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Chenery to be honored at Thoroughbred Club of America

Penny Chenery will be honored for her significant contributions to the Thoroughbred industry

Helen (Penny) Chenery, renowned for the last four decades as the key owner of the great Secretariat, has been selected Honor Guest of the Thoroughbred Club of America's 81st annual Testimonial Dinner, Club president Julie Cauthen announced Wednesday. Mrs. Chenery was selected by the Thoroughbred Club's board of directors and will be honored at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, on the evening of September 30.

"In selecting Mrs. Chenery, I believe our directors have made an exemplary addition to the highest ideals of the Testimonial Dinner," Cauthen said. "When you look back at such honorees as Col. E.R. Bradley of Idle Hour, William Woodward Sr. of Belair Stud, Warren Wright of Calumet Farm, three generations of Claiborne Farm's Hancock family, and such as Woody Stephens, Bill Shoemaker, D. Wayne Lukas, and Mack Miller, you get an appreciation for the high standards set for this honor. Certainly, Mrs. Chenery's stewardship of Secretariat's ongoing legacy and her other services to racing fit this mold very admirably."

Mrs. Chenery is a daughter of the late Christopher T. Chenery, who re-established his family's ancestral Meadow Stud in Virginia and rose to the highest ranks in the sport and business of Thoroughbred racing. Mr. Chenery bred and raced champions Hill Prince, First Landing, and Cicada. Mrs. Chenery was raising a family in Colorado when Mr. Chenery's health deteriorated to the point that Meadow Stud and Meadow Stable were threatened. She chose to meet the challenge of maintaining The Meadow and was foremost among Mr. Chenery's children in her determination to continue operation of the breeding farm and racing stable.

The champion Riva Ridge emerged to win the Kentucky Derby and Belmont for Meadow Stable in 1972, helping steady the enterprise. When Secretariat emerged as the champion two-year-old and Horse of the Year in 1973, Mrs. Chenery recognized a unique opportunity and asked young Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm in Kentucky to syndicate him for stallion duty when he retired from racing. Secretariat thus became known as the Six Million Dollar Horse even before his run through the Triple Crown and a second Horse of the Year title.

The climax of the Triple Crown was Secretariat's 31-length victory in world record time in the Belmont Stakes of 1973. Later that year he was retired to Claiborne Farm, where he sired Horse of the Year Lady's Secret and fellow Belmont winner and champion Risen Star, and prevailed as a broodmare sire of lasting importance.

Mrs. Chenery did not recede into a passive role in Thoroughbred racing when Secretariat's racing career ended. She served as president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association from 1976-84, and was also president of the Grayson Foundation supporting equine research in 1985-86 and was elected to membership in The Jockey Club in 1983. Mrs. Chenery has also been leading advocate for the health and welfare of retired Thoroughbreds and was a driving force in the formation of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. In 2005, Mrs. Chenery was voted the Eclipse Award of Merit, which ranks with the Thoroughbred Club of America's Testimonial Dinner among racing's high honors.

"Mrs. Chenery recognized the opportunity to utilize the public's love of Secretariat for the good of racing and of race horses," Cauthen said. "She has been instrumental in a number of projects which utilize the image of Secretariat for positive causes. One is establishing the Secretariat Vox Populi Award, which she describes as 'acknowledging the star horse who brings the most excitement and attention to the sport,' regardless of whether it is a Derby winner or just an honest, consistent campaigner at another level. Another is the annual Secretariat Festival in Paris, Kentucky. Also, the website Secretariat.com, is a multi-faceted site which allows Secretariat lovers to keep in touch, purchase merchandise, and support charitable causes."

Mrs. Chenery also was instrumental in assisting in the production and promotion of the Disney movie "Secretariat," which added to the appreciation of the remarkable horse for generations who had not seen him race.

"Through all of these years, Penny Chenery has remained the epitome of a grand lady of racing, always representing the highest ambitions and standards of those to whom the Thoroughbred is an important part of life," Cauthen added. "We call all be truly proud that she is a part of our sport."

For over 80 years, The Thoroughbred Club of America Annual Testimonial Dinner has honored persons who have rendered distinguished service to the sport of Thoroughbred racing. To learn more about The Thoroughbred Club of America, visit thethoroughbredclub.com.

For tickets to the September 30 Testimonial Dinner, please contact Betty Flynn at (859) 254-4282.

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