ASHLAND, Va. -- A replica of American horse racing icon Secretariat is making its way to Ashland, Virginia, as part of a cross-country tour celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Triple Crown.
The family that raised and raced him is welcoming his monument with open arms.
"This is his hometown, he was born just up the road at Doswell, our farm," said Kate Tweedy, the daughter of Penny Chenery, who managed Secretariat's career. "My whole family grew up here. This is really sort of a home base for Secretariat."
A 3,500-pound replica of Secretariat and jockey Ron Turcotte will make a pit stop in his place of birth in April. The statue is 21 feet long and 11.5 feet tall, the largest monument of Secretariat in existence, and the first one set to come to Virginia.
On April 1, the work will be unveiled in front of Ashland's Town Hall.
Plans for installing a permanent Secretariat in Ashland are gaining support, led by the Secretariat for Virginia group that Tweedy is part of.
"Bringing Secretariat here we know will bring more tourist attraction and will broaden the scope of why people come," said Ashland Mayor Steve Trivett.
The permanent location of the Secretariat statue would be placed on Randolph-Macon College's campus, right beside the CSX train tracks in the heart of Ashland.
"If you've got cars, people, and trains, why not a horse? Especially a champion horse?" Trivett said.
However, in order to create a permanent spot for Secretariat, Secretariat for Virginia will need to raise more than $550,000 in funds for installation and other fees.
"I'm making a pretty firm assumption that they'll meet their budget and it'll be here, but it'll be because of the Secretariat for Virginia group, and their fundraising, and also because of horse race lovers and horse lovers all over the country," Trivett said.
The family's connection with the college makes the plot of land picked out for the statue the perfect spot, said President Robert Lindgren.
"We have a very long connection with the Chenery family, going all the way back to Chris Chenery, who owned Secretariat and Meadow Farm, he was a graduate in the early 1900s and his two brothers, successive generations, and then we got to meet Penny Chenery when we awarded her an honorary degree back in 2011 just after the movie, Secretariat, came out," Lindgren said. "And I developed so much respect for her interest in tradition and the importance of horse racing and the very important role that Secretariat has played in that long history.”
Tweedy said the permanent placement will allow the story of an equestrian sports hero to come full circle.
“Ashland is known as the center of the universe, that’s its own monicker for itself. But it’s also the center of the Secretariat story, so you know, what could be better than to have a great big statue of Secretariat in the center, of the center of the universe," Tweedy said.
Donations to create a permanent statue of Secretariat are being collected by the Ashland Museum. More information on the unveiling and how to donate can be found here.
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