Note: This article has been corrected to note Secretariat was born in Caroline County.
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear (sort of) when the memory man joined the chorus and wrote up-to-date stuff in notes form. You know ... briefly told:
If you happen to have a spare $600,000 lying around, with no apparent destination in mind … well, do we have a charity (of sorts) for you!! … Last month friends of Secretariat (the horse) burst from the starting gate on a mission to raise the amount above for … a really big bronze statue of Big Red, generally considered the greatest Thoroughbred of all time … If the money is forthcoming – and there is little to no reason to think it won’t be – the huge likeness complete with Ron Turcotte up will stand on a plot of land at Randolph-Macon College next to the CSX train tracks across from the visitors’ center in Ashland.
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It will be 50 years this May that Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby en route to claiming the Triple Crown in record fashion. He was foaled and raised in Caroline County at Doswell, now site of the State Fair … There are statues in Kentucky, where Secretariat retired to stud and died in 1989, New York and Canada – in the hometown of Turcotte (the jockey) -- but to date none in Virginia. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of the late Penny Tweedy, who owned Secretariat, is leading the charge. At a kickoff gathering at R-MC, that included Jocelyn Russell, who spends an inordinate amount of time painstakingly creating these monuments to greatness, Kate Tweedy said plans call for the statue to be unveiled here April 1 then go by trailer for appearances at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes plus a likely showing at Saratoga before returning for the Virginia Derby (Sept. 9 at Colonial) … and, if all goes well, a permanent stand among the Yellow Jackets at R-MC.
And if they don’t reach their rather lofty but hardly insurmountable goal? Russell said she wanted the final resting place in Ashland … but it could wind up most anywhere. “We’ve had inquiries,” she said … By the way, what is your cut of the 600 grand? Russell began to rattle off all the costs involved but, in the end, agreed “it’s more than $100,000.”
Also hard to understand is the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame’s reluctance to enshrine Secretariat … OK, so “it’s a HORSE, for crying out loud,” as a member of one of the state HoF selection committees told us years ago. That didn’t seem to bother Kentucky, which put Secretariat into its state Hall in 2007 … “Around here horses are very important … and what sports figure is bigger than Secretariat? Muhammad Ali and a few others perhaps … so it wasn’t a big deal,” said Karl Schmidt, former president of the Kentucky HoF, from Louisville.
Among the guests last week in Ashland was Jill Byrne, who left Colonial Downs where she ramrodded the New Kent County track’s comeback from oblivion to become a major player in paramutuel racing. She’s back … as vice-president in charge of strategic planning with the Virginia Equine Alliance … Byrne rejected new CD owner Churchill Downs, Inc.'s, offer to remain, saying at the time she wanted to spend more time with her family in Charlottesville.
In case you missed it … The Chicago Bears completed their purchase of Arlington Park … which means Churchill Downs, Inc., became $197.2 million richer in a deal that could lead to da Bears leaving old Soldier Field to build their own facility at the 326-acre former site of Thoroughbred racing’s biggie, the Arlington Million … which will move to Colonial Downs this summer – Aug. 12, to be exact. The card will include another Grade I race, the Beverly D, as well as the GIII Secretariat Stakes. “The greatest day in Virginia racing history … certainly the most prestigious,” said Darrell Wood, Virginia Equine Alliance’s man for all seasons.
With the NHL trade deadline (March 3) rapidly approaching, Richmond’s Zac Jones remained down on the New York Rangers top farm in Hartford, Conn., where, once again, he’s unquestionably the best defenseman … and, quite possibly, the team MVP. In 34 games for the underachieving Wolf Pack, Jones had seven goals, 22 points and is plus-8 in the tell-tale plus-minus category … It was hardly a coincidence that Hartford’s climb from last place, including a four-game winning streak, coincided with Jones’ arrival in early December.
The 22 year old son of former Richmond Renegades trainer/equipment manager Rob Jones is a left-handed defenseman who is an excellent skater, clever with the puck and seldom caught out of position (which has been a season-long problem in New York which has been winning in spite of it) … Nevertheless, Jones obviously doesn’t appeal to coach Gerard Gallant because of his size – 5-11, 185. So, after earning a starting position opposite Braden Schneider on the No. 3 pairing in training camp, Jones was shipped after 16 games to AHL Hartford where he was – by far – the team’s best non-goalie a year ago … Of the 12 games Jones was a healthy scratch this season, the Rangers lost eight.
First, he was replaced by 6-5, 240 Ben Harpur who, in turn, went to the bench in favor of 6-6, 215 Niko Mikkola, acquired in a trade with St. Louis. Like Harpur, he invariably is a step or two behind … As usual, Jones hasn’t complained publicly but, as long as Gallant is the coach, it would appear the Rangers would do him a favor by sending him on his way. His name kept coming up in potential deals, and NHL Trade Bait listed Jones as 25th among the players most likely to be moved … He was the youngest defenseman by far and only No. 10, teammate Vasili Kravtsov, 23, a forward, was close in age.
Kravtsov finally was dealt to Vancouver … The Rangers, as expected, were active in the market, finally getting the player they wanted most of all, Chicago’s Patrick Kane … But, despite a three-game suspension to D’Andre Miller for spitting in the face of Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty – plus an injury to Ryan Lindgren – that left New York shorthanded along the blue line, Jones remained in Hartford while the Rangers played with only five defensemen … To acquire Kane, they had to get creative with the salary cap and couldn’t afford to recall Jones and his $925,000 salary.
Shake (scratch?) your head if you watched “The Rock” and his – yes, his – XFL kick off its third season. OK, how many of you knew there was another incarnation of “He Hate Me,” originally the brainlock of Vince McMahon in 2001? … Dwayne Johnson is co-owner with business partner and ex-wife Dany Garcia … They paid $15 million to rescue the league from bankruptcy following a 2020 season cut short by the pandemic … and promised to be on-site for as many games as possible. Hopefully, being a big movie star hasn’t gone to his head.
Many moons ago, when Johnson wasn’t “The Rock” but rapidly building his resume – and bank roll – on McMahon’s WWF (now WWE) rasslin’ circuit as “Rocky Maiavia,” he was sitting alone at Byrd Field (now Richmond International) early one Saturday morning … busy scribbling something on a yellow legal pad … Apparently pleased to be recognized by anyone … after being on the card the night before at the Coliseum ... Johnson could not have been nicer. “I’m working on my character,” he explained … Maybe, just maybe, that’s when he came up with his signature … “CAN YOU SMMM ...MELLL … WHAT THE ROCK … IS COOKING??” … and we were witness to history … of sorts, anyway.
Until next time ...