Somethingroyal had only one lifetime race. It was not a rollicking success. She didn’t win. She didn’t place. She didn’t show. She didn’t win one dime for her owner Chris Chenery of Meadow Farm in Doswell, Virginia.
One race. No money earned.
And yet, Somethingroyal turned out to be one of the most influential broodmares in the long history of thoroughbred racing.
She was the mother of Secretariat, the legend whose on-track exploits energized racing.
She was the mother of three other stakes winners. Sir Gaylord (who sired Sir Ivor, an Epsom Stakes champion in England), Syrian Sea, and First Family. Sir Gaylord was unbeaten. He was going to run in the Kentucky Derby . . . but was injured the day before in a light workout and missed the race.
Five other sons and daughters were stakes-placed in their racing careers.
Somethingroyal was herself the daughter of the famed sire, Princequillo — a European champion whose connection to Meadow Farm included the siring of Chenery’s Riva Ridge, the 1972 Kentucky Derby champion and a member of the U. S. Racing Hall of Fame.
When she was carrying Secretariat, times were lean at Meadow Farm and they were getting leaner. The farm owner, Chris Chenery, was sick and the place’s finances were troubled.
By the time Secretariat was foaled in 1970, Chris Chenery had passed away and Penny Chenery Tweedy had reluctantly assumed control of the farm.
The Chenery’s were fast friends with race-industry titan, Ogden Phipps. After a long series of negotiations between the Chenery family and Mr. Phipps, a coin flip decided where two yet-to-born foals would call home. The Chenery’s lost the coin flip to Mr. Phipps . . . but it was the luckiest thing that could ever happen to a financially strapped business.
Phipps chose a foal born in 1969, leaving the Chenery’s with Somethingroyal’s foal to be born in 1970. Penny was in Colorado when a telephone call came to her telling of the birth of a robust chestnut colt, the son of scion Bold Ruler and 18-year-old Somethingroyal.
“He’s a grand colt. A real strong chestnut,” came the news. Three years later, he would be a “grand colt” standing in the winner’s circles after the running of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.
Secretariat was about one month old when Penny first saw him. After several months of watching him and her 11 other foals born in 1970, she said, “He didn’t hang around his mother much, but of course she was kind of an old lady by then. He was the boss of the herd. Somethingroyal was the queen of her herd, too.”
Secretariat’s stunning success saved the bacon for Meadow Farm. His earnings kept the Virginia stable solvent the year after Riva Ridge had kept it from tumbling toward bankruptcy.
Penny Chenery could look at the 1973 Wood Memorial as a point in her time as full-time decision-maker when the word “bleak” would have been seeing her situation through rose-colored glasses.
Secretariat had finished fourth in the Wood Memorial. He had been listless and was unresponsive to jockey Ron Turcotte’s urging. It was unknown at the time, but Secretariat had a lesion in his mouth that was infected and his temperature was elevated.
Penny badly needed Kentucky Derby success from Secretariat. She would get it when he won the race in record time.
When Secretariat went on to set more records in winning both the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, Somethingroyal became the oldest mare in racing history to foal a Triple Crown champion. She was 18 when “Big Red” was born in Doswell.
She would live to be a ripe old 31.
When she left, Meadow Farm was on firm financial footing.
Never a force on the track. Never won a dollar.
But she gave the Chenery’s Secretariat . . . and he became the most famous thoroughbred of the modern racing era.