Sunday September 25, 2011

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!   

 -Val

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Sunday September 25, 2011

  1. I want to attend a Secretariat Festival one of these days–it sounds like everyone had a GREAT time–until the minis showed up, of course. My OTTB has one more white sock than Secretariat and he isn’t as tall, but he is fascinated by minis, mainly because when he is stabled near them, he cannot see them but knows “something” is there. A great entry, Val, and I’d want your autograph, too ;o)

  2. Tricia Babiak

    Thank you for sharing this day with those of use who could not be there. It is heart warming to know that Secretariat still brings people together. It is his legacy that is touching generations of all ages. It was because of his movie that I was at Old Friends this past summer visiting your great horses. Hope to you all again soon!

  3. Gae Seal

    God bless all your days and thank you for giving a home to the old bones of *Noor!

  4. Judy Harris

    Wish I could have joined you. I would love to touch a horse that has the blood of Secretariat coursing through his veins. My husband and I went to Pimlico to see Secretariat win the second leg of the Triple Crown. Then our young son joined us on our trip to Belmont to experience the most exciting, unbelievable, thrilling, still gives me goosebumps, day of our lives watching ‘Big Red’ round the last turn all alone and come thundering down the stretch to win by 31 lengths! He was absolutely gorgeous when we first saw him being led past us on the track to go to the paddock to be saddled for the race. He just knew he was gorgeous. The presence he had was huge! He had almost perfect confirmation. Just to be in his presence was an honor. We wanted to be a part of history when the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years flew across that finish line! I have an old scrapbook of newspaper clippings from the Triple Crown races going back to the 50’s. I stopped collecting when Secretariat came along and accomplished my dream of seeing a Triple Crown winner ‘in horse’. Don’t think another horse will ever be as memorable as Secretariat. Oh! I still have the two winning tickets, one of which paid a whopping ten cents. I never bet on the horses, I just wanted the tickets. WOW! Thanks for my walk down memory lane.

  5. Val,
    I went to the Festival two years ago right before my first visit to OF. It was WONDERFUL! I’m so glad you all went and took Riva Way. I wish dear Tinner could have gone but the atmosphere would not have been good for him, I know. I visited you all on 11/7 so I missed seeing you again, but I had a wonderful time and yes, by special request I did get to meet the red son of Big Red. We fell madly in love with each other and if he’s ever missing you can look for him here in St. Louis… :-). Take care and thanks for writing!

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