I'd like to weigh in on the movie Secretariat. Everyone else has.
Most reviews have been positive. Racing should be grateful for this movie by Disney. It has been fabulous exposure for the game, and the game can use it. I went to Secretariat determined to like it. Common sense - and numerous reviews - told me that there would be many liberties taken with the true nature of the subject. Still, this would have been no time to look this gift horse in the mouth.
I am a Penny Chenery fan. She had much to do with the pizzazz and the longevity of the legend of Secretariat. Penny is a woman with a direct, opinionated, attractive way about her… never one to turn down a party, or a chance to sing and dance. Her personality and class have played well to the press and she has been a sought-after and unselfish servant of racing for almost 40 years.
I have numerous reasons for a large warm spot in my heart for this lady. Many years back, when I was president of the Georgia Thoroughbred Association, I invited her to come to Atlanta for a dinner speech. It was "small potatoes" for her, but she came. My wife Anne and I have been her friends ever since. She served for awhile as one of the three judges for the Dogwood Dominion Award. She even named a horse for us. ("Cottonanne" did not turn out to be as good as Secretariat!) Then, I was once the recipient of the Galbreath Award for entrepreneurship, probably on the strength of Penny's nomination. And an hour or two after Dogwood won its first major victory with Dominion in the Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga, Anne and I were celebrating at a cocktail party at Penny's house.
Diane Lane did a great job as Penny, charming while resolute, looked the part, and even nailed some of her inflections.
Secretariat, the horse, was arguably the greatest ever to race. I saw him several times and I covered his crucial victory in the 1973 Kentucky Derby for a chain of Southern newspapers. I particularly remember his stunning appearance in the post parade. I remember too the incredible tension and pressure that attended the task assigned him. The horse looked capable of anything - certainly one of the greatest specimens I've ever seen. As a kid, I looked at Man o' War three different times, and I saw Kelso race. They were something special, but so was that big red horse.
A bum rap that Secretariat gets occasionally from the uninitiated is that he was a failure as a sire. He sired many a good horse. He certainly did not reproduce himself. How could he have? Dogwood bought some of the early ones… but not the right ones.
It is fascinating to me that a large, four-legged animal - through its class, character, determination and ability - can change and fashion the lives of the people that control them. I won't attempt to name the horses, nor their connections whose lives were changed, nor certainly what I perceive to be the details of those changes. But it is true across the board with high profile horses.
It is true of my life. Had not a fleet filly named Mrs. Cornwallis come my way in 1971, and, with her stardom, inadvertently provide a vehicle for popularizing the group ownership concept of owning a racehorse, my life would have been different. Fine, I am sure, but certainly it would have followed a more orthodox path.
I have certainly loved the one she helped fashion.
Three cheers for Secretariat. And, while we're at it… three cheers for Mrs. Cornwallis.
This is Cot Campbell and this is my view.