Children of Triple Crown Winners Say They Lead Lonely Lives

ELMONT, New York.  They live, they say, in a no-man’s-land between two very different worlds, and are comfortable in neither.  In an age that increasingly rejects traditional concepts of gender, they feel they were born too soon, and must work hard to earn grudging social acceptance that is granted more readily to others.  “We were really pioneers,” says Ellen Messerling, a 43-year old who was born the year after Secretariat won the “Triple Crown” of horse-racing events in 1978, finishing first in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, which is run at nearby Belmont Park.  “You’d think that would count for something, but no.”

Ellen Messerling:  “What are you looking at?”


Messerling is the illegitimate daughter of Secretariat and 65-year-old Myra Messerling, who as a little girl absorbed horsey girls’ books such as National Velvet, Black Beauty and My Friend Flicka.  As she grew older, she turned into a horse “groupie,” traveling from one track to another, wagering her allowance through proxies who would place bets that would have been illegal for her as a minor.  “It was a vicarious way of expressing my allegiance to my favorites, and I don’t regret it for a minute,” she says, then corrects herself.  “Sometimes I end up eating cat food at the end of the month until my next Social Security check arrives, and I wonder if I’m chewing a descendant of one of my teen crushes.”

The technical term for the mixed-species offspring of a horse and a human is “satyr” if a male, and “satyress” if a female.  “You shoulda see the barn rockin’ here two years ago,” says Jocko Canavan, a trainer who has worked at Belmont Park for the last four Triple Crown winners; Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977, Affirmed in 1978 and American Pharoah in 2015.  “They’re like NBA All-Stars when they win it all, they can have their pick of breeding partners, horse or human.”

You’d better keep an eye on that girl.


The children of Triple Crown Winners are viewed as aristocrats among satyrs, a lofty status that is incompatible with America’s professed–if sometimes disappointed–notions of equality.  “I don’t fit in with the humanoid crowd,” says Todd Lumpe, the 39-year old love child of Donna Lumpe and Seattle Slew.  “On the other hand, if you think I like hanging around with horse-like beings who have no future other than the glue factory, you’re naïve.”

“All the good horse-men are taken!”


This inability to socialize with either branch of satyrs’ family trees has lead some mental health professionals to call for a ban on horsey books for pre-teen girls so a nascent affection for the noble animals doesn’t turn into something more serious.  “We have developed a psychological test that can detect the early warning signs of inappropriate horse-obsession,” says Dr. Milton Mainwaring, who counsels horse-human couples at the race track in Hialeah, Florida.  “The first and most important question is, ‘Do you like the feel of a wild beast between your legs?’”

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