With the Oct. 8 debut of the movie “Secretariat,” Washington and Lee is proud to note that Christopher Chenery, a member of the Class of 1909, owned The Meadow–the Virginia stable that bred and raced the famous Triple Crown winner.
When he was growing up in Ashland, Va., Chenery would walk several miles to a relative’s horse farm in nearby Doswell so he could learn more about his favorite animals. After earning a B.S. in engineering from W&L, he went on to careers as an engineer and then as a successful and wealthy utilities executive. In 1936, once he had earned the wherewithal to finance his passion for Thoroughbred racehorses, he bought the very farm in Doswell that had belonged to his relative and established The Meadow. There he bred many fine and famous horses, which together won more than $8.5 million on the track between 1939 and 1972.
By the late 1960s, Chenery was ill and unable to continue at the helm of The Meadow, so his daughter, Penny Chenery (then known as Penny Tweedy), took his place. The movie tells her compelling story, that of a woman who had been filling the roles of housewife, mother and volunteer before she transformed herself into an expert on horseracing and saved the family business. While she had many able human accomplices in this daunting task, two racehorses gave her considerable help: Riva Ridge, who won two legs of the Triple Crown in 1972, and Secretariat, who won all three of the races in 1973.
In the famous photo above (courtesy of Secretariat.com), he is winning the Belmont Stakes by an astounding 31 lengths and setting a world record that still stands. Secretariat spent 16 years at stud in Kentucky, and died 21 years ago this week.
The Roanoke Times ran a story about Chenery, Secretariat and the W&L connection in the Oct. 7 edition. Christopher Chenery’s granddaughter, Kate Chenery Tweedy, has co-authored with Leeanne Meadows Ladin a new book about the family and the farm, “Secretariat’s Meadow.” And Julie Campbell, associate director of communications and public affairs at W&L, recently published “The Horse in Virginia: An Illustrated History.” All three of the authors are quoted in the Roanoke Times story.
Here on campus, the trophy case in Doremus Gym contains The Meadow silks (the shirt worn by the jockey), a color image of Secretariat and other Chenery and Meadow souvenirs.
Oh, and one more thing—when you watch the movie, or videos of Secretariat’s actual races, note the colors of his jockey’s silks. They are blue and white, in honor of Chenery’s alma mater.