From Riva Ridge to Secretariat, Penny Tweedy knew horses |

From Riva Ridge to Secretariat, Penny Tweedy knew horses

Dick Hauserman
Daily file photoPresident Gerald Ford, left, with Penny and Jack Tweedy in the early 1970s.

Back in the early days, the celebrities added a certain aura of excitement. It was good for the town, and it was good for them. Many of the early visitors returned year after year, and some built lavish homes. The walls of Pepi’s Bar are filled with pictures of the rich and famous who have come to Vail.

Penny Tweedy

Jack Tweedy’s attractive wife, Penny, was one of Vail’s most giving women during the 1960s. She was involved in many activities. Jack and Penny were a very popular couple, both in Vail and Denver, where he had his law practice.

Penny Tweedy one day learned that her father, C. T. Chenery, had become ill and was unable to manage his horse farm in Virginia. She was asked to take over.

In 1969, her first year running the horse farm, one of the horses had a foal she named Riva Ridge, after the ski run in Vail, which was named after the ridge in Italy where Pete Seibert was so badly injured. Riva Ridge won the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont in 1972. It was an auspicious start for Penny Tweedy.

The very next year, on March 30, 1970, another foal was born. Penny named him Secretariat. Secretariat won the 1973 Triple Crown and became one of the greatest horses of all time. He won the Belmont in world-record time, by 31 lengths. Penny became a national celebrity. She was in the limelight wherever she went. The demand on her time, and the need to run the farm, made it difficult for her successful attorney husband, Jack, in Denver.

The Watsons

Tom and Olive Watson were two of many prominent guests who stayed with Ann and Moose Taylor when they visited Vail. The Taylors entertained lavishly in their beautiful home.

Tom Watson was chairman of the board of IBM, and both he and his wife were enthusiastic skiers. Tom had been involved in the Stowe resort in Vermont and helped to build the Madonna ski area on the back side of Stowe Mountain.

The Taylors had to go to Denver one day, and Ann Taylor asked me to show the Watsons the mountain. It was a cold, windy January day, but they were good recreational skiers. We had a pleasant day nonetheless. A few weeks later, Tom Watson called from Armouk, N.Y., asking if I would find them a place to stay during spring vacation so they could bring the family.

Accommodations were scarce, but Chuck Ready from Pueblo made his house on Rockledge Road available. The Watsons spent a week in Vail with their family. They liked it so much they said they wanted to buy a place.

With Olive Watson, we found them a small unit in the townhomes by Gore Creek, which they decorated beautifully with furniture from Finland. She still owns the condo and has returned to Vail almost yearly. They were wonderful, down-to-earth people.

Senator Charles Percy of Illinois was a good friend of the Watsons, and he, too, visited Vail with his family many times during the early years.

President Gerald Ford

When he was a congressman from Michigan, Gerald Ford first visited Vail in 1968. The Fords were friends of Ted Kindel’s father and uncle and came out to visit Ted. President Ford and his wife, Betty, have been fixtures in Vail ever since.

Although this book is primarily about the early pioneers, I would be remiss in not mentioning the tremendous contributions the Fords have made to Vail, which has been their part-time home for many years. Vail has recognized their many contributions, such as lending their name to the Ford Amphitheater and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. President Ford served on several boards, including that of the Vail Valley Foundation. He became a great ambassador for Vail.

President George Bush

Vail attracted many rich and famous people through the years. Few people ever knew that George Herbert Walker Bush, who was later to become President of the United States, was a limited partner back in 1961. Jerry Rich and Jack Caulkins, George Caulkins’s brother, persuaded George Bush to join the investors at a cocktail party in Houston. Bush bought a quarter of a $10,000 unit. After his investment, two other presidents visited Vail – Jerry Ford in 1968 and Bill Clinton in 1995.

Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 129th installment, an excerpt from chapter 15, “The Rich and the Famous.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.

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