Original 1973 Riva Ridge Massachusetts Handicap Winner's Blanket
Hailing from the personal collection of Penny Chenery, this blanket was presented to the “First Lady of Racing” to honor her colt Riva Ridge, who had captured the June 17, 1973, Massachusetts Handicap as the first stakes victory of his acclaimed, yet often overlooked, 4-year-old season. Hollywood and history have all but forgotten Riva Ridge. But racing fans will remember his endearing floppy ears and that he was an accomplished equine hero as the 1971 juvenile champion and dominant 1972 front-running Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner. Time may have favored him even more if not for a waterlogged track at the Preakness Stakes and a dazzling younger stablemate named Secretariat. However, Riva Ridge held a special place in Penny Chenery’s heart. He was the first champion on her watch as she managed Meadow Stable for her ailing father Christopher Chenery, and Riva Ridge’s victories during the 1971 and 1972 racing seasons saved the Doswell, Virginia, farm from financial distress. Amidst the hoopla of Secretariat’s Triple Crown campaign, Riva Ridge returned to competition on May 12 with an allowance race victory before suffering a defeat in the Metropolitan Mile over a sloppy track, which he detested. However, at Boston’s Suffolk Downs on June 17, with regular jockey Ron Turcotte aboard, he responded in the Massachusetts Handicap with a commanding front-running score, equaling the course record for the 1 ?-mile distance. It was quite an impressive performance in the history of the esteemed New England race, which had seen the likes of earlier winners Seabiscuit and Whirlaway. The Mass Cap victory perfectly set the stage for Riva Ridge's next start in the prestigious Brooklyn Handicap two and half weeks later, where the tall bay colt established a new track record for the same distance. When he retired at the end of 1973, Riva Ridge had a career record that included 17 wins in 30 starts and earnings of more than $1.1 million. He was named the champion older horse for that illustrious year in racing and would later be entered into racing’s Hall of Fame. Riva's participation in the Mass Cap was a great boost to Suffolk Downs, and Ms. Chenery was presented with this winner's blanket as a token of the track's appreciation. The green wool blanket measuring 53” x 78” features the race name in white applique lettering. For more than 40 years, the blanket remained with Ms. Chenery at her private residence, where she would occasionally bring it out to proudly display to special guests until her death in 2017. The fact it was one of the few pieces of racing tack she retained for her personal collection attests to the admiration and affection she held for Riva Ridge. An important piece, the blanket is catalogued within the Meadow Stable Archives and is accompanied by a letter of authenticity from the Chenery/Tweedy family. It should also be noted that the 1973 Belmont Stakes winner's blanket Penny Chenery previously auctioned from her collection sold for a world-record price of $88,809 in the Leland's fall offering of 2017.
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