate grew up in a tiny town called Proctorville in North Carolina, graduated from Stephens College in Missouri and will collect her Doctorate in Organizational Development and Change in 2018 from Colorado Tech if she ever finishes her dissertation, which oddly, is NOT about horse racing. 

Kate claims to be an amateurish handicapper who just gets lucky.

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