Happy birthday, Big Red!
As my mom and I pulled up to The Meadow on Saturday, a wisp of a childhood memory appeared in my mind: our family crammed in a faded old Fiat, driving by a seemingly infinite horse farm near Doswell, Virginia. Rolling green hills and unending white fences, spanning both sides of Route 30. “That’s where Secretariat was born!” one of my folks said.
Today, Secretariat’s birthplace is home to the Virginia State Fair at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County. This past weekend, 1,200 people gathered to celebrate the birthday (March 30, 1970) of one of America’s most famous racehorses, the Triple Crown victor of 1973. (Here’s a video of jockey Ron Turcotte’s and Secretariat’s stunning win at Belmont Park, by twenty-five lengths.)
We had a great time out at The Meadow, and I learned a lot, including that The Meadow was also home to Riva Ridge, who won the Kentucky Derby and The Belmont in 1972.
I knew that Secretariat had passed away some time ago, but did not know that he was euthanized on October 4, 1989 due to a painful hoof condition, laminitis. [Here’s a touching story and video footage from shortly before he died. What a magnificent horse.]
On Saturday, I also learned that the reason Secretariat was able to run the way he did was because of his large heart and that such a heart is passed on in Thoroughbreds through the mother. The publisher of The X Factor: Solving the Mystery of Secretariat’s Heart by Marianna Haun, tried to explain to me why there will never be another horse like him. It’s all about genetics, basically. To really understand though, I plan on reading the book!
My friends from the amazing Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at James River attended the party with Secretariat descendant, Covert Action. Born in 1995, Covert Action started twenty-six times with three wins and total earnings of $22,569. He’s lived at TRF since 2007 and is quite a handsome ambassador for OTTBs. He’s a grandson of Secretariat by Silver Deputy, out of Office Affair, a mare by Secretariat.
The elegant, beautiful horses and hounds of the Caroline Hunt celebrated the day, too!
Little did I realize that some of these sweet dogs have read this!
One of them, obviously inspired by such feline poetry, composed his own ditty:
You smell of horses unknown to me
cheddar-apple biscuits, too!
I do detect a coonhound breed,
I think I’ll pee on you!
Thankfully, the always reliable, helpful, and affordable Champion Saddlery had a booth at The Meadow with lots of nice replacement-shirts to choose from.
I was sorry to miss one of my favorite musician-songwriters, Steve Bassett, perform his original song, “When Big Red Ran,” which he performed twice at the crowd’s request!
Mom and I enjoyed the day so much. Spending time together, seeing how the countryside has changed, reminiscing, and learning about one of the greatest horses of all time, Secretariat.