June 19, 2024

Racing world honors Penny Chenery

Penny Chenery spending time with fans at the Kentucky Derby Museum (Photo courtesy of the Derby Museum via Twitter)

With Sunday’s sad news of the passing of Penny Chenery of Secretariat fame, tributes poured in from industry leaders and racing fans alike.

Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, released the following statement:

Whether as the owner of Secretariat, the brilliant Triple Crown Champion she campaigned nearly a half-century ago, or as a leader and ambassador for the sport she loved, Penny Chenery led an extraordinary life that touched Thoroughbred racing fans and others in a unique and personal way. Thankfully, her legacy will live on for many generations to come.

Breeders’ Cup Ltd. chimed in:

Penny Chenery made an indelible impact on the world of Thoroughbred racing, as an owner, industry leader and a grand ambassador of our sport for nearly half a century. Secretariat’s conquest of the Triple Crown in 1973 captivated an entire nation, as millions of Americans shared with her the great joy and celebration of Secretariat’s 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes, while Penny displayed remarkable sprit, grace and class through it all.

Just as important, we recall her tremendous devotion and contributions to the racing industry, breaking barriers as she became the first female president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association, the first president of the Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation, one of the founders of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and supported charitable causes through the Secretariat Foundation. Most of all, we miss Penny’s great warmth and dignity, as we extend our deepest sympathies to her family and loved ones.


Kevin Flanery, President of Churchill Downs Racetrack, where Secretariat’s time of 1:59 2/5 in the 1973 Kentucky Derby remains the 1 1/4-mile track record:

Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby family join all in Thoroughbred racing in mourning the passing of Penny Chenery. Fans embraced her as the owner of Secretariat, her legendary Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown winner and American sports icon, along with her ongoing role as the protector of his legacy and lifelong supporter of causes that promote the health and welfare of retired Thoroughbreds. We at Churchill Downs also fondly recall her 1972 Kentucky Derby victory with Riva Ridge and other occasions when horses carried her famed blue-and-white blocked silks in races beneath our Twin Spires.

Mrs. Chenery’s wonderful life had a deep and lasting impact on all in Thoroughbred racing and to countless individuals beyond our industry. If anyone ever deserved the title “First Lady of American Racing,” it was Penny Chenery, and our thoughts are with her family, friends and all who loved her.


Chris Kay, President and CEO of the New York Racing Association, whose Belmont Park was the scene of Secretariat’s amazing 31-length romp in the Belmont in a record 2:24:

Penny Chenery was a true pioneer in our sport and, on behalf of the women and men of the New York Racing Association, we mourn her loss and offer our condolences to the Chenery family.

Belmont Park is where champions are crowned and there was no greater champion for women in racing than Penny Chenery. We look forward to honoring her memory and celebrating the life and legacy of a woman so important to the fabric of racing in New York.


The last word belongs to the longtime racing scribe with a Twitter moniker recalling Secretariat’s nearest pursuer in two-thirds of the Triple Crown:

2 Comments on Racing world honors Penny Chenery

  1. Never knew the lovely lady but have watch the movie Seretariat many times, being a horse lover. Her “Determination” was awe inspiring, she was a very special lady and of course loved her “Very special horse”.Rest in peace Sweet Lady and meet up with Big Red again.

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