Visitors are often moved to tears when they see it. They touch the wooden door reverently. They walk inside the stall, looking around in quiet awe. They snap photo after photo, not wanting to leave what many consider hallowed ground.
It’s a modest little structure of whitewashed barnboard. Its appearance could be called “unprepossessing,” to use one of Penny Chenery’s favorite adjectives. Here on March 30, 1970, shortly after midnight, The Meadow’s magnificent old broodmare, Somethingroyal, gave birth to a colt who would become the king of the sport of kings.
Contrary to what the Disney movie showed, Secretariat was not born with a big audience in attendance. Penny and her son were not there. Lucien Laurin was not there. Eddie Sweat was not there. The only people present were Bob Southworth, the night watchman and Howard Gentry, the farm manager. Dr. Olive Britt, the beloved Meadow vet, arrived soon thereafter.
When the birth was complete, Mr. Gentry exclaimed: “There’s a whopper!”
“He was born practically standing up,” said Dr. Britt. We interviewed her for our book shortly before she passed away in 2006. She would point out what sportswriters would rhapsodize about two years later when the colt set foot on the track…his perfect conformation and how he “filled the eye.”
“He was beautiful,” she said. “He was well put together, very correct; his legs were perfect. He had a beautiful head and was as red as fire!”
When Penny first saw Secretariat, she famously said, “He’s too pretty to be any good.”
Secretariat’s foaling shed is the grand finale of our Secretariat’s Meadow Tour. It is the original structure, carefully restored and preserved by the SFVA which owns The Meadow. It was located by the old broodmare barn near the Cove, but was moved to the new equine complex across Rt. 30 after the crumbling broodmare barn could not be restored. It is a fitting location, as this complex was formerly the grounds for Meadow Stable’s training center. The complex bustles with ongoing horse shows and will also be the site of the Museum of the Virginia Horse.
This modest little shed is where a legend began…and for the devoted fans who make their pilgrimage to see it…it’s where the legend lives on!
The “Secretariat’s Meadow Tours” are sponsored by the SFVA. Private group tours are available for groups of 30 or more at $10 per person. Tours are also offered to the general public on certain dates. The next public tour is on September 10, 2011. For more information about the tours, see www.secretariatsmeadow.com Tours are narrated by Leeanne Meadows Ladin, co-author of “Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend.” Proceeds from the tours benefit the future Museum of the Virginia Horse to be built at The Meadow.
Leeanne Meadows Ladin