Secretariat: A Special Time for a Racing Icon

Secretariat: A Special Time for a Racing Icon


In recognition of the 40th anniversary of his Triple Crown sweep and in honor of his status as an icon of Thoroughbred racing, the Kentucky Derby Museum is set to unveil a permanent display on the career and legacy of Secretariat. His legions of fans are already familiar with the story. Born in 1970 at Christopher Chenery’s Meadow Stable in Virginia, Secretariat became the sports story of 1973 when he astonished fans by ending a 25-year drought in which no horse had won the Triple Crown. Taking over ownership of the farm from her gravely ill father, Penny Chenery enlisted trainer Lucien Laurin and jockey Ron Turcotte to campaign the horse often known as “Big Red” through a record setting career unmatched in racing history.

Secretariat met with success at the start, and his career culminated with records still unbroken. As a two-year-old in 1972, Secretariat won seven of his nine starts and won Horse of the Year honors, a rarity for a horse of that age. Stumbling to a third place finish in the 1973 Wood Memorial, Secretariat entered the Kentucky Derby with some doubting his health and his ability to get the Derby distance. His answer was a record time of 1:59 2/5 in the Kentucky Derby. Secretariat went on to set record times in both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, winning the latter by an astounding 31 lengths.

The exhibit documents Secretariat’s racing career primarily through the collection of Penny Chenery. Among the items exhibited are the original 1973 Belmont Stakes photo negative, an exercise saddlecloth used by Secretariat and a horseshoe worn by him in the 1972 Garden State Futurity. The latter is a framed piece put together by Secretariat’s exercise rider, Jimmy Gaffney. He kept this one and made a second that he sent to then President Richard Nixon. A plaque from President Nixon thanking Jimmy for his gift accompanies the horseshoe.

Because of his exceptional accomplishments, the legacy of Secretariat still endures. The racing industry recognized him with multiple Eclipse Awards and a Hall of Fame induction the year after his retirement in 1974. However, the legend of this once-in-a-lifetime champion goes beyond the track. He has an official online resource in; the Secretariat Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides support to and raises awareness of the charities and organizations that enhance the profile of Thoroughbred racing, especially in regards to health and wellness and the annual Bourbon County Secretariat Festival in Paris, Kentucky which features activities and events inspired by “Big Red” and draws fans from across the country.

KDM’s exhibit chronicles this legacy, paying particular attention to the 2010 Disney film that starred Diane Lane as Penny Chenery and John Malkovich as Lucien Laurin. Items exhibited include props used in the film, replica sterling silver Derby trophies made specifically for the winner’s circle scene and the official movie poster.

The year 2013 will be an important year for Secretariat, and the Kentucky Derby Museum is excited to honor his career and legacy.

We've got two great events celebrating Secretariat this spring!

On April 27, a commemorative, Four Roses Secretariat Single Barrel Bourbon will be available for the first time at the Kentucky Derby Museum. Join us in our Gift Shop from 1PM-3PM to sample bourbon hand-selected by Penny Chenery (owner of Secretariat) with Four Roses Master Distiller, Jim Rutledge.

Then on May 1, a Commemorative 40th anniversary Secretariat bourbon decanter will be released exclusively at the Kentucky Derby Museum this spring by Four Roses. Click here to find out how you can get one and meet Secretariat owner, Penny Chenery!

  • Secretariat: A Special Time for a Racing Icon