Saturday, May 01, 2010

Reel People: Diane Lane is Penny Chenery

The film is Secretariat directed by Randall Wallace (We Were Soldiers) and written by Mike Rich (The Rookie, Finding Forrester, The Nativity Story).

Helen Bates "Penny" Chenery

Penny was born in 1922 in Virginia. Her father, Christopher Chenery, was a influential businessman and WWI veteran who was the president of Chenery Corporation who's company held the controlling interest in the Federal Water Service Company. Despite this success, he has become most known for his ownership of the thoroughbred racing operation called Meadow Farms located in Caroline County, Virginia.

Christopher Chenery and his wife Helen Bates had three children: Hollis, Margaret, and Helen Bates "Penny."

Penny was the youngest of three children. She attended Smith College, earning her Bachelor of Arts and then attended Columbia School of Business were she met her husband John Baynard Tweedy. They had four children of their own: Sally, Christopher, Kate, and John.

In 1968, Penny's father Christopher was admitted long-term in to a hospital in New York and his children were considering selling Meadow Farms, particularly because it was not a profitable enterprise at that time. Penny decided that she would take over operations of the almost 3000 acre farm.

In 1969, Christopher's long time trainer Casey Hayes retired after 25 years, and Penny had to hire a new trainer. After consulting with family friend and business associate Bull Hancock, Penny hired Roger Laurin. Roger Laurin helped the farm by cutting cost, but also led to Penny having the opportunity to hire Roger's father Lucien Laurin, a successful Canadian jockey who came out of retirement in 1971 to work for Penny.

Lucien Laurir, the french Canadian jockey helped Meadows Stable become the number one stable for a period. This began with the two year old Colt Riva Ridge being 1971 and winning numerous stakes races including five of the six US triple crown races between 1972-1973 including the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Penny was involved with breeding at the farm and early in her operations bred two horses (Somethingroyal and Bold Ruler) twice. The first horse bred was named The Bride, the second Secretariat born in 1970.

Secretariat was trained by Lucien Laurin, and primarily jockeyed by Canadian Ron Turcott. Secretariat went on to be the first horse to U.S. Triple Crown setting new race records in many of his races.

The horse was bred by Penny, but was listed Christopher Chenery as the breeder, due to the male nature of the sport.

It wasn't until 1983, that Penny (along with two other women, Martha F Gerry and Allaire du Pont) were the first women admitted into the The Jockey Club, after years of serving as president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

Chenery now lives in Boulder, Colorado near her children.


This Walt Disney Picture focuses on the story of Penny and her unique challenges as a woman in establishing respect as a woman in the breeding and horse racing world.

One can assume from the casting of the film that the film will tell in part the legendary story of how a coin toss led to Penny getting Somethingroyal's colt, Secretariat from Ogden Phipps.

Ogden is played by James Cromwell. Diane Lane is Penny. Scott Glen plays Christopher Chenery. And in a role that seems as big as Lane's performance is John Malkovich's performance of Lucien Laurin.

Will Diane Lane's portrayal of this historic sportswoman have any chance for an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

She is an amazing person!!!! This article is very interesting!!!:)