Proceeds to benefit new TRF center.

Proceeds to benefit new TRF center.

Anne M. Eberhardt

TRF to Create Secretariat Center at Kentucky Horse Park

Two of Kentucky's most famous products, bourbon and horse racing, have united to raise money for a new 25-acre center at the Kentucky Horse Park to facilitate adoption of former racehorses. Since 1996, Maker's Mark and Keeneland have produced a limited edition Maker's Mark bottle to benefit a good cause. This year's beneficiary is the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which hopes to put $500,000 over three years toward a new facility at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Keeneland and Maker's Mark have a formidable ally in this project. Penny Chenery, who owned Secretariat, has lent the Triple Crown winner's name to the proposed center, and this year's bottles commemorate the 30th anniversary of Secretariat's Triple Crown win.

"I've been sitting on this secret for six weeks," said Chenery in a press conference Wednesday at Keeneland. "As a confirmed Maker's Mark consumer, I am so excited. The TRF is one of the things closest to my heart."

In the past all of the limited edition bottles have sold out, sometimes within hours of their issue. If history repeats itself and this year's 18,000 bottles sell out, the result will be a $200,000 donation to the Secretariat Center. Maker's Mark plans to honor two other Triple Crown winners in the next two years, with a potential of $500,000 total going toward the TRF's project. The remaining $100,000 is earmarked for Chenery's pursuit of a life-size bronze statue of Secretariat at the Horse Park.

TRF president John Stuart said he hopes to open the Secretariat Center on the same day the Maker's Mark Mile (gr. IIT) is run in 2004. This year the race is scheduled for April 11. Stuart said he anticipates the Secretariat Center would have 20 stalls for adoptable horses, plus a business/welcome center for visitors to the Horse Park.

"This is a place with more horse-loving tourists than any other place in America," Stuart said of the Horse Park. "We hope to get horses from all the rescue groups--they would get the adoption fees--but we need to work together."

Stuart estimated the total cost of the center at $1 million. Now he and his board members will be trying to raise the other half of the building's cost, plus additional funds for annual operation.