Sometimes, you have to cram a whole lot of fun into one too-short weekend. This weekend was one of those, as I spent yesterday at the Secretariat Festival in Paris, Kentucky. And today, of course, was my usual Sunday at the farm. The weather cooperated, people were fun and the horses all feel terrific. It was just about perfect, really!
Old Friends took our grandson of Secretariat, Riva Way, to the Secretariat Festival yesterday and a couple of us went along as escorts. Not that Riva really needed us. He got off the van, walked to his spot and after about 20 minutes of intently checking everything out, he settled in and happily greeted everyone.
I’m not sure what I expected, having never been to this particular event, but I can tell you it was packed and it had a really cheerful, happy vibe. Everyone was smiling, I think because everyone there was kind of following a dream. Even though Secretariat has been gone for a long time, everyone I talked with was thrilled to be so close to the horse they idolized. At one point I bet there were 300 people in line for Penny Chenery’s autograph. (Ms. Chenery owned Secretariat and his stablemate Riva Ridge.) And people came from everywhere—California, Washington, South Dakota, Alabama, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Canada are just some that I remember.
As you can probably imagine, Riva Way is a bit of a celebrity at an event honoring Secretariat. People lined up for his photo, and when he was paraded along the grandstand he loved stopping every few feet to allow for camera time. He posed like a runway model, over and over again. Or at least he did until he got a load of the miniature pony decked out as Secretariat—silks, saddle and blanket of roses. Riva wasn’t at all sure what to make of that. In fact, he wasn’t sure about any of the minis; the fancy carts some of them were pulling might as well have been alien invaders to him. He was very happy to get far away from them.
There were a number of different breed of horses (in addition to Riva’s dreaded minis), horse demonstrations, a memorabilia auction and autographs from jockeys, Secretariat’s exercise rider, Ms. Chenery and her daughter Kate. Old Friends tour guide Nick, his wife Jackie and Old Friend’s horse guy Mundo came along for the day. We talked with people about Old Friends and answered a million questions, it seemed. One of the things that really struck me was the age range of the Secretariat fans. We met people old enough to have seen him race, others who only saw the recent Disney movie, adults, kids, it was amazing. And how many people told me yesterday they never touched a horse until that very minute? Oh, and Riva is missing a few strands of hair, given to fans as a keepsake. I’ll happily volunteer for this event again next year.
Many of the people we talked with yesterday showed up at Old Friends for one of today’s tours. In fact, there were a lot of Secretariat Festival 2011 t-shirts on display today. In addition, Charlie Davis, Secretariat’s exercise rider visited Old Friends this morning. The whole festival atmosphere kind of carried over to the farm, making for an especially fun day. Roberta, Bea, and I were even asked for autographs–talk about basking in reflected glory! That was just too funny…
The horses must have picked up on the mood too, because there was plenty of activity to see. Clever cantered over for carrots, as did Prized and Gulch. The big shocker was Ogygian, who cantered over not once, but twice. He is so beautiful when he runs, and he does it rarely enough that it’s a treat to see. We also saw Afternoon Deelites, Kiri and Falcon Scott run, and I mean RUN over to get their dinners.
Speaking of Scotty, he and Stormy Passage are now geldings. It will allow them to eventually have paddock mates. Nevertheless, I am glad I wasn’t there on gelding day. Last year I was “involved” in Dupars’ little surgery, and I firmly believe that horse never forgave me. Thus, I plan to be far away when Gasconade’s day comes here in the near future: I like him, he likes me, and I’d like to keep it that way!
We had a couple of kids on one of the tours today. The little girl, Kennedy, was maybe 4 and she liked the horses ok. But she really liked Marley and followed the dog everywhere. After a couple of dashes by mom and dad to round her up, we got smart and just called Marley. As the dog wandered back toward us Kennedy followed right alongside, sometimes with her arm draped across Marley’s back. Eventually, the two of them–little blonde girl with a bow in her hair, and boxer dog–had pretty much covered the front yard, back yard, side yard and cemetery. They were a perfect pair, and Marley was an excellent baby sitter. I think Kennedy will remember her visit to Old Friends, and probably not because of the horses. She’ll remember her new friend Marley.
It really was an exceptional weekend. I sincerely hope that events like the Secretariat Festival bring new fans to racing, and reinvigorate the fun for people who maybe forgot. I know that meeting so many fans this weekend made me appreciate even more the time I get to spend with the horses. We are open for tours daily and you can make a reservation by calling our office at 502-863-1775. We hope you can visit us soon. In the meantime, thank you for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!