Secretariat Stars Visit Churchill Downs

Secretariat Stars Visit Churchill Downs
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Secretariat press conference panel answers questions at the Kentucky Derby Museum.

by Kelsey Riley

The talents of the upcoming film Secretariat were the star attractions of the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs April 29.

Secretariat, a Disney production that is scheduled to be released Oct. 8, chronicles the career of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat. The prominent theme of the film is the journey of Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, in taking over her father’s stable and finding success in a male-dominated business.   

A panel of four prominent personalities addressed the media and answered questions during the Thursday morning press conference. The panel consisted of actress Diane Lane, who portrays Chenery; Randall Wallace, the director of Secretariat; Mark Ciardi, the film’s producer, and Penny Chenery herself.

The guests began by discussing why it is important to put Secretariat’s story on the big screen.

“I think it’s truly an American success story, what Penny went through in a man’s world. We’re just so happy to have the chance to do it,” said Ciardi.

Chenery noted that it took some time to put the film in place.

“People have talked to me about making a film about Secretariat for 30 years,” said Chenery. “It took a long time to find the right people.

“It’s weird seeing yourself in a movie, but I have a beautiful person playing my role,” Chenery added. “The scriptwriter said, ‘Penny, remember, this is not a documentary, it’s a Disney movie.’ I’ve adjusted to the revised version of my life – but you’re going to love it.”

The filmmakers agreed that they enjoyed their time shooting the film in Kentucky, and they are looking forward to Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Lane noted that she does not have a favorite for the race, but that she would pick number five. Lane’s last race bet was at age five, which she won by picking number five. Breaking from this post May 1 will be longshot Line of David.

Wallace said Secretariat has been well received by test audiences of various ages. 

“The number one descriptor parents gave the movie was ‘inspiring,’” said Wallace. “This motivates people to say to their children, ‘go be like Penny Chenery.’”

For Chenery, the making of the film has been one more stop along the journey of a lifetime with a horse she campaigned 37 years ago.

“We said, ‘let’s ask Penny to be in the shot in the stands,’” said Wallace. “Right before we started rolling, I walked over and said to Penny, ‘did you ever think you’d get to be an actress in your own movie?’ And Penny said, ‘this horse could take me anywhere.’”   

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