Penny Chenery has died.

She was the epitome of the best in racing.

One time, I wrote a poem for her & her daughter, Kate Tweedy, gave it to her. Ms. Chenery showed her appreciation by gifting me with an autographed copy of the famous Bob Coglianese photo of Secretariat winning the Belmont.

Tomorrow morning, when the Great Herd comes over the horizon, I’ll look for Penny, smiling astride her two boys, Red & Riva.

Here’s that poem:


Cold March morning.
Early, dark and damp.
Welcome to the world, little red-haired boy.
He’s awfully pretty, that’s for sure,
But can that little boy run?

Then a whisper came on the wind,
“Like nothing anybody’s ever seen before,
“Or will ever see again.”

The boy grew big and he grew strong,
And his friends all called him Red.
Head held high.
Quick as a minute.
And the little boy knew,
Knew it down deep in his bones.
“Mama, I’m gonna be a king one day,
“I’ll be the best that’s ever been.”

One wins. Two wins. Three wins. Four.
The dry leaves blew,
And the snows piled high.
And finally the early buds of spring arrived
To sing their eternal song.

Twin Spires.
Sunny Saturday – the first in the month of May.
“See y’all….gotta go pick some roses”, he said.
His record still stands today.

Baltimore next.
Sham was the first course,
And black-eyed Susans were his dinner.
He just laughed and looked her in the eye.
“Just like breakin’ sticks, dear Mama,
“These hooves of mine can fly.”

Three weeks.
A long three weeks.
The cover of Time and more.
We were all looking for a hero,
To erase the bitter taste of crooks
And the disgusting taste of war.
But, really – could it be?
Could it really, really be?

Mile and a half.
A long, long way.
The graveyard of many dreams.
Backstretch, neck and neck.
“He has a head in front….!”

And then, dear friends,
It happened.
It happened right then and there.
The world stopped still on it axis.
I swear it stopped clean in its tracks.
All except for the mighty red king,
Who spread his wings on the turn.
And he seemed to take right to the sky,
Like Pegasus on the wind.
As he left all the mortals behind,
He said, “Ronnie, just sit back, old friend.
“Just sit on my withers and grin.”

All by himself.
And faster.
And faster still.

Those who bore witness were carried along,
Were carried along by the king.
Men became boys and women, girls,
And the tears began to stream.
And the only sound that filled the air,
Was a perfect primal scream.

And then that little boy who’d grown
To do what none other had done,
Whispered into a mother’s loving ear that day,
“Remember that cold March morning, dear Mama?
“Remember what you heard
“On the wind?
“That was my spirit you heard, Sweet Mama,
“Right there in that foaling shed:

“Like nothing anybody’s ever seen before,
“Or will ever see again.”

5 thoughts on “JIM GATH: A POEM FOR PENNY

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s