Tragic Loss of Secretariat’s Last-Born Grandson Johnny Leroy
Today, May 1, 2016 should be a day of celebration for Shirley Bennett Anderson, her family and racing partners of Crown of Glory Racing, LLC, but instead, it is a day of sadness. It should be filled with party festivities for Johnny Leroy, who would have turned three years old today. He was the last-born grandson of Secretariat, sired by Leroidesanimaux (sire of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner & 2013 Dubai World Cup Champion, Animal Kingdom), out of Secretariat’s last producing daughter, Secretariat’s Fire. He was among a dozen Secretariat homebred descendants produced through Shirley's. “Breeding With A Mission” program to grow and nurture “The Secretariat Family Tree”. Johnny Leroy’s death has greatly impacted the goals of our mission to “Keep the Secretariat Legacy Alive”
He left Payton Training Center in Ocala, FL on December 1, 2015, where he received his preliminary training, and arrived at Palm Beach Downs Training facilities to begin preparing for his racing debut under the tutelage of Todd Pletcher. Nine days later on Thursday, December 10th, Shirley received a call from a friend saying JJ Pletcher’s office was trying to reach her with an urgent message. He then blurted out that Johnny Leroy had been euthanized on the training track. The details of the “freak accident”, as it was described by phone was followed by this email message:
To Whom It May Concern,
On Thursday, December 11, (wrong date—it happened on the 10th) Johnny Leroy went to the track at Palm Beach Downs for a routine gallop with his regular exercise rider. On the far turn it was reported by the rider and trainer that the horse suddenly went towards the outside rail and collapsed. Examination revealed a complete fracture of the horse’s left radius. Unfortunately, this is a catastrophic injury in the horse, and Johnny Leroy was humanely euthanized on the racetrack. We are extremely sorry for this tragic loss. (The email was not addressed to Shirley as the owner/breeder, nor was it signed by anyone).
In Shirley’s own words, “I have yet to find a way to process the whole nightmare, let alone describe it to others, including my 5,000 Facebook friends from around the world who are following our mission.
I can only tell you what I’ve been told. I spoke to Todd at Gulfstream Park while claiming back one of our homebred mares. He was sincerely apologetic about the accident and explained a few things about his concerns of not having him “under control” as much as he wanted. He said he was very aggressive on the track and how he was trying different things to harness his energy. I’ve yet to make sense of it all. The pain is beyond explanation…having bred and raised him, it’s as hard as losing a child. I count heads every time I go out to feed horses at home…those who are here and even those who are "somewhere out there" training or racing. The process resurfaces memories of watching Johnny Leroy romp in the pasture and grow into a magnificent specimen as the closest blood relative of Secretariat”.
Despite all that’s happened, Shirley continues to nurture the goals of the mission and is grateful for the people who have believed in the mission and have supported it thus far. Since the loss of her only brother and husband and now Johnny Leroy, it has been a struggle to keep everything moving forward. She has poured her heart and soul into the mission and is determined to see it through but needs to seek financial assistance to continue the “Breeding With A Mission” program. This Go Fund me campaign was created to seek supporters to help keep the mission alive. Shirley’s sole remaining Secretariat Grandson, Secretariat’s Glory, is ready to become Crown of Glory Stables’ first stallion to produce new generations of great grandsons and great granddaughters to continue to nurture the Secretariat Family Tree.
Our ultimate goal is to have a State-of-Art facility in Ocala, FL where the general public can come to visit Secretariat descendants. It will be the perfect setting for a Veteran’s Rehab Center using the horses as therapy. It will be established in memory of both “Johnnies”. The Equine Therapy Center was on Johnny’s “Bucket List” and Shirley hopes to fulfill his wish to honor his military service during WW11. The program will be supervised by one of Shirley’s sponsors who is currently pursuing her certification in EFL (Equine Facilitated Learning) using horses as the modality of therapy.
Any help, no matter how large or small, will contribute to the success of the mission. A formal Business Plan detailing the scope of the mission is available upon request thru this GoFundMe campaign. www.gofundme.com/3sxs855w
Donations may be mailed to, PO Box 205 - 1468 SW Main Blvd - Suite 105-205 Lake City, Florida 32025