A big feel-good story
By Julia Nikhinson

Jerry Allen carries trash cans in from the street at dawn. Jerry and Betty Ann Allen have been married for 50 years and are, respectively, third and fourth-generation Parisians, deeply rooted in the community. Jerry was one of the original groomers of Secretariat at Claiborne Farm, while Betty Ann is the Executive Director of the Paris-Bourbon County Tourism Commission and is currently helping to organize the 2023 Legends of Bourbon County festival, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of Secretariat returning to Paris following his Triple Crown victory.

When asked how they met, Jerry Allen smiles and looks at Betty Ann Allen. “Go ahead,” Jerry says. They both laugh.

“I was bringing sorority sisters home for the weekend, and I needed to get them dates . . . and we drew straws to see who got to go out with who, but I wanted to go out with Jerry, so I took the smallest straw so that I would get him,” Betty Ann recounts. Jerry laughs. “See, you don’t remember that," says Betty Ann.

For Betty Ann and Jerry, horses and marriage have intertwined for 50 years.

A fourth-generation Parisian, Betty Ann married Jerry, a horseman, in July 1973. Just two months earlier, the couple watched Secretariat triumph in the Kentucky Derby.

“I don’t think anybody realized what [Secretariat] was gonna be. Do you think?” asks Betty Ann.

“They knew that he was a good horse, yeah, but not a super, super horse,” Jerry replies.

Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, finishing the races more impressively than any horse before or since.

“One of the things they always said about Secretariat’s Triple Crown was, you know, people were looking for something . . . Martin Luther King [Jr.] had gotten shot and John F. Kennedy had been assassinated, and people were looking for something to make them feel good, and Secretariat was a big feel-good story," Betty Ann says. "And all these people, everybody, almost, has a Secretariat story."

On November 11, 1973, Secretariat returned to Claiborne Farm in Paris, where Jerry became one of his grooms. For the next two years, Jerry cared for the stallion. That is the Allens' big, feel-good Secretariat story.

Fifty years later, the Allens continue to live in Paris, this time in a house on Main Street instead of on Claiborne Farm. Jerry is retired, delivering the local newspaper every Thursday morning and selling vintage sports memorabilia on Facebook Marketplace. Betty Ann is the executive director of Paris-Bourbon County Tourism, a part-time job with full-time hours she stumbled into seven years ago while on the verge of retirement.

Now the Allens are preparing for a different kind of homecoming on November 11.
As tourism director, Betty Ann is helping to organize the 2023 Legends of Bourbon County festival, which this year celebrates Secretariat's homecoming to Kentucky. The three-day festival marks the arrival of the life-sized bronze of "Big Red" and completion of Secretariat Park adjacent to the three-story tall mural of Secretariat.

As they are poised to celebrate 50 years of marriage and Secretariat's legacy, Betty Ann and Jerry are thinking about the past. Looking back on the time Jerry worked with Secretariat, Betty Ann says, "That was our life."

Jerry delivers Bourbon County Citizen-Advertiser papers, something he's done every Thursday morning for the past two years. After working at Claiborne Farm on and off for decades, Jerry retired in 2019.

Betty Ann eats breakfast while watching the morning news with Jerry. Jerry makes Betty Ann breakfast every morning, carrying it to her on a tray.

Betty Ann and Jerry hold hands at the Tony Leonard & Secretariat Photography Exhibit at Hopewell Museum. Jerry was one of Secretariat's original groomers when the horse came home to Claiborne Farm following his Triple Crown triumph in 1973.

Jerry looks at items at a preview for Purcell's Auction. Jerry buys sports memorabilia and other knick-knacks that he then resells on Facebook Marketplace.

Betty Ann and Jerry browse Facebook at Lil's Coffee House, where the two often eat and meet up with friends.

Betty Ann talks to Shack Parrish at Lil's Coffee House.

Betty Ann talks to Judy Hutson at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Court Sports Venue at the Bourbon County Recreation Park.

Betty Ann and Jerry attend the Tony Leonard & Secretariat Photography Exhibit at Hopewell Museum.

Jerry looks out the window while watching the morning news at sunrise.