Penny Chenery Bares All in New Documentary

The latest racing documentary, “Penny and Red,” directed, edited, and produced by John Tweedy and narrated by actress Diane Lane, is not your typical home movie with the same stock film clips of Secretariat and the same stories told for the umpteenth time by Tweedy’s mother, Penny Chenery.

This actually is a no holds barred documentary, mostly about Penny, that unfortunately had to leave a great deal of footage and interviews on the cutting room floor to squeeze into its allotted 60 minute-time frame, as stipulated by Disney, which made the motion picture “Secretariat.” Because of that it left us wanting more in regard to the expansion and deeper probing of events, and a more detailed chronicle of Secretariat’s career. This is no fault of Tweedy’s, as it must have been tough for him to scrap so many profound scenes from the story he wanted to tell.

“When Penny contracted with Disney for her life-story rights, she was permitted a carve-out for a documentary limited to one hour,” Tweedy explained. “As a result, we did focus on Penny’s life, not the full story of Secretariat’s career. There are real limits to what can be covered in an hour, and we wrestled hard over what to include.”

The historic value of the film was first-rate, most notably the entire beginning, which told of the history of Meadow Stable and the Chenery family and the sibling relationships. That was extremely well done, giving the viewer a close-up look at the foundation of a major breeding operation and what it was like to be born into such a magical world. And Penny was refreshing and enlightening in her candor, although saying her brother was physically abusive and not elucidating further left one baffled what that was all about and why it was even mentioned. The ending also was very well done, with stirring music adding a great deal to its impact. The racing highlight was the filming of the Belmont Stakes, with Penny superimposed against the race footage. This was excellent filmmaking, and it is obvious that John Tweedy is gifted at his craft.

Of course, the one big bombshell the film delivered was the affair between Penny and trainer Lucien Laurin, which has left many people shocked by this revelation, not only because it was hidden so successfully, but because of the difficulty in actually visualizing it. If moviegoers would have a tough time imagining an affair between Diane Lane and John Malkovich, who played Penny and Lucien in the movie, that would be nothing compared to the real-life people involved.

But this disclosure, which seemed to jump out from nowhere almost in passing, was only mentioned briefly. It should have been delivered by Penny with more emotion so it didn’t seem gratuitous and put in for sensationalistic value. She seemed to trivialize it, referring to the affair only as “great fun,” and really never spoke of having any deep feelings for Lucien. She did say she was unhappy in her marriage, but that is what precipitates most affairs. What was in her heart and what compelled her to have an affair with Lucien, as opposed to someone else? It seemed as if she needed it at that time in her life and Lucien just happened to be there and willing.

Also, Penny mentioned she remained an angry person very late in life, despite all her fame and fortune, but didn’t explain why or evoke much passion when saying it.

In a perfect world, there are a number of incidents I would have loved to see included -- the transition of taking over the stable more closely; the pressures that came with it and the emotion of seeing Riva Ridge win the Kentucky Derby and dealing with her father's illness (which was vague). I would have loved to hear Penny's comments on the coin toss and how she came to get Secretariat in the first place, the abscess in the Wood Memorial, the illness in the Whitney, and the defeats to Onion and Prove Out, and how she dealt with that. But it was understandable why they weren’t addressed.

The elongated Bill Nack segment was more about his recollections than hers, including anecdotes and second-hand dialogue right out of the book, including one story regarding Angle Light’s owner Edwin Whitaker and the rose after the Derby that she had no recollection of. When Nack alluded to it, all she said was, “I did?”

As Tweedy mentioned, not only was he unable to include all that, but this film, unlike all the others, is about Penny and not Secretariat, despite the title of the film. Tweedy does let the audience know right from the start that this is his mother’s story.

If Penny was going to bare all, she could have discussed with Nack about how angry she was with him after his book came out because of how she was made to look. Since the book became a classic and is regarded as one of the best racing books ever, those feelings, as mundane as they seem now, never surfaced.

So, while the finished version does leave some questions unanswered, it is certainly understandable considering the restrictions Tweedy had to abide by. Watching what did make the film, there is no doubt that an expanded version would be a classic piece of filmmaking and an in-depth probe into the life of a very special lady. But despite the cramming and cutting it still is an excellent piece of filmmaking by Tweedy.

Knowing the restrictions Tweedy faced, I highly recommend this film, with the understanding that it had, or has, the potential to be so much more. Unlike the movie “Secretariat,” which was riddled with historical and character flaws, this is as real-life and compelling a drama as one can squeeze into one hour.

“Indeed, (Penny) left some important things unsaid,” Tweedy said. “But for me as filmmaker (and yes, as her son), I was impressed with the things she did say, and the courage it took to say them.”

You will learn a great deal about Penny the person and all her complexities, and no longer just see her as Secretariat’s owner and good will ambassador of racing. Without getting into Penny’s head, this film came across as sort of a cleansing of the mind and soul, and I would imagine it was a cathartic experience for her, revealing all she did. She showed that a person is never too old to strip away their façade and reveal their true self and innermost feelings.

“Penny and Red” can be purchased at at a cost of $29.95. It is well worth it.


Leave a Comment:

Bill Rinker

Thanks for the info Steve, can't wait to see the documentary, only wish there were no time constraints.

19 Nov 2013 6:29 PM

Looking Forward to it

19 Nov 2013 7:26 PM


19 Nov 2013 7:28 PM
pam harris

I saw it at the premier at Keeneland with Penny, Ron, John and Bill. I enjoyed the film, although you could have heard a pin drop when Penny revealed her affair with Lucien. What I took from the film was that Penny was angry because her father insisted that she marry, she left college just short of graduating. Her husband wanted a wife that stayed home and took care of the children and let him make the decisions which probably caused a lot of conflict in their marriage. I think her affair with Lucien was a mixture of anger at her husband and stress. I can't remember which Triple Crown race, but there is a video that shows her immediate reaction after the race, her husband approaches her and her response is not welcoming. Penny Chenery had to stand up to a lot of men in her life to get where she is today and if she had not we might never have had Secretariat or Riva Ridge. I found the film revealing, heartfelt, well made and a must see for any die hard Secretariat fan. I would love to see another film made that expands on the story.

19 Nov 2013 8:26 PM
Mary McLeod

Penny Chenery has long been one of my heroes: that tall blonde in a sea of males was unique when my Secretariat was showing us how extraordinary he truly was. I was at the Kentucky premiere of the film during the Secretariat Festival.

I read some criticism of her affaire with Lucien since that screening. Who among us is lily white?!?!

I too wish the documentary were longer. However, I am so happy with what John Tweedy has given us.

Steve, as always, you have given us a well-written and well-thought essay, and I agree with all. I think another documentary could be made about how Penny Chenery has successfully kept memory of our Big Red alive. I have been to the last 2 Secretariat Festivals: they are extraordinary.

Please keep writing, Steve, for we are reading!!!

Thank you,


19 Nov 2013 9:05 PM

 I was horrified with the way Lucien was portrayed in the Secretariat movie. Maybe only 2nd to the blatant inaccuracies in most of the movie-why do film makers not realize the real story, if portrayed well, is best? That being said, I do look forward to seeing the new Doc on Penny's life. The revelation of her affair with Lucien knocked me over when this came out recently. In reflecting, I can see it as they were all about Secretariat and stranger bonds/friendships have occurred (coupled with Riva). And  no support at home.  Penny seemed to be stuck in that housewife life.  Well educated and lead a privileged life. Admire that she took over Meadow Studs reins.   A lot has been written about Secretariat but for me, reading Secretariats Meadow really filled in the blanks. Love the background family hx.

19 Nov 2013 9:37 PM
Paula Higgins

Wow, is all I can say. I am sure this film is an eye opener. I think Penny Chenery was a true dichotomy. She was and is clearly charming, intelligent, and courageous. I also think she could be tough and difficult to deal with on both a professional and personal level. Women back then did not rise to the top of the racing world by being Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. They had to be a breed apart and that was Penny. The comment about her brother being physically abusive was just thrown out there without explanation or context (i.e was it at age 10 or 25). Not a good thing for familial relations past, present and future. Her relationship with Lucien is something I can understand. They had a mutual love and focus: Secretariat. So along with an unhappy marriage, that was that, right or not. As for Bill Nack, I read his book on Secretariat. It is a great book. But I have mixed feelings about his portrayal of Penny. She had to have given him complete access for such a definitive book on Secretariat. I think in retrospect the way she was presented was a little harsh and he could have been more empathetic. I know this comment is going to irritate some of the men (sorry). But I wonder if Penny had been a man, would she have been treated by Bill Nack in quite the same manner?  Just a question.

19 Nov 2013 10:11 PM

John Tweedy would do well to turn all of this into a book, which could expand on much of what was left on the cutting room floor. Loved your description of the visualization of the affair between Tweedy and Lauren. Thanks for previewing this for us and providing the 'Cliff Notes' version. Can't wait to see the film. I'm still kind of confused why Disney was so arbitrary about the length of the film.  The additional cost to allow more footage cannot have been that great.....why not give it more time to be told in greater depth.  Would be interesting to know how and why Disney came up with that restriction.

19 Nov 2013 11:26 PM
Karen in Indiana

For Ms. Chenery to have accomplished what she did and how she did it at the point in time that she did it, she had to have had something driving her and giving her energy. She walked into a man's world and didn't buckle. For younger women, it may be a foreign concept that doors would have been slammed shut just because the person entering was a woman. But it wasn't until 1985 that a woman could have a charge card without having a man as a co-signer. If anger was her driving force, women living through that time can understand.

19 Nov 2013 11:59 PM
lunar spook

KAREN IN INDIANA - I did not realize that about the charge card ,no wonder the country has been in an economic downhill slide since 1985 , LOL !!!

20 Nov 2013 11:07 AM
Love 'em all

Quite honestly, I feel sorry for the late Walt Disney and Lucien Laurin.  Just my 2¢.

Thumper would've said: "If you can't say something nice... don't say nothing at all."  

But, to each his own ....

20 Nov 2013 11:18 AM

To play devil's advocate, WHO CARES???!!!!   Why don't we hear about Marion DuPont or other ladies of racing.  Kelso was HOY 5 times, ran 1 1/2 miles faster than Secretariat, his owner kept him in racing more than 2 years, that was selfish that we will never know what Secretariat would have done at 4, do we know about Marion DuPont?  What do we know about Marylou Whitney, what about Patrice Wolfson, come on folks, isn't anyone TIRED of this horse's connections??  Other horses and fans didn't have to drill the horse or their connections over and over and over and over, don't they think Secretariat can live on his laurels???

20 Nov 2013 12:07 PM

Great read, Mr.Haskins. Totally agree with other commenters, that an hour in the lives of these historic racing figures is a little short.  Hopefully, some time in not too distant future, we will get the entire story.

20 Nov 2013 12:37 PM

Penny Tweedy romantically involved with Lucien Lauren - wow. I didn't see that one coming. This is sad. If people would stop focusing on themselves so much, just think of all the heartache that could be avoided. It took courage for John Tweedy to revisit all of this.

Just goes to show that a person can be born into incredible privilege and still be unhappy. Things do not keep us happy.

20 Nov 2013 12:56 PM

This documenary leaves you wanting more! I have wondered, for example, why Mrs. Chenery sold The Meadow?  After all the fanfare of the triple crown and syndication of perhaps the greatest racehorse of all time,was there no desire to continue the Meadow?  From what I have read, without the syndicaton, the Meadow would not have survived, but to me, Secretariate paid the tag and in some ways not too admirable.  

20 Nov 2013 1:48 PM
lunar spook

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the kennedy assassination and as the years pass ive come to realize we will never know the whole story behind it all , same with secretariat , no horse has ever captured the publics imagination like big red did and never will again , the more time passes by the more movies will be made , books written , rumors spread , and facts will blur with fiction , but just like elvis , the beatles ,micheal Jackson , and Marilyn Monroe , the public will not let legends die !

20 Nov 2013 2:34 PM
steve from st louis

Mrs. Chenery, by the grace of a coin flip, was handed the greatest racehorse of the century. While she helped to manage the horse's career, she surely mismanaged her own.

20 Nov 2013 3:04 PM

Karen in Indiana

Was that credit card just in Indiana?  I know I had one in the early 80s and that was at 18 years old.  Granted it was just a $300 limit.


Kelso's 1 1/2 mile you are referring to was on turf.  Secretariats dirt 1 1/2 is still the fastest dirt 1 1/2.  His turf 1 1/2 wasn't too shabby either, broke the track record.  Patrice Wolfson along with her husband Louis Wolfson was Harbor View Farm.  Patrice Wolfson also came from a successful racehorse family (See Raise A Native) as did Penny Chenery. Secretariat gets the attention because he was and has been rated number 1 racehorse of all time.  When he isn't number 1 he is number 2 behind Man O' War.  There will never be enough written, video footage etc about Secretariat.  After syndicating Secretariat, Penny Chenery no longer had control after 1973.  She retained control of his racing decisions through 1973.  Obviously, there were some mistakes running him in races he was either not conditioned up for or too ill to effectively compete.  (Seattle Slew experienced the same problem).  She was not allowed to run him at 4.  Given what Affirmed, Seattle Slew, and Spectacular Bid were at 4, the public was cheated.

I believe the Meadow sold because after Secretariat, the farm never produced anything of any measurable success again.  It financially became the best thing to do.  The Meadow did continue for as long as it could.

20 Nov 2013 3:32 PM
Soldier Course

The revelation about the Penny-Lucien affair was quite a shock, but more shocking to me was Ms. Chenery's  reference to it as something "on the side". I read about that comment in a Kentucky newspaper. It struck me as a crude remark, unbefitting a lady of Ms. Chenery's stature. It also was disrespectful to Lucien Laurin, who passed away in 2000. If he were still living today, I doubt that he'd ever refer to Penny Chenery as something on the side.

20 Nov 2013 3:43 PM


Thanks again for your insight. As you know,these were historic times, and special to me. Ms. Chenery was very supportive in my personal & professional life on more than one occasion, and Ed Whitaker encouraged me to continue on when I became discouraged by New York in general. It was great to see Ms. Chenery after several years back at The Meadow in April. Looking forward to this latest documentary.

20 Nov 2013 5:43 PM

This is all a bit much. Why should I, or anyone else care about the life of Penny Chenery? What exactly is it that she accomplished? So, she happened to INHERIT a top racehorse; so what! Also, aside from his performances, I fail to see anything so dramatic in the racing or stud career of Secretariat. really, a lot of fuss over nothing.

20 Nov 2013 6:02 PM


My guess is that you weren't around in '73 to realize the impact.

20 Nov 2013 6:46 PM


You must be a tough grader.  Aside from the World Record breaking, American Record breaking, Track Record breaking, and near track record breaking in Secretariats other winning performances, just the triple crown alone puts him in a class unto himself.  Winning the triple crown AND breaking the track record in all 3, culminating in the obliteration by over 2 seconds in the final race, the Belmont Stakes, and as a three year old.  Not to mention the fact he ran each quarter faster than the previous quarter in the Derby and completed that Belmont Stakes with phenominal fractions, six furlongs in 1:09 and change which would win most sprint races, particularly today.

As far as stud career, leading broodmare sire, led the juvenile sires list with his second crop to race, and is in nearly every top horses pedigree today by virtue of a few stallions you should know were produced by his daughters, A P Indy, Storm Cat, Gone West, Summer Squall, Dehere.  See Secretariat's Girls by Avalyn Hunter.

Anyone who has gone through the loss of a parent before their death as a result of dementia or alzheimer's disease knows the tremendous strain that takes.  This woman essentially had taken over prior to her fathers death and had much to overcome.  At that time, estate taxes were quite burdensome.  She had to syndicate two horses, granted she had assistance, you still have to sell those syndicate shares much like an IPO.  One will never really know how much convincing there really was particularly with Secretariat.  He was a son of a sire of sires in Bold Ruler, son of a Broodmare of the Year in Somethingroyal who had already produced a classic horse (derby favorite prior to injury) and successful sire in Sir Gaylord.  Princequillo was one of the top sires and broodmare sires of the day.  If ever a pedigree looked like a sure thing, certainly Secretariat's did.  Either judging the horse on phenotype or genotype,  odds seemed to be in the horses favor.

20 Nov 2013 8:16 PM
Mary Zinke

Hey, she wanted to get it out there, sceptre. I say good for her and her lover!  Your last line gave me a laugh. Talk about an opposing opinion. LOL upon reading that again.

20 Nov 2013 8:33 PM

I have to say, I'm in total agreement with a few folks here. Another person who feels the need to air their dirty laundry. First of all, this kind of revelation isn't shocking anymore, it's just more noise. Congratulations Ms. Chenery, you're following in Miley Cyrus' footsteps. Second, Tony Soprano got it right, what happened to the strong silent types, like Gary Cooper?

20 Nov 2013 9:18 PM

Wow!! Nothing dramatic in the racing or especially in the stud career of Secretariat??  Maybe people don't care about Penny Chenery's life, I do, but, can anyone say AP Indy, Storm Cat and Gone West??  Just asking??

20 Nov 2013 11:39 PM

I am in disbelief that anybody could be so ignorant as to "suggest" that Secretariat was not successful in stud..Secretariat was unappreciated as the Sire of Broodmares until later in his life. Secretariat was an exceptional creature. And, few,  if any, horse is able to be in league Secretariat.

21 Nov 2013 12:25 AM


The correct and full name of Kelso's owner at the time he raced was Allaire du Pont Scott. I was a big fan of Kelso, never having bet a dime on him and the only horse I would travel to out of town tracks merely to root for him. His owner was the most gracious sporting person to ever benefit the racing scene. I think of her every time I see Penny Chenery's  face or name. I can't think of anyone else in racing who has milked an event as she has. Compared to Kelso's owner she comes across as a hollywood starlet with an agent looking for as much press as possible. I agree with you and Sceptre. Who cares?

21 Nov 2013 12:35 AM

Mrs. Tweedy seems angry still and getting even with the brother now for his non support during her father's illness seems to be an urge she could not bypass. No shock that a unhappy woman would have an relationship with the one man that was helping her get out of debt and make her horse a star! With the family barking at her heels he must have been an island of peace in rough seas. Otherwise, they had nothing in common so again its no shock that the length of their time together was short. I am grateful to hear that Riva got some credit for something. I agree that a woman as interesting as Mrs. Dupont would be a good subject for a movie. She did so much with what she had, for her horses, her family, and the town she lived in. She had class. Some of the information found here about Mrs. Tweedy was one of those more info than we need to know. Hope it made her feel better. This is going to seem strange but watching the movie at one point I thought it might be going in a direction about their relationship being more than trainer/owner. Just a vibe I guess.

21 Nov 2013 8:41 AM


Your guess would be wrong. Not only have I been heavily into racing/breeding since 1961, I attended Secretariat's KY Derby and Belmont...And, no, he was certainly not a great sire; mediocre at best, given the opportunity afforded him. He was clearly a great runner, but I see nothing terribly dramatic/newsworthy to the "back story" of that career- and little, if nothing to how his racing or stud careers were managed. So, again; what exactly did Ms. Chenery accomplish/ what is so admirable? Secretariat's syndication was a slam dunk...Laurin managed Secretariat's racing career, and Claiborne (Seth) his stud career. As I see it, Penny Chenery is coat tailing the name recognition of her horse.  

21 Nov 2013 11:23 AM


Who would you appoint as personal representative of Secretariat, the most popular racehorse of all time, since you have so much against Penny representing her horse?

As a person heavily into racing/breeding since 1961, I would hope you would agree that there are two measures of the success of a stud career, immediate success, and longevity of results.  In the immediate success measure, Secretariat's stud career was spotty at best. Other than Terlingua (who reproduced resoundingly), his best did not reproduce themselves.  It was the more moderate successes, Six Crowns, Weekend Surprise, Secrettame that proved themselves in the breeding shed. If he had results similar to Seattle Slew's that would have been meeting expectations for him.  However, it is in the long run that his stud career's success is remarkable.  Can you imagine better results as a broodmare sire in producing stallions who in turn have established male lines of their own?  Just look at the stallion register, taking two columns to list all of Storm Cats sons, grandsons, etc.  Not to mention AP Indy and Gone West.

Since you have been around since 1961, male lines die off all the time.  Considering the top sires of the 70's and 80's, is it not shocking that only  Boldnesian and Raja Baba are listed as sons of Bold Ruler in the Stallion Register for 2013. Seattle Slew himself, for all his success as a sire, is represented mostly by A P Indy, with a couple by Capote, and one by Vindication.  Broodmare sire of A P Indy, SECRETARIAT!!.

Missing are such top sires of the day as What A Pleasure, Bold Bidder, Graustark, Never Bend, Reviewer, and Exclusive Native. Affirmed and Spectacular Bid have no male representatives as well who had similar opportunities in the breeding shed.  

21 Nov 2013 1:12 PM
lunar spook

SCEPTRE- I understand somewhat the point your trying to make , penny chenery just so happened to be at the right place at the right time ,but had no  bearing whatsoever on the horses great career , as for secretariat he is by far the best horse I had the pleasure to watch race , but you are correct in the fact he was only so-so as a sire , considering how great he was and his sire bold ruler , I would say he was a slight disappointment as a stud ! but who cares , he gave us a shower of memories !!!

21 Nov 2013 2:38 PM
Old Bald Peg

Now Now folks, don't get all lathered up. As with everything in history/life we will never know the truth, just small pieces to hopefully put together in the correct way. (Tomorrow IS 11/22)

I for one, treasure each bit about the story of a great stable/man/horse/woman.

Sceptre...SHAME! I've seen too many 3x4s (etc.) to Secretariat to call him a dud. As someone else pointed out, you were not there 'riding' a sofa arm when he captured the Belmont.

21 Nov 2013 3:55 PM

@ sceptre (one of Secretariat's first name choices by his connections)...funny you bash Secretariat, labeling him mediocre at best. You are truly a hater. You don't achieve chef de race status if you are mediocre. Furthermore, he was more than a great runner, he was the GREATEST runner of all time. On his best day, not ONE thoroughbred could beat him. I love when people try and claim they've been in the business their whole lives...I have been in the business, too. SO what!! It doesn't mean anything. The evidence is there for anyone to see, and considering his genes passed through DAUGHTERS (Secretariat cannot change God-given genes and the ways in which they are passed on)he did extremely well as a sire AND a broodmare sire. I detest people like you. Anyone who knocks Secretariat cannot possibly be a REAL fan. His progeny have done amazingly well.

21 Nov 2013 5:01 PM


 After rattling off statistics about Secretariat's racing & breeding record, you then ask who cares? So why do read & respond to this article? Why the bitterness?

21 Nov 2013 5:41 PM

This is certainly informative and interesting Steve, thank you.  Wow, it sounds like they gave more fodder for another documentary with a lot of unanswered questions.  Why on earth would she bring to light the affair with Lucien now?  The man has passed away I believe so he is not even here to defend himself or tell his side of things.  And to mention physical abuse by a brother is sad.  Why didn't they just tell the real story from the get-go?  And I definitely agree with Steve in wanting them to capitalize more on the coin toss, the farm takeover, etc.  That is weird too that she is bitter and angry later in life and does not mention why.  I take it that there was a non-supportive husband and brother and the one man (Lucien)with whom she had a strong common bond, the love of Secretariat, probably was the only one who understood her.

My cable network never shows the Secretariat movie, what a shame.  And I never see it featured on NBC, who should be showing it if they are to be revered as the flagship horse racing mainstream channel.  Why is "Penny and Red" which should have been named "Penny and Everyone Else" only available to purchase, why is something like this not on tv?

21 Nov 2013 7:03 PM

I don't think Penny Chenery has any more to say. So she had an affair with Lucien, "on the side?" It reveals this woman has no class, at all. She inherited a stable full of blue hens. Riva was not her success and neither was Secretariat. What fortune did she create to establish the Meadow? Exactly how many years of failures and successes and pouring over breeding data books did she have before she had Secretariat??? How many blue hens did Penny produce for the Meadow? How many did she import from the best European stud farms? I could go on and on...

Penny sold the horse and the farm. She had no foundation to continue the stable. Granted, she stepped up and took over at a time her father needed it but her tenure was short. I think it is time she stop riding on Secretariat's coat tails; he can stand on his own.

21 Nov 2013 9:02 PM
Paula Higgins

You can think alot of things about Penny Chenery, but insignificant she was not. She made the hiring decisions and just about every other decision where her horses were concerned. If you don't think so, you would be wrong. This was a woman who exercised control. As for Secretariat, it is hard to even respond to someone who wastes words on whether he was a great sire or not. Take that out of the equation altogether and he is STILL the greatest horse who ever lived (Man O'War is co-equal in my opinion). Dr. Fager right behind them.

21 Nov 2013 10:23 PM
Thoroughbreds are the best

I have always considered Secretariat to be the ultimate in horses (all of them!).  From his blazing speed, to his flaming red coat (chestnut horses are my favorites) to his wonderful goofy personality (and I did visit him at Claiborne where I actually went in his paddock with his groom to catch him), there hasn't been another horse that has come close. However, from the beginning of Riva Ridge's Triple Crown bid, I have found Penny Chenery to be distinctly self-centered and without class.  From her terrible mishandling of her favorite, gentle Riva Ridge to this latest act of attention seeking behavior.  She was no little lonely house wife, she had been born and raised as a wealthy debutante and had grown up at the Meadow.  She had led privileged life around her father as he built a successful breeding and racing dynasty. She played her role well to make dramatic PR.

I totally agree with some of the other posters.  Who cares about an angry old woman who continues to seek attention at every turn.  It is sad.

21 Nov 2013 10:52 PM
Grande Fan

I find it odd that cin, sceptre and jermon have commented on this article and subject as they have repeated claimed they couldn't care less....or was that could care less?

Some thrive on turmoil and revel in riling up others. Perhaps a fear of being over looked and a need to draw attention? And,I am not referring to Ms. Chennery. It does bring out clarification of facts from those who have studied their subjects. There is much to celebrate and so little need to criticize in this article. We know less about other pioneers because authors are not being supported by publishers. Buy the books and ask for more to be written. ;)

22 Nov 2013 1:01 AM
Smoking Baby

OK, I can't help but weigh in on this.  Didn't Secretariat sire Risen Star who won the Preakness then won the Belmont by 14.  Didn't Secretariat sire General Assembly (Travers by 20, track record still stands), Tinner's Way (Pacific Classic), Lady's Secret (Horse of the Year who retired as the leading money winning female of all time).  Secretariat sired 57 stakes winners (9% lifetime).  If I can borrow a line from the master, these are the COLD FACTS.  I'm tossing them out there for each of you to make of them what you will.  To me they describe a successful sire without even touching the mark he made on the breed as a broodmare sire.

22 Nov 2013 9:14 AM
Smoking Baby

Old Bald Peg.  LOVED your comment about riding the sofa arm.  I was (still am truth be told) always one to roll up the program or form and "ride hard" with a right handed "whip."  I'm glad no one ever showed me a video of how ridiculous that must've looked.

22 Nov 2013 9:17 AM
steve from st louis

Scepter: If Secretariat is an average at best stallion, how can you explain his daughters producing three of the top stallions in our time--A.P. Indy, Storm Cat and Gone West? Challenging more intelligent  people with half-baked statements is no way to go through life.

22 Nov 2013 11:50 AM
lunar spook


22 Nov 2013 12:00 PM

I'm still hopeful that Secretariat will have a movie made of him that he is deserving, a movie on the scale of Seabiscuit which I thought was outstanding.  I thought Disney did Penney a good service but not Big Red.  He deserves better.

She was a strong, gutsy woman which is why I struggle a bit envisioning her and Lucien.  I hope this wasn't a revelation for his family.  If it was, that's sad.  I can see where Penney would've run into times of feeling vulnerable, the need to let her hair down.

22 Nov 2013 1:54 PM


They were still talking about "Woman's Lib" when we wanted equality.

We still don't have the equality --look at these comments about Ms. Chenery as opposed to the big fat silence about any man who owned horses having any affairs -- admittedly, not with his trainer since, of course, women couldn't train horses then (still have so few now that it is a big thing when they win a Breeders Cup).

Never mind.

(p.s.  I think the comments about Secretariat have more to do with leaving an enduring male line rather than being a great broodmare sire.  Again with the anti-female bias: broodmare sires aren't as great as sires of sires. )

(Where is the sarcastic emoticon????)

22 Nov 2013 2:30 PM
Soldier Course


I am glad that Ms. Chenery revealed her affair with Lucien Laurin, for the sake of Secretariat's history. All of it. As I wrote in a previous comment here, I am disappointed only in her louche choice of words in characterizing the affair.

I haven't seen this mentioned, but Ms. Chenery may have revealed her story while she is alive to do so, instead of wondering if some sensational version of it would leak from uncertain or unreliable sources after she passes away.

Disney's "Secretariat" is a bad movie about a great horse. The less we see of it the better, especially since it has done little or nothing to engender a love of racing in the young generation. Thank God for YouTube.

22 Nov 2013 4:45 PM

Soldier Course,

Hi, great to see you here!  Yes I agree revealing the affair in a sense for the historical background of Secretariat.  I disagree if Lucien's wife, Juliette I believe now in her late 80's who survived Lucien, was never aware of it and had to find it out this way.  That would be devastating for her and her family.

I guess I have not missed anything not seeing the Secretariat movie, thanks for enlightening me. If that is the case then say it's time they do the real Secretariat movie now, just redo the whole thing and honor Big Red better.

22 Nov 2013 8:13 PM
Paula Higgins

ofelia, sometimes the genius of a person is holding the line to keep the family business going long enough to survive, turn a profit and recognize the exceptional talents of its horses i.e. Riva Ridge, Secretariat. For some of you to say she shared no credit for keeping the family business going and the career of Secretariat, is just nonsense. She could have folded her cards and sold everything off. She didn't. She held her ground. Yes, she had a high profile and she liked the attention, but so did alot of people in the racing world. It doesn't make her the 1970's version of Kim Kardashian.

lunar spook, I certainly won't argue your point about Affirmed. He was a great horse. Some people believe the #3 spot goes to Citation or Spectacular Bid or John Henry etc. Any one of these horses could have a credible case made for them. I even read an article a while back that had the good Dr. as #1. What is certain is that we were blessed with some great equine talent in the 20th century.

mz, well said. Have we seen an male owner criticized like this? I don't think so.

22 Nov 2013 9:31 PM
Smoking Baby

mz.  I agree with you that most of the comments about Secretariat's stud career are about the lack of a lasting male line.  

I have never heard that Alydar was a disappointment at stud.  Where's his enduring male line?  Please don't take this as a comment against you.  I'm just saying I think Secretariat gets a bad rap when others get a pass.

I always like Penney Chenery and her moxy.  I do wish she would've kept her opinions to herself when I'll Have Another was on the verge of his own triple crown.  I thought that was uncool.

23 Nov 2013 11:50 AM

The affair was a shock, but then those things do happen, no one is perfect. Does not take away from my admiration of Penny Tweedy and what she accomplished and what she has given back to the industry.

I for one liked the Disney movie about Secretariat and only wish it focused more on him. Rare is the movie today that does not have crude language, sex, drugs and violence.

As to Secretariats legacy as a stallion, anyone who follows racing and bloodlines knows that the blood of the immortal Secretariat flows in hundreds of champion race horses almost three decades after his death. His progeny are at the top of the sire lists. There is even an article on this site about Bernardini's success as turf sire in Australia. And Wise Dan, Will Take Charge...they not only look like Secretariat, they run like he did. He was in my opinion, the greatest race horse that has ever lived. He had almost perfect conformation, he was smart, he was durable and he could race on turf and dirt and win. Many of his records still stand today, 40 years later. He was a once in a lifetime horse who passed his greatness along as a broodmare sire. Some of you seem to forget that  not all the credit for a champion horse goes to the stallion, you are not giving credit to the broodmare. Also, you are seemingly forgetting Risen Star and Storm Cat. There was something special about Secretariat that just has not come along since. It just infuriates me when some people take it upon themselves to bash him because he did not produce dozens of Secretariat Juniors. Some of you need to understand there is a thing called legacy that goes beyond the first generation of progeny. Genetics in horses are just like people. Sometimes mother nature goes back generations to collect a gene that makes for greatness.

Secretariat and Penny Tweedy, Lucien Lauren, Eddie Sweat and Ron Turcotte was a magical alignment of the stars that most likely will not happen again for several generations.  

23 Nov 2013 4:59 PM

I agree with the issues of equality, or rather, the lack of equality. There has never been real equality for women. I am now in my forties, consider myself a REAL feminist. However I was too young to be involved in the actions at the time. I am so thrilled to know that Secretariat, from all accounts, loved women. I LOVE Secretariat. It is very disturbing that those alleged "fans" of Secretariat lack knowledge. There will NEVER be a second Secretariat. NEVER. And I for one take great comfort in the fact that Secretariat was the ancestor of such good horses. The Sire of Broodmares IS SIGNIFICANT.

Secretariat has a LEGACY that most humans would never best. And, no horse, past, present, future, has had, will have, all the other verbages, best This Champion of All Champions.

And to all those fortunate to have talked with, and touched, Secretariat: I greatly "envy" that.

24 Nov 2013 9:57 PM
Ted from LA

Too many sexist and misogynistic comments.  Dr. Drunkinbum was not successful at stud, but we all still love him, correct?  mz, please watch the sky over Oaks Day.  I'm sending up a "mz, will you marry me?" banner.  I'm spending a slightly attractive penny, so please see and respond.

24 Nov 2013 11:41 PM

Ted, honey: aren't all Pennies more than slightly attractive?  According to this blog, at least to former Quebecois trainers.

More importantly, how big would the engagement ring be?  

Re: Dr. Drunkinbum, how many crops has he had?  Has he been tried in a regional market?  I would hate to see him gelded and trained for jumping or dressage -- although I am certain that he would be of Olympic caliber, right?

p.p.s. I miss you and Paula and all the former JasonBloggers.  I find it less interesting to comment on a blog where the horses are referred to only by their post position numbers and odds.  I like to bond with my thoroughbreds.

(Smoking Baby: I hope you understood that I never meant to diss Secretariat.  I just am not ept enough to find the sarcastic emoticon when I make my comments.)(although -- at the sake of starting another argument ... er, discussion going) I have to say that Secretariat is no Northern Dancer!)

25 Nov 2013 2:57 PM
Soldier Course


I too hope for a movie about Secretariat that does justice to him. At least two things are needed: the right cast, and a moment in the film where the audience makes an emotional connection to the horse. My dream team for the movie would be Laura Linney as Penny, Michael Kitchen as Lucien, and Ron Howard directing. Establishing the emotional connection is tricky. The best example I can point to is the popsicle scene with Dakota Fanning and her mare in the movie "Dreamer". At that moment I was with the mare and her connections all the way to the end of the movie and beyond. I still reflect on the power and beauty of that scene.

25 Nov 2013 3:24 PM
Smoking Baby

mz.  No, I didn't think you were dissing Secretariat at all.  I was just worried I was coming across as coming down on you.  And no, Secretariat is certainly no Northern Dancer but as you know, few are.  

25 Nov 2013 3:46 PM
Smoking Baby

mz.  Worse yet, I'd hate to see Dr. Drunkinbum shipped off to shipped off to South Korea or Turkey.  We simply MUST start a grassroots effort to get him some better mares so we can keep him stateside and commenting.

25 Nov 2013 3:49 PM
Old Old Cat

secretariat was a great horse.  He graced the covers of time, SI, and other top flight publications.  Penny Cherney was the one responsible for keeping her father's farm afloat, and handling the great Secretariat.  

Why are some people disputing greatness??  If we point out little flaws, then there is no greatness.  Everyone is flawed.

I could not beleive the range of responses to your article, but somehow you manage to provoke a lot of different thoughts when you write.

This time I feel that many of the responders are way off base, but that's their opinions.  

Thank you for not having this article on discus, so that we can all reply.

25 Nov 2013 7:05 PM
Paula Higgins

TED FROM LA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So good to see you. We have missed you here, big time. But alas, I think it is only the wonderful mz you have missed. mz, a girl after my own heart! How big is the ring LOL!!

Where is Dr Drunkinbum??

Anyone have any thoughts on L-thyroxine in Bob Bafferts barn? As a R.N. I really don't understand why you would give it to EVERY horse. You certainly wouldn't give it to every human and it would be carefully administered based on blood levels if needed as replacement therapy.  I would think it would hold true for horses to pretty much the same degree. Is that right?

25 Nov 2013 7:55 PM

Yes Smoking Baby.  Dancing Rain is up for sale in the UK.  She would be a fine wedding present for me and Ted so start chipping in you guys!  Let's save Dr. Drunkinbum!

25 Nov 2013 8:01 PM
Uncle Smiley


You can get a pot boiling, even when it tangentially deals with horse racing.

Penny and Lucien... Who will care a hundred years from then, even less from now?

Thoroughbreds have better breeding than humans by definition.

Great read...


25 Nov 2013 11:07 PM

Paula, I believe I am simply the front man (front woman?) for the old TedPride of ladies: you, me, the Karens, Linda, etc.  He just refers to me because I have the shortest and easiest tag line of us all.  You know that they never learned to type.

26 Nov 2013 10:32 AM
Fran Loszynski

I really don't care what anything is said about Ms. Chenery. The last moments when she said goodbye to her "Big Red" when he was ill from laminitis must have been the most heartbreaking for her. Without Ms. Chenery's spunk Secretariat would not have won for anyone else but her. Ride on Ms. Chenery. I hope you see Secretariat in your dreams and are forever happy in that place. You are a great horse woman.   Fran

26 Nov 2013 11:20 AM
Linda in Texas

Steve, your article has prompted comments from just about every angle. Some are good, truthful, sordid, sarcastic. But in the grand scheme of it all Secretariat made his mark and left it upon many famous racehorses and broodmares that some forget.

Re: Mrs. Chenery, I never critique someone who had large shoes to fill and did it even though they were female.

Affairs of the heart or emotions occur unsolicited if i may use a tawdry word and they go. So anyone guilty of same should not be calling the kettle black.

Why I have had some affairs of both right here on this blog and i don't see that ceasing either! :)

Maybe we need a horse named 'Lust' or 'Innocence' to sum it all up.

And it took two to make an affair but for some reason the male in the equation has been conveniently overlooked. Hmmmm?  And here I thought women had finally earned equality. Well back to the kitchen to thaw the 23 pound Turkey i go.

Especially liked the comments of steve from st louis, Paula, Karen In Indiana, AllWin, Windolin, Mz, Ted from LA with a super 50 cent word MISOGYNISTIC which i had to look up, good one Ted from LA, Old Old Cat and wherever the special Dr. D is i know an opinion is being prepared for distribution so hopefully he will give us his version soon.  

And to the ladies here who had a strong dad as i did, i can only imagine the pressure put upon Penny to make The Meadow work at any expense, a tall order to complete.

To those belittling Secretariat go back and watch the You Tubes of Secretariat's biggest race. It will bring you back to reality and maybe cut out the criticism. We are all grownups, some just a little more than other's because of our own life experiences.

Thank you Steve and sending best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

And warning to The East of The Mississippi'rs ya'll best get ready for some cold weather, we send it to you with love. It came to Texas from New Mexico,racetrack home of Mine That Bird and Pepper's Pride!


26 Nov 2013 11:24 AM
Ted from LA

I really don't think it's appropriate to discuss the size of the ring, but when I showed it to Bob from Boston he inquired, "You bought her a doorknob?"

Is there a worse bet on the planet then betting on the Derby winner tomorrow?  Happy Thanksgiving to Paula, mz, Jean from Chicago, Dr. D, trackjack, Alex's Big Fan, Steve, Barbara, Whoopi, Jenny and Sherri.  And to all you other degenerate gamblers, you're like family to me.

26 Nov 2013 11:26 AM


True, Secretariat is no Northern Dancer but then again Northern Dancer is no Secretariat either.  Northern Dancer failed miserably in his triple crown effort.  He had offset knees whereas Secretariat had flawless conformation.  One thing they both shared is an excellent pedigree. Northern Dancers lasting influence on the breed, both negative and positive, tail male and female side is indisputable.   Secretariat's influence on the breed and just as lasting it would appear will be limited to the female side.

One thing the thoroughbred will always have more so than any other breed (to some extent Arabians and Quarter Horses) is performance on the racetrack to evaluate the results of a stallions success.  Other breeds have to rely on horse show results which is subjective at best.

26 Nov 2013 1:10 PM

'The heart of a stallion is passed on thru his daughter....'  Ms. Penney owes no one an apology nor explanation for the choices she made in her life. As we get older in life, we tend to want to leave behind a true legacy of who we are and not what we want others to think we are. I understand and applaud Ms. Penney for having the courage and the strength to open up her 'jewel box' and share with us who she was and is and will be as a woman in a male-dominated field of tb racing ownership. Several yell and cry how dare she have an affair, but not only that, say it was only one of those things that happened. Maybe it was, men do it every day and no one says a word and some even pat him on the back. Another thing some forget is, Riva and Red belonged to her, she had to sell all of her father's racing stock to pay the taxes; they were born after this was done. She was the one who did the coin toss, not her father nor her brother. When she took over and had to start over again, all she had was a couple of broodmares and rights to breed in a shared agreement left her by her father. Riva and Red wasn't even bred yet, and if her brother/husband had had their way there wouldn't have been a Riva or Secretariat. Yes, she had to be tough and put on her big boys pants or her father's beloved farm would have been a whisper in the wind. The legacy she built and endowed the future of the tb sport was a dream she shared with her father. Taking nothing away from, Ms. Dupont, Whitney, or Wolfson, these women had the financial support of husbands and inheritance, Penney did not. They could have stepped forward into prominence of the Kentucky Elite, but they chose to stay behind the scene, Penney didn't have that luxury. Her father's legacy depended on her being in front and being heard, and the only one to give her a chance was Bull Hancock, then his son. No other woman in the history of horse racing has achieved was she has, and I don't think no one will in my lifetime. She was blessed to breed two champion racehorses that saved her father's legacy, and no one can take that away from her and that is what she leaves to the future of thoroughbred horseracing. And if you look all over the world, you will find Secretariat's bloodline running thru the veins of champions. That's why she deserves to be remembered and honored, without her stepping to the forefront, there would be no Secretariat. And if what she did was so easy or given away on a silver platter, why hasn't there been anymore Triple Crown winners since Affirmed?  

26 Nov 2013 4:52 PM

Hey Ted, considering the fact that they are legislating against the use of doorknobs (as opposed to those pull / lever thingies  which apparently are easier for older ... er,  more mature hands to manipulate), soon doorknobs will be worth their weight in platinum and emeralds (hint, hint)!

To Livewire:  whaddayamean "failed miserably"?  The Greatest Cdn was first in the Derby and first in the Preakness and third in the Belmont -- with some question Bout the ride -- and that ain't miserable in my book!  

Anyways, Happy Thanksgiving to y'all and safe trips to all travellers.

26 Nov 2013 5:43 PM

Allaire duPont owned and raced Kelso. Marion DuPont Scott owned and raced Battleship, Annapolis and Mongo.

27 Nov 2013 2:05 PM
Landlocked Films

Thanks to all who commented here.  For those in the Colorado area, "Penny & Red" has just been selected to screen at the Boulder International Film Festival, to be held February 13-16. More festival and event screenings are forthcoming -- see you there!  John Tweedy

01 Dec 2013 9:37 PM
Grande Fan

To the Secretariat followers, my friends, the November 2013 issue of Equuas magazine features Secretariat on the cover and a series of "Big Red" articles. Extensive research into what made "the tremendous machine" are examined in-depth. More facts to support Secretariat's unique qualifications as a superior creation and athlete. Enjoy!

10 Dec 2013 5:24 PM

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