Some may be wondering “Who is Big Red?” You most likely will recognize him by his racing name “Secretariat” he was one the greatest Thoroughbreds in the world.
I was 11 years old in 1973 when this big red powerful machine won the amazing race at Belmont Stakes. As I watched and listened to the replay, The announcer said “he won by 25 lengths, but could have been more”. I remember sitting on my knees in front of the television cheering him on! I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I watch this magnificent creature run like the wind. Secretariat knew his purpose, his heart was in it to win!
I followed him most of my life, watching his races on TV. Looking at newspaper articles when given the opportunity. There was no hint of internet at that time. I loved him from afar and gathered as much knowledge as I could find in those days. I know many people feel the same passion for him that I do, he was one in a million.
Recently I had another amazing experience that involved “Big Red”. The Editor and Chief of our EHAL Magazine “Jana Harrington Barcus” and I went to the American Horse Publication media conference in Lexington KY in May. We had the honor to witness the first unveiling of a life sized sculpture of Secretariat, created out of steel miniature mosaic Secretariat horses. He titled the piece “God’s Boy 31-2.24.” When asked about the Title, the explanation is; He was the horse that God built that won by 31 lengths at a time of 2.24
Again those same feelings came into my heart as I saw this beautiful creation made by a special Farrier, “Nigel Fennel.” Tears welled up in my eyes once again as I looked at the red heart glowing in the chest of the life sized statue of this beautiful replica. Nigel explained that he wanted to honor his 22lb heart to be seen pulsating as Secretariat ran his race. A very humble man stood up and told us all about how he worked for thousands of hours to build this magnificent piece 1400 hrs. over 15 months to be exact. It took nearly 5200 small mosaics to build secretariat and jockey, Ron Turcottes legs which are mini mosaics of Ron by the way.
There are several other specifics that meant something to Nigel as built this creation. The reins for example: have announcers iconic lines; “Secretariat is blazing along” another; “He is moving like a tremendous machine.” The hands of Ron holding the reins are actually molds of Ron’s hands. Nigel captured every detail that he possibly could, his eye lashes, down to the horse’s muscles down his neck, body legs & tail. I felt as I walked around that massive silver statue, that the man that built this had a heart for Secretariat and Ron, to be able to put so much into this piece. You can see the hands that sculpted this was looking for perfection and wanted every inch of detail.
I walked up to Nigel and complimented him on this spectacular piece and thanked him for sharing it with all of us. When I told him he touched my heart into tears with this work. I loved Secretariat all my life. He smiled and said that is “great that was what I wanted to do.”
There is so much more to Nigel’s story. You can actually watch his documentary on his Facebook page or YouTube channel that shows what he went through along this journey with the famous creation of “Big Red” and his Jockey “Ron Turcottes” its the only Steel Sculpture of Secretariat in the world.
As for the rest of my story, I will never forget this trip. Besides having a personal one on one tour of the famous 1000 acre Kentucky Horse Park, when I returned to the event center I received one of the coolest gifts ever. While I was on the tour, Jana ran into to Nigel in the hotel lobby. He handed her a steel mosaic of Secretariat he had left over from creating his sculpture and she gave it to me. I couldn’t believe it, I love it!
Nigel’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nigel.fennell.9
His YouTube channel: Nigels God’s Boy 31-2.24 Sculpture
I encourage you to check out his pages. They filmed him professionally while working on this piece. You see first-hand some of what he went through and close up shots of how he handmade this legacy of Secretariat and his jockey Ron.
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