The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Fair features horse racing history
BY PORTSIA SMITH
The new owners of the Meadow Event Park in Caroline County don’t want fairgoers to leave thinking this is just the place where the State Fair of Virginia is held.
So they decided to shine a brighter spotlight on the horse racing history of the property.
Nearly a dozen equine events at the fair are a tribute to the Meadow Event Park’s thoroughbred racing heritage.
The 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat hails from the Meadow, and the foaling shed where he was born remains on site.
Riva Ridge is another winning thoroughbred from the Meadow stables. In 1972, the year before Secretariat won the Triple Crown, Riva Ridge won the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. He missed out on the Triple Crown by placing fourth in the Preakness.
Since 2009, horse events at the fair have been held at the Meadow Event Park’s Equine Complex, which includes the 140-stall, four-ring Southern States Legend Stable.
While this year’s equine events may not produce Triple Crown winners, they promise to have quality horses providing high-caliber family entertainment.
Some of the equine highlights included a draft horse and mule pull, a cowboy mounted shooting demonstration, a sheepdog fun trial, a miniature horse show, a
4–H Fun Show and the Virginia High School Rodeo.
The Virginia High School Rodeo Association will be showcased this weekend, which includes youth from ages 4 and up competing in mutton busting, calf riding, chute dogging, goat tying, barrel racing, pole bending, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, bareback riding and bull riding.
On Sunday, the last day of the fair, the 4–H Fun Horse Show and Southern Express Drill Team will begin. The equestrian drill unit gives a high-energy performance with complex choreography, and the 4–H show offers horse-related projects for youth who own or have access to horses, as well as those who do not.
“Most of these events have been at the fair in previous years and we’re so glad that they are back again this year,” said Cathy Vanderhoff, the fair’s equine manager.
“We are already planning equine events that will take place throughout the coming year in addition to booking events for next year’s fair. It’s very exciting.”
All of the equine events are located on the south side of State Route 30 near Gate 6. All events and competitions are included with a state fair paid admission, Vanderhoff said.
In the kidway area, pony rides were a treat for some of the younger fairgoers this week.
Leeanne Ladin, author of “Secretariat’s Meadow” and a close friend of 90-year-old Penny Chenery Tweedy, who bred and raced Secretariat, will be on hand to sign copies of that book and a new book featuring Riva Ridge.
“Riva Ridge–Penny’s First Champion” made its Virginia début at the state fair Thursday and Ladin will on hand from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. the rest of the fair in the Farm Bureau Center.
She said it is important to continue to honor the famous horses’ legacies, especially with next year being the 40th anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown win.
She said she’s also in early discussions with fair officials about planning a celebration for that historic event.
While being the birthplace of Secretariat and Riva Ridge is enough to brag about, the Meadow has been home to many other champions.
It all started in 1936, when Christopher Chenery bought the 2,800-acre farm on State Route 30.
With $600, Chenery bought his first horse, a broodmare named Hildene who went on to foal Hill Prince and First Landing.
According to the Thoroughbred database Pedigree Online, Hill Prince won the Preakness, placed second in the Kentucky Derby and was Horse of the Year in 1950.
First Landing was a Kentucky Derby favorite in 1959, but finished third.
Cicada, a granddaughter of Hildene, placed first in 22 stakes races between 1961 and 1963. She might have won the Kentucky Derby in 1962 had she not run in and won the Kentucky Oaks—a race for fillies—the day before.
Instead, Chenery was going to send Cicada’s stablemate Sir Gaylord, half brother to Secretariat.
Sir Gaylord was the favorite in the 1962 Derby, but broke a bone in his foot the day before the race. That was a big disappointment for Chenery and the Meadow, and things didn’t pick up for another 10 years.
The original star of the Meadow was a 3-year-old colt named Riva Ridge, sired by First Landing. He saved the Meadow and all of its horses from being sold by winning more than $500,000.
Riva Ridge won the 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont but placed fourth in the Preakness.
The following year, he was overshadowed by the fame of Secretariat.
Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419