Meet the Virginia man who rode not one -- but two legends: 'It's like winning the lottery'

'He showed everybody... This horse actually became America’s horse'
Posted at 5:41 PM, Jul 05, 2024

MIDDLESEX COUNTY, Va. -- Riding shotgun with Wayne Mount you inevitably wind the clock back decades.

“Just they look good and sound good. It makes you think back to when you were a kid,” Mount said. “Yes, sir. Anything over 25 years old is antique.”

The man from Middlesex County prefers vintage transportation. The older the better.

Wayne Mount from Middlesex County
Wayne Mount

The owner of King of Dice sells custom car parts to like-minded collectors. But what really revs Mount's engine is a different sort of horsepower under the hood.

“You can connect with them and they can connect with you like you would not believe,” Mount said. “Good-looking animals. The Power. The power of the animals.”

When the New Jersey native was just ten, Mount's father introduced him to horse racing.

The decision altered Mount's track in life.

“He just liked horses. He always wanted them,” Mount recalled.

Wayne Mount from Middlesex County
Wayne Mount (on right)

In 1963 Mount accepted a role as an exercise rider at the Meadow Horse Farm in Doswell.

“So you knew about it. You knew it was some great horses,” Mount said.

The 19-year-old could not rein in his excitement working at a place with such a prestigious pedigree.

“It was something else,” Mount said. ”They took me in and I became one of them. It was amazing.”

During his twelve years at the farm Mount was tasked with training the legendary Riva Ridge.

“I couldn’t ask for better,” Mount said.

WATCH: How Secretariat changed the life of this Virginia woman

How Secretariat changed the life of this Virginia woman

The thoroughbred won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes in 1972.

“It just so happens I was at the right place at the right time with Riva,” Mount said. “I just always liked him.”

But Mount's brush with galloping greatness took an even bigger leap.

“It was amazing when we first started straddling him,” Mount said.

Wayne Mount from Middlesex County
Wayne Mount with his daughter

One morning a foal at Meadow Farm needed exercising. An animal who will rewrite the history of sports.

”Nice horse. You have no idea,” Mount said. “He just took his time and when he decided to go, he went. It didn’t matter. He was going.”

Mount was chosen to ride an unknown horse named Secretariat.

“He is a freak. He is a freak horse. He has got to be to do what he done,” Mount said.

In the spring of 1973, the four-legged athlete set the bar so high his Triple Crown feat has been standing tall for 51 years.

“He was an amazing horse. He really was,” Mount said.

In one five week span Secretariat shattered records at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Accomplishments unmatched before or since.

“Once the Derby came he said ‘Bye. Let’s go,” Mount said. “This horse actually became America’s horse. He was the one. Everyone loved him.”

Mount says few people predicted Secretariat’s dominance.

“I knew he was going to be good. I felt that he would be good. But I didn’t know how good,” Mount said.

How rare was the opportunity to ride the horse nicknamed Big Red? It is estimated more people walked on the surface of the moon.

“Well, let me tell you what. He showed everybody. He showed everybody,” Mount said. “I could not believe it. I could not believe it.”

Elizabeth Parrish
Elizabeth Parrish

Elizabeth Parrish says her dad’s Secretariat story ranks high in family lore.

“I mean, I get chills because my dad got to got the opportunity to ride the greatest racehorse,” Parrish said. “You’re not going to find a lot of people that have had that connection with such a great horse.”

Granddaughters Evaline and Allie marvel knowing their proud papa once rode on the back of perfection.

“It is great bragging rights being around my horsey friends. It is really cool,” Evaline said.

Poster image (47).jpg

“That is insane that he was a little bit older than me to do something like that was crazy,” Allie said.

This spring Mount drove 65 miles from his farm in Saluda to Ashland to witness history: the dedication of a statue to Secretariat in bronze.

For this 80-year-old it is a welcomed trot down Memory Lane more than a half-century after riding one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century.

These days though this retired horseman turns to another form of transportation with a little giddy up.

“They’re just super cool,” Mount said. ”It’s fun to drive. It is definitely fun to drive.”

Wayne Mount from Middlesex County
Wayne Mount

But Mount, the man behind the steering wheel will always prefer sitting in the saddle of another American classic.

“I was there. Yeah. That is amazing,” Mount said. “Just lucky being in the right place at the right time. What else can I say? It’s like winning the lottery.”

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