The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) today announced that Helen "Penny" Chenery, whose captivating charm and enthusiasm as the owner of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat earned her the unofficial title of "First Lady of Racing," will be honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing.
Chenery will receive the honor on January 23 at the 35th Annual Eclipse Awards at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, Calif. The ceremonies will be carried live by TVG.
"I am just tickled to win this award," said Chenery, who recently relocated to Boulder, Colo. "I've had a wonderful time in racing, with the fans, my peers, and of course, the horses. The greatest sight in racing is seeing your horse with your silks on coming down the stretch in the lead. The second greatest thing is seeing a foal born. That's God's gift to us."
In 1973, the Secretariat phenomenon was one of the biggest sports and news stories of the year. During a period coinciding with the end of America's involvement in the Vietnam War and the emerging Watergate scandal, "Big Red" of Meadow Stable gave the nation an unexpected lift, becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, when he swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Secretariat's photo appeared on covers of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated during the same week.
Throughout the campaign, Chenery, who took over the Meadow operation for her ailing father, Christopher, embodied grace and elegance in the spotlight. Secretariat's 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes is forever intertwined with the image of Chenery, arms held high in triumph.
Meadow Stable also won two of the three Triple Crown races in 1972 when Riva Ridge captured the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. Nearly two decades later, Chenery bred 1992 3-year-old filly champion Saratoga Dew.
In the 32 years since Secretariat's Triple Crown, Chenery has been widely recognized as racing's goodwill ambassador throughout the world. She also became extremely active in Thoroughbred causes and foundations. Chenery served as president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) from 1976-1984. She was also president of the Grayson Foundation for equine research in 1985-'86, and was elected to membership in The Jockey Club in 1983. 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 (TRF) 25 years ago.
Chenery will receive the Eclipse Award of Merit nearly 33 years to the day after accepting the Horse of the Year trophy on behalf of Secretariat for his 2-year-old season and 32 years after accepting the Horse of the Year trophy following his 3-year-old campaign.
Eclipse Awards are given to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing. Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements have earned them the title of Champion in their respective categories. Awards also are given to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing.
The Eclipse Awards are named after the great 18th-century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse, who began racing at age five and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbies.
The 2005 Eclipse Awards will be held on Monday, January 23, 2006 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, Calif. For hotel accommodations and Eclipse Awards dinner reservations, contact Debbie Blair at the NTRA's Lexington office, (800) 792-6872, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.