I love the idea of getting those of us with Secretariat’s offspring together somehow. I so enjoy hearing from others and sharing stories of our “kidz”.
In 1973 at the age of 16 I was an exercise jockey for my uncle and we got to meet Big Red several times at Aqueduct and Belmont. We would drive from upstate NY (Middletown) to use the tracks whenever possible. I was in love with Big Red and would run over to his stall whenever I could. Eddy was such an amazing individual. He really had a gift of communication with the animals – which he once said I did as well, but at the time I had no idea what he meant. I thought everyone did. Knowing what I know now I wish I could have spent more time with him. I did get to meet Penny briefly one time, Eddy had told her about me, my visits and how Big Red took a liking to me and that I “got along nicely” with all the horses. I was so in awe of Penny and thought if I couldn’t grow up to be the first woman to win the Triple Crown, then I would want to be just like Penny. I was there when Big Red won the Belmont, I couldn’t talk for the rest of the night as I had screamed my heart out during the race. I said goodbye to him there and vowed I’d go see him someday but never did. I had posters on my walls of him at college when all the other girls had rock stars and movie stars on theirs. I moved to Denver in 1980 and jumped into corporate America and quickly climbed up the ladder. I cried when I heard Secretariat was put down. In 1993 as fate would have it, I was on a plane and the passenger before me left his Sports Illustrated in my seat pocket. With tears streaming down my face, I read a story about a man who rescued a son of Secretariat off the track. I was determined to find this man and thank him. Long before the internet, I tracked him down via telephone and he was amazed that someone would take the time to thank him – no one ever had. Hilmer Leddon and I became friends. Hilmer in FL and me in CO and together we started a thoroughbred rescue operation where he would hear of horses doomed for the meat truck and I would find them homes here in Colorado. I went to FL and finally got to meet the son of my favorite horse Big Red. “Secretariat Dancer” reminded me so much of his father. He had the same look in his eye, the same gentle playfulness. AT 37 I was like a teenager & in love all over again. To make a very long story short, Hilmer asked me if I would like to own Secretariat’s son. It was a dream come true for me. Almost 20 years to the day I said goodbye to his father, I would take Secretariat Dancer “Dancer” home to Colorado with me. I also brought with me a mare that had been bred to another son of Secretariat and was carrying a foal. However, the mare did not acclimate well to the altitude here and to save her pregnancy, we shipped her back to FL where she later delivered a Secretariat Granddaughter we named “Colorado Star”. She is still in Fl to my knowledge.
Another Bold Ruler grandson & Northern Dancer offspring came out to live with us and his name was Valentine Dancer and we called him “Bud”. Bud and Dancer lived on a ranch we managed and Dancer became a Colorado trail horse loving every adventure we went on. We did back country trails in the Rockies and West to Utah in the desert where Dancer would run flat out. His tendons never bothered him. Bud had horrible feet and leg issues so he was not able to go with us, but it was as if Dancer would tell him all the stories of the day when we got back. The two of them were inseparable. I would bring them to the area schools and talk of their rescue off the track. I would go to the first graders and tell Dancer and Bud stories and they would draw the pictures and from week to week they would make up stories about Dancer and Bud. The horses loved the little ones and were as gentle as kittens with them.
Dancer foundered like his daddy and died on September 24, 2001 his pasture mate “Bud” was so distraught he would lie on Dancers grave and refused to eat. On October 20, 2001 Bud was laid to rest next to Dancer. The vet said had he not witnessed it he would never have believed a horse could die of a broken heart. Needless to say, within a month of the World Trade Center terrorist attack that shook the world, my world was totally crushed when my twin towers fell. They are buried on what is now known as the Iron Rose Ranch, by the river and in the meadow they loved to run in.
The entire community mourned the death of my two horses, as they had celebrity status in our town. Children wrote letters and planted flowers on their grave sites. Their fans from around the world sent cards and expressed their sadness. Two trees were planted that are now towering Spruce trees. Their graves are marked with simple markers…I visit there every fall and ride my horse there whenever I can.
I am sure there are other stories out there like mine. I would love to share the passion and the love we all have for our Secretariat lineage offspring.
I have often thought to call or stop by and say hello to Penny in Boulder (I’m 3 hours West of Denver/Boulder in the Aspen area) or to meet Kate if I could. I remember when I met Penny she was so proud of her daughters and encouraged me to go to college and follow my dreams. Little did she know how influential she was on a 16 year old horse crazy young girl. Now with the movie out she is in the limelight again and deservingly so. Please wish her well for me and thank her. If the universe is to have it, we will meet again – after all it brought us together the first time and my dream did come true.
Someday I may be so lucky to have another one of Secretariats offspring come live with me, until then I hold fast to the memories of Big Red and his son and am grateful for the time I had with them.
All the Best,