Ms. Chenery first gained prominence in 1972, when Secretariat was horse of the year as a 2-year-old and his 3-year-old stablemate Riva Ridge, who is not mentioned in the film, won both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.
In 1973, when Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner since Citation, in 1948, and was again horse of the year, Ms. Chenery, then known as Penny Tweedy, followed figures like Lucille Markey of Calumet Farm; Elizabeth Arden Graham of Maine Chance Farm; and Allaire C. duPont, owner of the champion gelding Kelso, in the limited circle of thoroughbred racing’s well-known women.
“Lucien Laurin trained and campaigned the horse, not me,” Ms. Chenery noted long afterward in recalling Secretariat’s glory years. “I discovered I had the ability to communicate with the public, though, and as the horse’s spokeswoman I suppose people began to think of horses being owned by women.”
Mr. Laurin, along with Secretariat’s jockey, Ron Turcotte, and his groom, Eddie Sweat, shared portions of the spotlight with Ms. Chenery. But it was she who developed an uncanny bond with Secretariat in the view of Randall Wallace, who directed “Secretariat” the motion picture.
“Obviously, one can romanticize it all, but I think Penny Chenery had a sense that connected her to the horse,” Mr. Wallace said when the movie was released.
Ms. Chenery dismissed the suggestion of a mystical tie. As she told The Times: “It’s a Disney movie. No, we didn’t have a spiritual connection. We had a mutual respect, but he didn’t stand still long enough for me to look in his eye and say a prayer.”
Notwithstanding the film’s feel-good touches, Secretariat’s Triple Crown year was hardly all roses for Ms. Chenery.
In the 2013 documentary “Penny & Red: The Story of Secretariat’s Owner,” produced and directed by Ms. Chenery’s son John Tweedy Jr., she revealed that she had an affair during that racing season of 1973 with Mr. Laurin, the trainer, arising, she said, from the crumbling of her marriage to John Tweedy (they would divorce late in 1973) and her feeling of isolation in facing the pressures of the time.
“It may spoil my image,” Ms….