Fans of Secretariat who gathered this weekend to mark the Triple Crown winner’s 49th birthday were treated to plans to raise the stature of the legendary racehorse’s birthplace in Caroline County.
Saturday’s celebration included the announcement of a new Secretariat Heritage Center that will elevate the current tour program and restore the historic stables and barns at Meadow Event Park to a national heritage tourism destination and educational center.
Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Secretariat owner Penny Chenery, is the leading the new 501©3 organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Triple Crown winner. She said the heritage destination and education center will help preserve Secretariat’s place in history with future generations.
In 1973, Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, capturing the imagination of racing fans worldwide sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. He won the last race by a whopping 31 lengths in what is still considered one of the most impressive clutch performances in sports history.
The 2010 biographical film “Secretariat” tells the inspiring story of Chenery, a housewife and mother who rose to the rare role as female leader in the horse-racing industry.
“Since the movie and YouTube videos of the historic race, fans have grown over the years,” said Tweedy. “So much potential and the stories still resonate and it needs to be told better.”
Penny Chenery passed away in 2017 at age 95 and left behind her lifetime horse racing memorabilia, artifacts and racing trophies. Her family named The Meadow as the repository.
“We are very excited to bring Secretariat’s and my mother’s inspiring stories to a wider audience,” said Tweedy.
Initial plans for the center focus on restoring the original barns to the way they looked in 1950. The buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register include the yearling barns, the farm manager’s office and tack room, the stallion barn, Secretariat’s foaling shed, training barn and a horse cemetery.
The historic grounds are located at The Meadow Event Park, owned by Virginia Farm Bureau.
“A Hoofprints of History Trail will link all the key points of interest on the property,” said Secretariat Tourism Manager Leeanne Ladin. “A long-desired life-sized statue of Secretariat is also in the works. The existing Meadow Hall Mansion, which houses galleries and exhibits of important Secretariat memorabilia, will be enhanced to serve as a museum and conference center.”
The Secretariat Heritage Center plans to conduct a national campaign to raise $2.5 million for the project. The goal is to start the barn restorations in next year which will be Secretariat’s 50th birthday and completed by 2023 to mark the 50th anniversary of his Triple Crown win.
Tweedy moved to Ashland this year to work closer on the project, which she sees as a way to honor the both legendary racehorse and her mother.
“Secretariat has an inspiring story—how he wanted to show the world how fast and how far he could run, lapping the competition,” Tweedy said. “And then there is mom’s story. Her story inspires women. She was a strong woman in a male-dominated environment. She stood up for what she believed and had great success.”
To donate or learn more secretariatheritagecenter.org.