Friends and colleagues on Sunday paid tribute to Helen “Penny” Chenery, the owner and breeder of Secretariat, who died Saturday at her home in Boulder. She was 95.
“This was one amazing woman,” said Chenery’s longtime friend and business manager Leonard Lusky. “The racing world and all her friends and anyone who came across her path will miss her dearly. She was truly a pioneer and very much a part of the fabric of the thoroughbred industry.”
Lusky said it’s sad when a pillar in the horse racing community, like Chenery, dies.
“All we can do is celebrate her memory and certainly try to perpetuate the legacy that she began with her great horse,” he said. Lusky is president of Secretariat.com, the official website for Secretariat.
Chenery’s family also offered sentiments in a Secretariat.com news release regarding the death of the famed woman.
“We have always been overwhelmed and amazed by the love and support Mom received from her many fans,” Chenery’s son John Tweedy in a release. “We look forward to a time soon when we can celebrate her life in a way that honors that legacy.”
Kate Tweedy, Chenery’s daughter, said her mother’s strength, intelligence and spirit will continue to inspire people.
“We are deeply proud of our mother, her accomplishments, and her courage,” she said in the release.
Ron Turcotte, who was Secretariat’s and Riva Ridge’s jockey, also reflected on his time spent with Chenery.
"I am so grateful that Penny entrusted me to ride her champions. It was such a wonderful time we shared during the Riva Ridge and Secretariat years,” he said in a statement Sunday. Turcotte, now 76, has been paralyzed since a racing spill at Belmont Park in 1978.
Churchill Downs, where Secretariat began his Triple Crown campaign with the victory in the 1973 Kentucky Derby, also issued a statement on the passing of 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,” the statement said in part.
Keeneland, a racetrack in Lexington, also issued a statement.
“Mrs. Chenery exemplified the very best of our sport, serving as one of its most beloved and passionate ambassadors. She was a generous owner, tirelessly sharing the legacy of her great Triple Crown winner, Secretariat, with generations of fans that extended far beyond racing,” said Bill Thomason, Keeneland president and CEO.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, a coalition of more than 100 horse racing interests and thousands of individual stakeholders, also issued a statement on Chenery’s death.
"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,” said Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the NTRA.
Larry Collmus, a track announcer for The New York Race Association, tweeted about the time time he met Chenery.
Old Friends, a thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown, also expressed sadness at Chenery’s death. Tinners Way, son of Secretariat, was a resident of the farm until his death in July. Academy Award, another son of Secretariat's, was also a resident of the farm.
Claiborne Farm in Paris, where Secretariat is buried, also issued a statement.
Chenery’s death also resonated with common fans. Catie Bell, who identifies as a video blogger, tweeted that her idol had died.
Peter Berry said Chenery’s death marked the end of an era.
Derek Crudele was also saddened by Chenery’s death.
Donnie Dunn shared his thoughts over Facebook, calling Chenery a legend.
Marlene Groves said Chenery was a brilliant example of a strong and smart woman.
As of Sunday evening, funeral arrangements were pending.