Fifty years ago this May, Secretariat — arguably the greatest horse of all time — kicked off his dominating sweep of the Triple Crown. “Big Red”, who was bred and raised in Doswell, Virginia at the Meadow Farm, rolled through the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1973 — in record setting times that still stand today.
To celebrate that historic and memorable feat, and his significance to Virginia, a life size statue was commissioned to be placed at one site in Virginia so his greatness can be appreciated for generations to come. The statue had been based in Ashland — just minutes from his birthplace — since late March. A fundraising campaign is currently in progress to make that site his permanent home, but only after a nationwide tour is conducted this spring and summer at select racetracks around the country so fans at races like the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont can enjoy the statue up close and personal during the 50th anniversary celebration.
On Thursday (April 27), Secretariat departed Ashland and is in the process of being transported to Churchill Downs for the May 6 Kentucky Derby. From there, he will blaze a trail to Pimlico so Preakness fans can savor sculptor Jocelyn Russell’s creation. But guess where he is stopping between Churchill Downs and Pimlico? Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock!
That’s right — Secretariat will be available to fans that live in the Shenandoah Valley and other nearby cities on Saturday May 13 from 12-5 PM at the Shenandoah Downs harness track. Fans can experience “Big Red” up close and take pictures — and enjoy an afternoon of pari-mutuel harness racing! Jocelyn will be on hand as well to talk about the incredible process of sculpting this masterpiece.
Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Secretariat’s owner, relocated to Ashland recently to help carry on “Big Red’s” legacy. Here is how she described people’s reactions to seeing the statue in Ashland.
“Watching the visitors, I have been trying to articulate why people respond so emotionally to the statue and to the horse himself. As to the statue, it is obvious: it is an astonishing work of art. As to Secretariat, he was an equally astonishing athlete. He still awes us. But he also makes us feel good. In the 1970s, people said he restored their faith in humanity. How did he do that?
I think he inspired us because as humans, we are drawn to beauty, to stories or myths and to nature, especially to animals. Secretariat’s feats have become mythic. The way he ran was joyful. And he allowed us to experience pure animal power at its finest.
This is why I am working so hard to put this statue in Ashland. Mom spent the last 40 plus years of her life telling Secretariat’s story and connecting with the people who loved him. She recognized that’s what Secretariat did—by running so fast, by being so beautiful, by demonstrating so much heart—brought comfort and joy to people. She wanted to spread that feeling.”
Admission to Shenandoah Downs is free. The track is located at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds in Woodstock, Virginia, halfway between Harrisonburg and Winchester off I-81 at Exit 283. For more information, visit shenandoahdowns.com and secretariatforvirginia.com.