Over time, Helen "Penny" Chenery has become known for much more than being the owner of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat. She went on to become an ambassador for Thoroughbred racing, and as such received the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in the sport.
Chenery, who has the unofficial title of "First Lady of Racing," took over the Meadow Farm operation for her ailing father, Christopher. She embodied grace and elegance in the spotlight, and is remembered holding her arms high in triumph after Secretariat's 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
In the 32 years since Secretariat's Triple Crown, Chenery has been widely recognized as racing's goodwill ambassador throughout the world. She also became extremely active in Thoroughbred causes and foundations.
Chenery served as president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association from 1976-1984. She was also president of the Grayson Foundation for equine research in 1985-86, and was elected to membership in The Jockey Club in 1983.
Chenery has been a leading advocate for the health and welfare of retired Thoroughbreds, and was a driving force in the formation of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation 25 years ago. She is a principal in secretariat.com, which serves as the horse's official Web site and chronicles the career of the racing legend.
A statue of Secretariat was unveiled at the Kentucky Horse Park in July 2004 as part of a two-day celebration designed to pay tribute to the legacy of the horse.
Chenery, who suffered a heart attack in 2004 but recuperated and has since moved to Boulder, Colo., received the Eclipse Award of Merit almost 33 years to the day after she accepted the 1972 Horse of the Year trophy on behalf of Secretariat for his 2-year-old season, and 32 years after she accepted the 1973 Horse of the Year trophy following Big Red's 3-year-old campaign.