Christopher Chenery

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Christopher Chenery
Born Christopher Tompkins Chenery
(1886-09-19)September 19, 1886
Richmond, Virginia, U.S.
Died January 3, 1973(1973-01-03) (aged 86)
New Rochelle, New York, U.S.
Residence Pelham Manor, New York
Education Randolph-Macon College
Washington and Lee University (BS)
Occupation Businessman:
Racehorse owner/breeder
Known for Owner of Secretariat
Spouse(s) Helen Bates
Children Margaret Chenery Carmichael, Hollis B. Chenery and Penny Chenery
Honors Eclipse Award for Outstanding Breeder (1972, 1973)
Virginia Thoroughbred Association Hall of Fame (1987)
Virginia Sports Hall of Fame (1985)

Christopher Tompkins Chenery (September 19, 1886 – January 3, 1973) was an American engineer, businessman, and the owner/breeder of record for Thoroughbred horse racing's U.S. Triple Crown champion Secretariat.

Early life and career[edit]

Chenery, the son of Ida and James Chenery, was born in Richmond and raised in Ashland, Virginia.[1] He had three brothers, William Ludlow Chenery, who became editor of Collier's Weekly,[2] Dr. Alan Chenery,[3] and Charles Morris Chenery. (A fourth brother died young.) Chenery's sister was Blanche Chenery Perrin, a writer of children's books centered on horse racing, such as Born To Race. Chenery visited relatives at the Meadow as a child and always loved horses.

He studied at Randolph-Macon College and Washington and Lee University, graduating in 1909 with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering.[1] He began his engineering career in Virginia before moving to projects in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, but his career was interrupted with service in the United States Army Corps of Engineers during World War I. During the war, he commanded training facilities at Camp Humphries, Virginia. Afterward, he was a government consultant on engineering and construction.[4]

On January 18, 1917, he married Helen Clementina Bates, who died in November 1967. They had two daughters, Helen Bates "Penny" Tweedy and Margaret Carmichael, and one son Hollis Burnley Chenery, an economist at the World Bank.[2]

Chenery formed the Federal Water Service Corporation in 1926,[4] later the Federal Water and Gas Corporation. Chenery was involved in two cases before the Supreme Court of the United States that are considered landmark cases of United States administrative law.[5] In 1936, he became the chairman of the board of another utility, Southern Natural Gas[4] later Sonat, eventually purchased by the El Paso Corp. In 1954 he formed the Offshore Company, a Southern Production Company subsidiary conducting deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. He was chairman of the board and chief executive officer until 1965.[2]

Meadow Stable[edit]

One of the founders of the New York Racing Association, Chenery made his home in the village of Pelham Manor, New York,[4] for nearly fifty years. However, he is best known for his 1936 purchase of The Meadow, an ancestral property in Caroline County near his boyhood home in Ashland, Virginia. It was there that he founded Meadow Stud stud which bred Thoroughbreds, and Meadow Stable under whose colors the horses ran. According to Alan Chenery, Jr., Christopher's nephew, the Chenery brothers decided that the horses from Meadow Stables would wear the blue and white colors as their college Phi Delta Theta fraternity.[6]

Chenery bought "4 or 5 horses for a moderate price" in 1936 and soon afterward "a good 16-year-old horse named Whiskaway for $115." In 1939, he purchased his foundation mare, Hildene, for $750. Hildene would produce two of Chenery's most important horses: Hill Prince, the 1950 American Horse of the Year, and First Landing, champion juvenile in 1958 and third in the 1959 Kentucky Derby. He also owned Cicada, champion filly at 2, 3 and 4 and once the world's leading money winner among mares.[4]

In 1947 Chenery purchased a stakes-winning mare named Imperatrice at a dispersal sale for $30,000. She would go on to produce several stakes winners for The Meadow, but her most important offspring was Somethingroyal, an unplaced mare who became the 1973 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year. Prior to foaling Secretariat at age 18, Somethingroyal had already produced Sir Gaylord, a stakes winner who became an important sire, whose offspring included Epsom Derby winner Sir Ivor. Somethingroyal's other stakes winners included First Family and Syrian Sea.[7][8]

In the mid-1950s Chenery was one of three men appointed by the Jockey Club to restructure and restore integrity to New York Racing. Along with John W. Hanes and Harry Guggenheim, Chenery organized the non-profit Greater New York Racing Authority with the novel idea of funneling proceeds to the state. However it was Chenery who personally obtained the $30 million loan necessary to renovate the New York race tracks after banks balked at financing "an enterprise based on gambling."[4]

In 1965 Chenery entered a foal-sharing agreement with the Phipps family, who owned leading sire, Bold Ruler. Chenery would breed two Meadow broodmares for two years with Bold Ruler. After the birth of the first pair of foals, but before the birth of the second, Phipps and Chenery would flip a coin. The winner received first choice of the first pair, while the loser had first choice of the second. In 1968, due to Chenery's illness, his daughter, Penny, had been placed in charge of the Meadow. She sent Somethingroyal and other mares to Claiborne for breeding to Bold Ruler. In 1969 Tweedy lost the coin toss with the Phipps family and ended up with Somethingroyal's yet-to-be-born second foal, who would later be named Secretariat.[2]

Chenery was admitted to the New Rochelle, New York, Hospital in late February 1968. He remained there until his death on January 3, 1973, before Secretariat's Triple Crown victory occurred.[4]

Now known as Meadow Event Park, the former farm became the home of the Virginia State Fair in 2009.[9]


  1. ^ a b "Secretariat Has Links to Ashland - Ashland Museum". Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Chenery, Christopher T. (1886–1973)". Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  3. ^ "Obituary: Christopher Chenery (the Free-Lance Star)". Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Nichols, Joe (5 January 1973). "Christopher T. Chenery Is Dead; Meadow Stable Founder Was 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  5. ^ SEC v. Chenery Corp., 332 U.S. 194 (1947).
  6. ^ "Chenery Brothers - Phi Delta Theta". Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  7. ^ "From the pages of The Blood-Horse: A Look Back at Secretariat's Triple Crown Season (link to downloadable PDF)". Retrieved 1 July 2016. 
  8. ^ "Somethingroyal". American Classic Pedigrees. Retrieved 28 June 2016. 
  9. ^ Tweedy, Kate and Ladin, Leeanne. Secretariat's Meadow 2010. Dementi Milestone Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9827019-0-4

Further reading[edit]

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