Before there was Big Red…there was “the Great Red Fox”


A century before Meadow Stable, home of Hall of Famers Secretariat, Riva Ridge, Hill Prince and Cicada, put Doswell, Virginia on the racing map, Bullfield Stable in nearby Hanover County dominated the American racing scene.  Its most famous son was a long-striding chestnut stallion named Planet, also called “the great red fox.” He was considered, after Lexington, the greatest racehorse up to the time of the Civil War.

On August 10, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga will induct Planet into the Hall of Fame in the historical category.  Not only did this great champion and Bullfield Stable symbolize an era known as “the golden age of Virginia horse racing,” but they were an early influence on a horse-crazy boy named Christopher T. Chenery and the future Meadow Stable.

 Founded in 1824, Bullfield became known as “the Red Stable” because so many of its winners were sorrels and its jockeys wore flashy orange silks.  Operated by Major Thomas  Walker Doswell and his father, Bullfield gained renown as one of the most successful Thoroughbred farms of the East Coast.  In fact, the locality of Doswell was named in their honor.

 Planet was born in 1855, sired by Revenue, the leading sire in 1850. His dam was the great racer and broodmare Nina, said to be the best racing daughter of the top sire Boston. A prolific broodmare, she gave Bullfield Stable 15 outstanding foals, including Exchequer and Ecliptic, a son of the great Eclipse. Planet was said to be Nina’s best. She was one of the reasons that writers of the period referred to Bullfield as “a nursery of Virginia racehorses.”

 Planet was a handsome horse, described by John Hervey in his book “Racing in America – 1665-1865” as follows:  “In color a rich chestnut, 15.2 ½ hands tall, he was remarkable for his symmetry of mould and the excellence of his limbs…” 

 Those limbs exhibited whirlwind speed against the top horses of the day such as Daniel Boone, Congaree, Hennie Farrow, Socks and Arthur Macon.   Planet won 27 of 31 races and became the top money winner with nearly $70,000 in purses, a record that stood for 20 years.  

He possessed enormous stamina as well. Those were the days when horses raced in heats ranging from one to four miles, sometimes running as much as 12 miles in one afternoon. Such races would be unthinkable today, as would the practice of racing the horse again after only a three-day layoff, as Planet’s schedule occasionally dictated.

 However, the versatile Planet could win at any distance, long or short, posting some of his best performances at four mile heats. He carried Bullfield’s orange silks on familiar Virginia tracks at Ashland, Petersburg and Broad Rock and further afield on the Southern circuit from New Orleans, Mobile, Savannah, Charleston and even north to New York.  

 Planet also displayed another form of versatility.  He was an accomplished trotter who could do a mile in three minutes. According to John Hervey, this talent landed him in trouble at the New York track in 1860 where he was being worked at a flying trot before a meet. A race official ordered Planet and his rider off the track, declaring that trotters were not allowed. Other horsemen jumped to Planet’s defense, finally convincing the official to rescind his order against the champion Thoroughbred.

 The Civil War and its aftermath curtailed racing in the South and interrupted what would have been Planet’s best years at stud (1861-1868). During that time, many of the Bullfield horses were hidden in the woods to protect them from marauding horse thieves. Nevertheless, an advertisement of the era proclaimed that “Planet – Virginia’s Unrivalled Race Horse will make his season of 1866 at Bullfield… commencing March 1st and ending July 15th, at $50 the season, with $2 to the groom.”  

 Despite the handicap of war, Planet managed to sire impressive offspring who made turf history of their own.  His blood figures in the pedigrees of Kingman, winner of the 1891 Kentucky Derby; Bowling Brook, winner of the 1895 Belmont Stakes; the great filly Regret who won the Kentucky Derby in 1915; Exterminator, winner of the 1918 Kentucky Derby; and (on the female side) Fleet Nasrullah, successful son of the legendary Nasrullah, the grandsire of Secretariat.

 Planet passed his trotting blood, which flowed from his sire Revenue, to his daughter Dame Winnie. She was bred to Electioneer, the great Standardbred, and produced the champion trotting stallion of his day, Palo Alto. 

 In the custom of the day, Planet’s portrait was painted by the famous equine artist Edward Troye, who at Major Doswell’s insistence, included Planet’s black jockey Jesse in the saddle.  During a raid on Bullfield, the portrait was cut from its frame by Yankee soldiers. It was later found in a ditch and returned to the Doswells by someone who recognized the orange silks worn by Jesse.  

Major Doswell sold Planet to Mr. Alexander of Woodburn Farm in Kentucky, where he lived until his death in 1875 at the age of 20.

Planet and Bullfield influenced not only Thoroughbred history but also the history of  Meadow Stable in neighboring Caroline County.  After Major Doswell died in 1890, his son Bernard inherited a portion of the farm called Hilldene and ran his own small stable there. Bernard’s younger cousin by marriage, Christopher T. Chenery, would walk seven miles from Ashland to Bernard’s farm and exercise his few remaining horses on the old Bullfield track.  Here, Bernard regaled Chris with tales of Bullfield’s glory days, introducing him to a  heady world of gleaming trophies and fine-blooded Thoroughbreds, a world far removed from  the boy’s humble circumstances in Ashland.  Perhaps it is no small coincidence that when Chenery purchased The Meadow in 1936 and began building his foundation bloodlines, he named one of his most prolific mares Hildene.

 And, as everyone knows, The Meadow also produced a great red stallion, one who became Virginia’s and the nation’s “unrivalled racehorse.”  Secretariat, “Big Red,” together with Planet, “the Great Red Fox” of Bullfield  stand as pillars of equine perfection and performance, reminding the world that some of the most magnificent horses of the American turf sprang from Virginia soil.

We will have the honor of attending the Hall of Fame ceremony in Saratoga next Friday with Sarah Wright, the 93-year-old granddaughter of Bernard Doswell and her daughter Cecelia.  Sarah’s meticulous documentation of her family history in her book “The Doswell Dynasty” helped the Secretariat’s Meadow book team offer the nomination of Planet for the Hall of Fame.  You can read more about  Planet, the Doswells and Bullfield in “Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend.”    

by Leeanne Meadows Ladin

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

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Secretariat Makes Racing History Again!

Forget all those contradictory times of 1:55, 1:54 2/5, even 1:53 2/5.  Secretariat’s record time in the 1973 Preakness was an astonishing 1:53 flat!

This is what Penny Chenery and her team proved to the Maryland Racing Commission yesterday, June 19.  Their demonstration with new video technology convinced the commission  to change Secretariat’s Preakness time to 1:53 by unanimous vote.  This gives Big Red the full honors of sweeping the Triple Crown by officially breaking ALL three track records.  Congratulations to Penny for her perseverance over the last 39 years and her powers of persuasion! She and Secretariat make history yet again!  And kudos to the Maryland Racing Commission for agreeing to set the record straight.

Here’s an excerpt from the news release: (you can read our previous post for further background)


BALTIMORE, Md. (June 19, 2012) – The Maryland Racing Commission voted Tuesday afternoon in a special hearing at Laurel Park that 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, who set records that still stand at the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont States, also set the record in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course 39 years ago.

In a unanimous 7-0 decision, the official time of the Preakness was changed from 1:54 2/5 to 1:53. Secretariat is one of 11 thoroughbreds to win the Triple Crown, with victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont as a 3-year-old.

The Maryland Racing Commission said last week it would investigate the official timing of the race at the request of Secretariat’s owner  Penny Chenery and Pimlico president Tom Chuckas.

“I didn’t know if it was appropriate to cheer but I couldn’t help myself,” Chenery said. “This is a big day.”

For more than two hours, the racing commission heard testimony, backed by modern technology to prove Secretariat’s time was actually faster than the Preakness record of 1:53 2/5, set by Tank’s Prospect in 1985 and matched by Louis Quatorze (1996) and Curlin (2007).

“Justice was served,” Chuckas said. “The Secretariat team made a compelling case that he ran the race in 1:53 flat and added the Preakness record to his resume. This is terrific news for Mrs. Chenery, who has been diligent in her fight for nearly 40 years, and the entire sport of horse racing.”


by Leeanne Meadows Ladin

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

(thanks to Margo at Saddle Up Clothing Company for the cool graphic she sent in honor of Secretariat’s latest victory)

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Setting Secretariat’s Preakness Record Straight…It’s About Time!


One second.  That’s all that stands between Secretariat and a complete record-breaking sweep of the Triple Crown. If Penny Chenery and the president of the Maryland Jockey Club, Thomas Chuckas,  can prevail, this situation will finally be rectified after 40 years.

As his fans know, Secretariat shattered the Derby and Belmont records, but his winning time in the Preakness became instantly controversial on May 19, 1973.  On that day, the electronic timer at Pimlico registered Secretariat’s win at 1:55.  However, two Daily Racing Form professionals at different vantage points hand-clocked him at 1:53 2/5.  The slower time was hard to believe, especially after watching Secretariat’s astonishing  surge from last to first on the first turn, passing the rest of the field in an eighth of a mile.

Track officials  acknowledged some “extenuating circumstances” with the teletimer.  Supposedly, according to some accounts,  the crowds of people walking across the track to the infield to watch the race somehow interfered with the timer.  In any case, Pimlico decided to go with the time recorded by their hand-clocker, which was 1:54 2/5, for the official track record. The Daily Racing Form  resolutely stood by its time of 1:53 2/5 and lists it as such even to this day.

CBS, who broadcast the Triple Crown series, stepped into the fray, challenging the Pimlico officials with videotape they said proved Secretariat undeniably set a then-record time of 1:53 2/5.  But even their half-hour broadcast and the national public outcry failed to change the disputed statistic. Over the years,  supporters made other efforts to correct the record, but to no avail.

Fast forward to 2012 and the video technology of the 21st century. Armed with “compelling evidence,” Penny and Mr. Chuckas have requested a hearing on this issue by the Maryland Racing Commission.  The hearing will take place at the Commission’s meeting on Tuesday,  June 19 at Laurel Park .

As Mr. Chuckas states, “During the last 40 years, video technology has been accepted in other professional sports as a supportive mechanism for officials to ensure fairness and accuracy in their decisions. It is important for horse racing and the record books to confirm the correct time in this historical race. It is the appropriate thing to do.”

Penny, who at age 90 is still a champion for her horse,  said, “For me, revisiting this dispute on a new day is matter of resolution – for historians, for sportswriters and for racing fans. Their voices are supported by sound evidence, and they deserve to be heard.”

We sincerely hope that these efforts quite literally turn the clock back and give Big Red the full honors he so richly deserves.   After all, next year marks the 40th anniversary of  his  Triple Crown…so it is about time!

By Leeanne Meadows Ladin

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

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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  

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”

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Viva Riva! Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Riva Ridge’s Derby Victory

                                                                                 In 1969, a muddy-bay colt with floppy ears would be saved from the floodwaters of Hurricane Camille at his Virginia farm. Later, he would rescue the same farm as it was sinking into debt and preserve it as the launching pad of its greatest champion.  Though he would be swept aside in the wake of the national adulation for his charismatic stablemate, he never gave up.  Riva Ridge, the forgotten champion of Meadow Stable, most assuredly earned his place in racing history and in the hearts of his fans.

This is an excerpt from our upcoming book “Riva Ridge – Penny’s First Champion” (by Kate Chenery Tweedy and Leeanne Meadows Ladin) due out in September.  This coming Saturday, May 5, 2012 marks not only the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, but the 40th anniversary of Riva’s Derby victory of 1972.  

 And Riva is getting some long-overdue recognition!   We are delighted that the Kentucky Derby Museum is hosting a party in Riva’s honor on Sunday, May 6.  (see

To fully appreciate the signifciance of Riva’s victory in the 98th “Run for the Roses,”  here is another excerpt from our book. 

(from Chapter 4 – The Thirty Year Road to the Derby)

“I knew he was the best horse in the race, he was feeling good and had worked good over the track which was very fast. Everything was to his liking and I could smell the roses,” said Ron Turcotte.

The “Golden Boy” of Meadow Stable did not disappoint. Riva broke well out of the gate, grabbing the lead right away.  Bumped in the initial rush, he quickly recovered with no trace of his old timidity.  Galloping easily, he held off a challenge by Hold Your Peace as the two drew away from the field.

 Bill Nack, author of “Secretariat – The Making of a Champion,” described Riva’s Derby run.  “Riva toyed with Hold Your Peace like a cat with a mouse.  His attitude was ‘come and get me.’ I thought that day that Riva looked like a Triple Crown winner.”

No Le Hace also tried to make a run at Riva, but the bay colt sailed across the finish line under a hand ride by Ron. Winning by three lengths, Riva became only the thirteenth horse to win the Kentucky Derby wire to wire.  He posted a time of 2:01 4/5, the seventh fastest on record.

Mom (Penny Chenery is Kate Tweedy’s mother) could not contain her elation. She was sitting with Bull Hancock’s family and literally beating on Clay Hancock as she shouted “We’re winning! We’re winning!”

The Kentucky sun shone brightly on Virginia’s Meadow Stable that day as Granddaddy’s Derby jinx finally lifted. The stars had indeed lined up in our favor.  Lucien had trained Riva to peak at the perfect time.  Ron had kept Riva off the rail where the deep soil of the “cuppy” track could have tired him. This allowed the colt to sprint to the front where the field of fifteen couldn’t block him. The chancy, last-minute tactic of widening the blinker slits had helped Riva keep his challengers in sight.

The saying goes that the Kentucky Derby is the “most exciting two minutes in sports.”  Riva’s  two-minute run symbolized the culmination of a dream that kindled in an old horseman’s heart more than thirty years prior to May 6, 1972.  My grandfather Chris Chenery had defied all the skeptics when he founded Meadow Stable on the dilapidated land of his ancestral homeplace in Caroline County, Virginia in 1936. Breeding for both speed and stamina, he had sent three strong Derby contenders to the post (including Riva’s sire First Landing)  as well as many notable stakes winners. Now my mother too had defied all the skeptics and fulfilled her father’s lifelong ambition.  Her unshakable determination and perseverance, along with a solid belief in the homely bay horse who could run like a deer, had brought her far from those first tentative days of running a racing stable.

                                                         (end of excerpt)

Kate and I will be at Churchill Downs with Penny this Saturday watching the latest crop of Derby hopefuls vie for their place in racing history.  And we will be remembering Penny’s  first champion,  Riva Ridge, his speed, his spirit and his all too brief moment in the spotlight.

Here’s a link to Riva’s Derby on YouTube.

by Leeanne Meadows Ladin

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

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Happy Birthday Big Red!

March 30, 1970….a legend was born on a storied piece of land called The Meadow in Caroline County, Virginia. His fame would extend far beyond its pastures and paddocks.  Decades later, his legacy and the loyalty of his legions of fans remains undiminished by the passage of time.

Writers and commentators exhausted their adjectives in trying to describe Secretariat’s astounding career.  But here is a sampling of quotes from an ESPN documentary that captures that essence:

Secretariat came to us as a shining example of aristocracy, big, handsome and full of charge. He walked with style, stood tall, and displayed the best manners. On paper he wasn’t perfect, losing 5 of his 21 races as if to say, I’m only human. To the eye, he was perfection itself. And when he performed, he took your breath away. Yet some may ask, how could he have been voted among the 20th century’s 50 greatest athletes? The answer:  because he was Secretariat, more than just a horse.”  Chris Fowler, ESPN narrator

“In another quarter of a mile, he might have taken to the air and flown, which was obviously what was in his blood. ”   Heywood Hale Broun, CBS commentator, on Secretariat’s Derby.

He went into another level of consciousness in the public eye. There were actually kids standing on the rail as he came by. He had now captured the public, not just the racing crowd.”   Ed Bowen, The Blood-Horse

I believed in Pegasus that day, because I saw. I mean I never saw anything like that in my life. 31 lengths? That’s unbelievable. It was like they were racing on two different tracks.”  Jerry Izenberg, the Star-Ledger

And as the horses came out of the final turn, you could see Secretariat alone in front, and steam was blowing out of both nostrils with each exhale like a locomotive. It was an incredible sight. And that was the final competitive moment of a career that probably could have known no limits had he kept racing.”  Jay Hovdey, Daily Racing Form, on Secretariat’s last race at Woodbine

We waited a long time for him. We waited since Man O’War. I don’t expect in my lifetime to see another one like him. We might see another Affirmed or another Native Dancer or something. But he was perfect.”  Bill Nack, author of “Secretariat – The Making of a Champion. 

And here is a sampling, 42 years after he was born, of what Secretariat still means to his fans  (from our Facebook page) :

“I screamed and shouted in my living room, watching on black-and-white TV, then ran outside to tell someone, anyone – but nobody was home but me! I found a soft rock and wrote on the front walk, “Secretariat wins Belmont by 25 lengths – Triple Crown!” so everyone would see it when they came home! (I was 10, what do you want??) Oddly, not everyone was as excited as I was! For that entire summer, my pony’s name was not Thunder, but Secretariat (or “Big Red”), and I relived that thrill every single day! Now I remember it like it was yesterday, and I get goose bumps when I see footage. At that point in the Secretariat movie, I was sobbing in the theater, even though I knew the outcome.”  Rose Beebe

My favorite memory was seeing him in Kentucky after he retired to stud. He was not available to the public yet but we knew the farm manager and went to see him. He strolled around the field and went to his waterer for a big drink. Then he lifted his head and turned toward us for a “photo op”. What a magnificent horse!”  Anne Tucker

“Secretariat won my heart forever with his triple crown races especially after his amazing Belmont. I was 16 and took my huge wall poster of Secretariat in the Derby with me to Va Tech. I had that picture with me for 4 years where I could see it every day in my dorm room. Whenever I had difficulties or a bad day I always had Big Red to cheer me on. He really did help me realize I could get through anything. Now I have a Secretariat wall in my home.”  Susanne Di Carlo

 “I was chasing after a 2 year old in 1973 and did not know much about thoroughbred horse racing. But, I vividly remember flashes on the colored TV of a beautiful blonde lady in a white dress standing next to a gorgeous chestnut horse with a white star on his forehead. That glorious picture made me stop in my tracks. Secretariat and Mrs. Penny Chenery came to mean so much to America. They represented the best America has to offer. And, they still do.” Vera Conwicke

And that says it all.  Happy Birthday, Secretariat!  The Big Red flame burns brighter than ever.

Leeanne Meadows Ladin

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

copyright 2012


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The Secretariat Birthday Party Goes On!

Some of you may have heard the sad news that The Meadow, which was owned by the State Fair of Virginia, has been closed to the public.  The Fair (a private, not for profit organization) was forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy on March 8 when the bank did not accept its plan to reorganize. 

This was heart-breaking news for Virginians who grew up going to the Fair and especially for those of us who had enjoyed a long association with its staff.  That association had become even more enjoyable in recent years as we worked together on  the annual Secretariat birthday party, which the Fair hosted at The Meadow,  and the popular  “Secretariat’s Meadow Tours” for public and private groups. We even announced our “Secretariat’s Meadow” book there in 2010.  It was very sad to see our friends lose their jobs.

 Our book team  did not want these circumstances to force the cancellation of the annual Secretariat’s Birthday celebration, planned for Saturday March 31. So we took this on as a volunteer effort  and are happy to say that Randolph-Macon College in nearby Ashland will host the event on March 31 in Andrews Hall from 1 – 5 pm. There are longstanding ties with the college as Christopher Chenery, who founded The Meadow in 1936 as a Thoroughbred farm, attended school there, along with two of his brothers.  Last year, Randolph-Macon awarded Penny Chenery an Honorary Doctor of  Laws degree.

 Yes, the birthday  program is scaled back but we still have fans coming from Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina and Delaware!  That speaks volumes about what this magnificent horse means to people across the country!

Here’s a brief outline of the program:

  •  1:00 pm. – Welcome and Presentation on the history of The Meadow,  Secretariat and Riva Ridge by Kate Chenery Tweedy and Leeanne Meadows Ladin, co-authors of “Secretariat’s Meadow, The Land, The Family, The Legend”
  • Meeting former Meadow grooms and jockeys and seeing Riva’s first training saddle
  • Discussion of possible historical designation options for important sites at The Meadow
  • Continuous showing of Secretariat’s and Riva’s most famous races
  • Book signings and sale of Secretariat items
  • Secretariat and Riva cake
  • 3:00 p.m.  – Repeat presentation by authors 
  • 5:00  p.m. – EVENT CONCLUDES

Tickets are $5 at the door and advance registration is required.  Because seating is limited, we ask that you indicate whether you will attend the 1:00 pm or 3:00 pm presentation. Go to our website for more info and to register.

As for The Meadow, we will keep our readers posted on future developments here, on our website and our Facebook page. 

In any event, we sincerely hope that next year in 2013, we will be back at The Meadow to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown!

by Leeanne Meadows Ladin

co-author of “Secretariat’s Meadow”

copyright 2012

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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.



Leeanne Meaadows Ladin

Co-author “Secretariat’s Meadow”

 copyright 2012


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Happy 90th Birthday, Penny Chenery!

We want to be the first to wish “The First Lady of Thoroughbred Racing,” Penny Chenery, a very happy 90th birthday tomorrow, January 27.  In fact we will have the honor of relaying those wishes in person this weekend at a birthday party hosted by her family in Denver.

Not only we will be wishing Penny Happy Birthday, we will be delivering a 15-page “birthday card” containing nearly 200 greetings from the fans of our “Secretariat’s Meadow” Facebook page.  The postings came from all over, from Alabama to Bulgaria and many parts in between!

 The passing of time has done little to diminish the adoration and admiration that Penny’s fans feel for her, even though it’s been nearly four decades since Secretariat won the Triple Crown.   If anything, those feelings have grown even stronger, as these few excerpted messages will attest:

From Kimberly:  “Your winners-never-quit attitude  continues to inspire me on a daily basis. ..I know and understand that not only was Secretariat the greatest horse that ever lived, but that the whole world  would never have known this if it hadn’t been for you. Thanks for helping me never give up and never give in.”

From Della:  “God must think you are as special as we all  do to have such a long and wonderful life.  Thank you for being such an inspiration to many women the world over for many years. You did what others said could not be done and you did it on your terms!”

From Anita:  “Thank you for sharing “Big Red” with the world and for keeping his legacy alive! “

From Gardenia: “You and Secretariat have etched your places in history. If it weren’t for you, it is not clear how things would have turned out for your extraordinary colt.”   

From Lisa:  “You have brought so much joy into our hearts and homes with your champions.  I fell in love with Secretariat…and I will always carry a special spot in my heart for Riva as well.”

From Jackie:  “Your fortitude and faith are an inspiration to many and we will never forget your Big Red.”

From Pam:  “Thanks for all you do to continue to promote Secretariat’s legacy.  Thanks also for helping retired racehorses and research to find a cure for laminitis.”

From Vickie:  “Thank you for your contributions to the Thoroughbred industry and racing, and for being a wonderful, graceful ambassador  for the sport.”

From Sandy:  “She is like her horse was, one in a  million and there will never be anyone oe anything compared to them both!”

This is just a small sampling of the heartfelt greetings we received for Penny.  To read more, please visit our Facebook page.

We would like to add our thanks to Penny, too, for all she has contributed to our book and its ongoing success. And now she is helping us with our new book, which is about her first champion, Riva Ridge.  More on that project later!

We’ll close out this birthday blog with one of our favorite photos of Penny.  This was taken last year at the annual Secretariat birthday at The Meadow. 


 Penny Chenery, truly a Queen in the Sport of Kings

by Leeanne Ladin

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




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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

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.

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