REMEMBERING CHRISTOPHER T. CHENERY, FOUNDER OF MEADOW STABLE

 Saratoga CTC portraitWe’re interrupting our “Ancestors of Secretariat” series to take a moment to remember the visionary founder of Meadow Stable, Christopher T. Chenery.  He died 40 years ago on January 3, 1973 at the age of 86.  The man who created “an empire built on broodmares” in Caroline County, Virginia, never lived to see his greatest horse win racing’s greatest prize – the Triple Crown – on June 9, 1973. And now, as we prepare to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Secretariat’s historic victory, it seems fitting to pay homage to the man who set it all in motion. 

Chris Chenery evinced a passion for horses starting in early childhood. Perhaps it began in 1888 when his father Jimmy Chenery lifted him aboard a horse as a toddler at The Meadow, the family’s ancestral homeplace owned by their cousin, Mary Ann Morris. Chris spent many happy summers there, riding over the fields and by the brambly riverbanks on a borrowed horse. 

Later, he would walk seven miles from his house in Ashland to exercise the Thoroughbreds owned by his cousin Bernard Doswell at his farm at Bullfield, once a legendary racing stable. There, young Chris soaked up the lore of Bullfield’s glory days and admired the gleaming trophies won at tracks from New York to New Orleans.  It inflamed his imagination and quite likely set the stage for what was to come.  

The horse-crazy boy grew up to become an accomplished horseman, teaching equitation for the U.S. Army during World War I.  Rising from humble roots, he became a self-made millionaire in the utilities industry.  Finally achieving financial security for his family, he could indulge his passion for horses further.  Robust and vigorous, he played polo, foxhunted and even started his own riding club, Boulder Brook, in Westchester, New York. 

 But Chenery longed for more.  In 1936, he made a decision that would forever change his life, his family’s life and the sport of horse racing.  In the middle of the Great Depression, he went back to Virginia and bought back The Meadow, which had been sold out of the family in 1912.  As a man accustomed to shaping his own destiny, Chenery was determined to restore and reshape the dilapidated property into his vision of a first-class Thoroughbred horse farm and racing stable. 

Once he rebuilt the farm, he set about building up his foundation stock.  Known to have “an eye for a mare,” Chenery purchased well-bred but affordable broodmares. Several of them, such as Hildene, Iberia, Imperatrice and her daughter,  Somethingroyal, became some of the most influential broodmares of the 20th century.

By 1950, Chris Chenery and his upstart Meadow Stable produced Horse of the Year, Hill Prince.   Hill Prince  won the Preakness and several other notable races that year, but ran second in the Kentucky Derby.  For the man who seemed to possess the golden touch in all his pursuits,  Chenery would find winning the golden trophy of the Kentucky Derby his most elusive goal.  

He sent two more Derby favorites to the post: First Landing in 1959 and Sir Gaylord in 1962.   First Landing finished third and Sir Gaylord broke down before the race.  Cicada, the favorite for the fillies’ race, the Kentucky Oaks, in 1962, could have run in the Derby after Sir Gaylord was injured.  However, Chenery kept her in the Oaks, which she won handily.  

Not until 1972 did Chris Chenery’s dream of breeding a Kentucky Derby winner finally come true.  Riva Ridge, by First Landing, avenged his sire’s defeat and brought home the roses for Meadow Stable. But by this time, Chenery was not in his customary box seats at Churchill Downs. He lay mute and immobile, confined to a hospital bed in New Rochelle,   felled like a giant timber by the ravages of Parkinson’s disease and what was then called hardening of the arteries.  When the nurse pointed out his daughter Penny in the winner’s circle with Riva, a tear rolled down his withered cheek. 

Penny had taken over management of Meadow Stable when her father fell ill in the late 1960s. Over the protests of her family, she vowed to keep racing the horses and to keep her father’s dream alive.  “At least he knew,” she has said about Riva winning the Derby.

 Of course, the next year in 1973, Secretariat, who was born and raised at The Meadow,  took  Chenery’s dream to heights no one imagined. Secretariat, the first Triple Crown winner since 1948, broke the track records for the Derby, Preakness and Belmont, the only champion to ever do so.  Together he and Riva Ridge won five of six consecutive Triple Crown races in 1972 and 1973, something no other stable had done. 

The bloodlines that Chris Chenery established for Meadow Stable produced 43 stakes winners.  Most outstanding were:

Hill Prince:  1949 Champion two-year-old colt; winner of 1950 Preakness; 1950 Champion three- year-old colt; 1950 Horse of the Year; 1951 Champion handicap male; elected to Racing Hall of Fame

First Landing:  1958 Champion two-year-old colt

Cicada:  1961 Champion two-year-old filly; 1962 Champion three-year-old filly; 1963 Champion handicap female; elected to Racing Hall of Fame (additionally she ranked as the top money-winning female for nine years)

Riva Ridge: 1971 Champion two-year-old colt; winner of 1972 Derby and Belmont; 1973 Champion handicap male; elected to Racing Hall of Fame

Secretariat:  1972 Champion two-year-old colt; 1972 Horse of the Year; winner of 1973 Triple Crown; 1973 Champion three-year-old colt; 1973 Champion turf male; 1973 Horse of the Year; elected to Racing Hall of Fame

Additionally, the great mares Hildene, dam of Hill Prince; Iberia,dam of Riva Ridge; and Somethingroyal, dam of Sir Gaylord and Secretariat, were named Broodmares of the Year. Sir Gaylord, after his pre-Derby injury, distinguished himself as a sire of international importance through his best son, Sir Ivor.

Today, Chris Chenery’s legacy lives on.  Many of racing’s brightest stars in the 21st century can trace their bloodlines back to Secretariat, who became a great broodmare sire.  His daughters such as Weekend Surprise, Terlingua and Secrettame  produced such outstanding sires as A.P. Indy, Storm Cat and Gone West.  The progeny of those stallions  – think Smarty Jones, Bernardini, the late Pulpit and his son, Tapit, for example – have further distinguished themselves in the sport.

And so we celebrate Chris Chenery, the  “Virginia gentleman” as sportswriters called him, whose dream turned into an American legend!

NOTE:  Look for our upcoming post on Penny Chenery, who celebrates her 91st birthday later this month and has kept the legacy of her father and Secretariat alive for over 40 years.

 by Leeanne Ladin

co-author of “Secretariat’s Meadow –  The Land, The Family, The Legend”  and “Riva Ridge – Penny’s First Champion”

  In our book “Secretariat’s Meadow,” Chris Chenery’s granddaughter, Kate Chenery Tweedy, chronicles how her grandfather’s driving ambition lifted him from humble beginnings to the heights of corporate America and into the top tiers of Thoroughbred racing. You can order the book at  www.secretariatsmeadow.com

Secretariat Descendants Dominating the 2012 Derby!

Secretariat is running in the Derby this Saturday!  Of the 20 contenders in the field, 16 of them can boast Big Red in their bloodlines.  (verified through www.pedigreequery.com)  

The daughters of  America’s Super Horse  whose sons (Secretariat’s grandsons) established these dominant bloodlines are:

Weekend Surprise – A.P. Indy; Terlingua – Storm Cat; and Secrettame – Gone West

Of course other great bloodlines are present in these Derby contenders such as Seattle Slew, Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer for example.   But for the legions of Secretariat fans, the Big Red flame is still burning bright. This is also a source of great pride to us Virginians, as Secretariat was born and first trained at Chris Chenery’s Meadow Stable in Doswell, VA.

Here is the list of the 20 contenders in alphabetical order.      

Alpha   ( A.P. Indy line)
Bodemeister (A.P. Indy and Storm Cat lines) AND Virginia-bred by Audley Farm
Creative Cause (Storm Cat line)
Daddy Long Legs (Storm Cat line)
Daddy Nose Best (Storm Cat line)
Done Talking  (NO Secretariat connection)
Dullahan (NO Secretariat connection)
El Padrino  (A.P.Indy and Gone West lines)
Gemologist (NO Secretariat connection)
Hansen (A.P. Indy and Storm Cat lines)
I’ll Have Another (NO Secretariat connection)
Liaison (A.P. Indy line)

Optimizer (A.P. Indy and Riva Ridge)
Prospective (A.P. Indy line)
Rousing Sermon (A.P. Indy line)
Sabercat  (Storm Cat line)
Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy line)

Trinniberg (Storm Cat line)

Union Rags (Gone West line)
Went the Day Well  (Gone West line)

We will be at Churchill Downs with Penny Chenery and Kate Tweedy, remembering the 98th running of the Derby, won by Riva Ridge  and of course the 99th won by Secretariat.  His track record of 1:59 2/5 still stands almost 40 years later.  Will one of his descendants dare to try and break it? 

by Leeanne Meadows Ladin

co-author, “Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend”

Risen Star, Son of Secretariat

    In light of the upcoming Risen Star Stakes on Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Fairgrounds racetrack in New Orleans, we wanted to share a little something about its namesake. 

Risen Star  (1985–1998) was one of Big Red’s best and biggest colts.  He was a strapping 17-hand dark bay out of the mare Ribbon, who boasted the great Hail to Reason in her pedigree.

In 1988, Risen Star began his march toward the Kentucky Derby by winning the Louisiana Derby  and the Lexington Stakes. However, that would be one of the rare years when a filly, Winning Colors, beat the boys and took the roses.  Risen Star finished third in the Derby, but came roaring back to win the Preakness at 1:56 1/5, the second fastest time since Secretariat in 1973.

He then thrilled the crowds at the Belmont Stakes by winning by 14 ¾ lengths as the announcer shouted “He looks just like his daddy!” He posted the then-second fastest time of 2:26 2/5 behind his sire’s record-shattering 2:24.  Today it ranks as the fourth fastest time in the Belmont behind Secretariat, A.P. Indy and Easy Goer.

After the Belmont,  Risen Star’s groom Harold Joseph reportedly said, “You’re the champeen!  Your daddy jumped out of you today!”  Because he’d won two jewels of the Triple Crown, Risen Star earned the $1,000,000 Chrysler Triple Crown Bonus awarded to the three-year-old with the best finishes in the three races.

He won the 1988 Eclipse Award as the top three-year-old colt.  That established him as the first third-generation Eclipse Award winner in the same category, as he followed Secretariat in 1973 and his grandsire Bold Ruler in 1957.

Risen Star was retired to stud after an injury which occurred in his famous Belmont.   Tomorrow, in the $300,000 Risen Star Stakes, another Secretariat descendant will try to strengthen his resume as a Kentucky Derby contender.   His name is El Padrino.  He’s the son of Pulpit, thus a grandson of A.P. Indy and a great-great grandson of Big Red.  The odds-makers list El Padrino as the favorite for the 1 1/16 mile race.

To paraphrase that classic  Mardi Gras  line “Let the good times roll,”  we say “Let the good horses roll!” 

Good luck El Padrino!  Make Risen Star and Secretariat proud!

Here is a link to video of Risen Star’s great Belmont race of 1988.

 

ALSO CHECK OUT OUR WEBSITE AT WWW.SECRETARIATSMEADOW.COM FOR NEWS OF THE UPCOMING SECRETARIAT BIRTHDAY PARTY MARCH 31 AT THE MEADOW.

Leeanne Meaadows Ladin

Co-author “Secretariat’s Meadow”

 copyright 2012

 

Secretariat’s Descendants – From the Homestretch to the Home Front: Good Showing at the Eclipse Awards

 

 

This continuing series looks at some of Secretariat’s most famous progeny and how the mighty stallion of Meadow Stable continues to fire the blood of some of the best racehorses on the track today. We will also look at the descendants whose most important contributions have been made, not on the homestretch, but on the home front as pleasure horses, working horses and simply beloved companions. We are very grateful to the owners who send in the stories and photos of their Secretariat descendants. In this way, “the legend lives on!”

Last time we discussed the Big Red “babies” who had distinguished themselves in the 2011 Breeders Cup races. Some of those same names will reappear in this listing of Eclipse Award winners, announced last night January 16, 2012.

Hansen, who won the Breeders Cup Juvenile,  captured Champion Two Year Old Male.  He’s by Tapit, who is making a good name for himself now as a sire. Hansen’s grandsire is Pulpit and great-grandsire is A. P. Indy, who of course is out of one of Secretariat’s best daughters, Weekend Surprise.

My Miss Aurelia won Champion Two-Year-Old Filly.  This great-granddaughter of Storm Cat won the Juvenile Fillies  race in the Breeders Cup.

Royal Delta won Three Year-Old Filly.  She won the Ladies Classic at the Breeders Cup, beating her “cousins” It’s Tricky and Plum Pretty. This A. P. Indy granddaughter is now gearing up for her 4 YO career and supposedly headed for Dubai!

Cape Blanco took honors as Champion Male Turf Horse.  His damsire was Presidium, a son of General  Assembly by Secretariat. . This Irish -bred has won the Irish Derby, Man O’ War Stakes and the Arlington Million, among many victories.

Congratulations to all the Eclipse winners!

Next time, we will go off topic to give you a sneak preview of our latest project…a special anniversary book celebrating Riva Ridge “the forgotten champion!”

Leeanne Meadows Ladin

www.secretariatsmeadow.com

Visit our Secretariat’s Meadow Facebook page for all the latest info on descendants, events, history and more! 

  This picture of Pulpit, sire of Tapit, was taken at Claiborne Farm in October 2010.

The Big Red Flame Keeps Burning Up the Track

(We’re a bit behind schedule because of the holidays but wanted to get in one more post before the New Year, so thanks for your patience.)

In our last post we promised to write about all the Secretariat descendants who ran in the 2011 Breeder’s Cup races.  That may have been a little ambitious, as one fan pointed out there were 83! We haven’t checked those numbers but will take his word for it.  To make this manageable, we will focus on the races where the winners and major contenders have Secretariat in their pedigree (or in some cases, Sir Ivor, son of Sir Gaylord, whose dam was Somethingroyal.)

 Ladies Classic – Royal Delta out of Delta Princess by A. P. Indy won this race. She beat It’s Tricky and Plum Pretty, also A. P. Indy girls.

Juvenile Sprint – Secret Circle by Eddington won this.  He’s not a direct descendant but his sire has Sir Ivor by Sir Gaylord  on his dam’s side. (Sir Ivor won the Epsom Derby, redeeming Sir Gaylord’s failure to run in the Kentucky Derby in 1962 due to a fractured sesamoid.)

Juvenile Fillies Turf – Stephanie’s Kitten by Kitten’s Joy  won this race. She has Sir Ivor/Sir Gaylord on the top and Storm Cat on the bottom of her pedigree.

Filly and Mare Sprint – Musical Romance beat Turbulent Descent, the heavy  favorite, who has both Indy and Storm Cat bloodlines. Turbulent Descent is cited as one to watch for 2012.

Juvenile Fillies – My Miss Aurelia took this one.  She is a great-granddaughter of Storm Cat.

Filly and Mare Turf – Perfect Shirl , a great-granddaughter of Big Red himself, took this one. 

Juvenile Turf – Wrote won this and he has the Sir Ivor/Sir Gaylord link on the bottom.

Turf Sprint – Regally Ready won it (no relation) but Country Day placed second.  He’s a great-grandson of Gone West out of the mare Secrettame.

Dirt Mile – Caleb’s Posse (no relation) won it but Shackleford, who won the 2011 Preakness, placed second.  Also in this race were Tapizar  byPulpit (A. P. Indy) and Wilburn  by Bernardini (A.P. Indy).

Breeder’s Cup Juvenile – Hansen won this.  He’s by Tapit by Pulpit and also has Storm Cat on the bottom.

Breeder’s Cup Mile – Court Vision won.  His dam is Weekend Storm out of Weekend Surprise, a Secretariat daughter. Other “cousins” who ran include: Gio Ponti , Sidney’s Candy, Get Stormy  and Courageous Cat  –  all of the Storm Cat bloodline.

Breeder’s Cup Classic –  Drosselmeyer (no relation) who won the 2011 Belmont, won this race.  Also in this talented field were: Flat Out by Flatter (A.P.Indy);  To Honor and Serve and Stay Thirsty, both by Bernardini; Ice Box by Pulpit; and Rattlesnake Bridge and Headache, both by Tapit.  Clearly the A.P.Indy line dominated this field. 

Good news for 2012:  Stay Thirsty will continue to race, as will Florida Derby winner Dialed In, a Mineshaft colt (A. P. Indy.)  

We’ll need a spread sheet but we’ll be keeping a close eye on these Big Red  babies for 2012!  In fact, we’ll start on Sunday, New Year’s Day with the  new Gulfstream Park Derby. Bernardini has Casual Trick running and Pulpit has Sacristy.  Silver Menace (Storm Cat) will also bear watching.

We close out this year by wishing all Thoroughbreds Happy Birthday on January 1, their official date of birth.  Happy New Year to all our readers and fans of Secretariat!

Leeanne Ladin

www.secretariatsmeadow.com

copyright 2011

Secretariat’s Descendants…from the Homestretch to the Homefront

 

This new series will look at some of Secretariat’s most famous progeny and how the mighty stallion of Meadow Stable continues to fire the blood of some of the best racehorses on the track today. We will also look at the descendants whose most important contributions have been made, not on the homestretch, but on the home front as pleasure horses, working horses and simply beloved companions. Read more at www.secretariatsmeadow.com on how “the legend lives on!”

WEEKEND SURPRISE AND THE X FACTOR

No, you won’t see her on Simon Cowell’s new talent show “The X Factor.”  But Secretariat’s daughter Weekend Surprise (1980- 2001) demonstrated plenty of talent as a broodmare. She was one of the reasons that Secretariat became an outstanding broodmare sire. He bequeathed his dynamic DNA to daughters such as her, who then passed it to their sons.

Weekend Surprise was said to carry the gene to pass on the “big heart” to her offspring. She inherited this “X-factor” from Secretariat, who was found to have a naturally huge heart that was two to three times the size of a normal heart for a racehorse. Other racing greats such as Man o’ War and Eclipse were also said to have the large heart.

In fact, Weekend Surprise is said to be a “double-copy” mare, with the X factor present on both the top and bottom of her pedigree. That means she also got the large heart gene from her dam, Lassie Dear.

Here is what Marianna Haun , who has studied the X factor for many years, said about Weekend Surprise:   “One double copy mare is the Thoroughbred Weekend Surprise, a daughter of Secretariat that is out of a double copy dam. Weekend Surprise’s dam, Lassie Dear, produced all winners and so has her daughter, which produced Horse of the Year A.P. Indy and millionaire Summer Squall. Both sires now are producing outstanding daughters, and when mated with large-hearted mares, are producing outstanding sons.”  You can read more on this at  http://www.horsesonly.com/crossroads/xfactor/heart-1.htm

 A. P. Indy, by Seattle Slew, won the 1992 Belmont Stakes and the Breeder’s Cup Classic, two of his most outstanding victories.  When he took Horse of the Year honors in 1992, Weekend Surprise was named Kentucky Broodmare of the Year. He became one of the most influential stallions of his time. More on A.P. Indy in a future post.

Weekend Surprise’s colt Summer Squall  won the 1990 Preakness. His grandson Summer Bird, “the chestnut thunderbolt,” won the 2009 Belmont and Horse of the Year honors. Summer Squall also sired Rainaway, who now lives at The Meadow, his great-grandfather’s birthplace here in Virginia.

Weekend Surprise also figures in the pedigree of Rags to Riches, the first filly to win the Belmont in 100 years in 2007.   Before becoming a broodmare, Weekend Surprise won three stakes races. One of her last foals, sired by Storm Cat (who was out of Secretariat’s daughter Terlingua) sold for $3 million at the 1999 Keeneland sales in Kentucky.

Weekend Surprise was sired by Buckpasser, 1966 Eclipse Horse of the Year. As noted, her  dam was Lassie Dear.  Interestingly, Lassie Dear’s grandsire was Sir Gaylord, one of Meadow Stable’s champions and a Derby favorite in 1962. And his dam was Somethingroyal, who of course became immortalized as Secretariat’s dam in 1970. 

Weekend Surprise died in 2001 due to complications after giving birth to her 14th foal.   She is buried at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky.

Christopher Chenery, founder of Meadow Stable, who created “an empire built on broodmares” with Somethingroyal, Hildene, Imperatrice and other great mares, always stressed the importance of the mare in the breeding equation.  In terms of the X factor, he may have been ahead of his time.   We owe him, and Secretariat’s daughters such as Weekend Surprise, our heartfelt thanks!

Leeanne Meadows Ladin

co-author of  “Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend”

www.secretariatsmeadow.com

copyright 2011