Jan 19th 2011 07:11 pm |
We tend to think of the past in black and white. When flipping through images of racing before the 1950s, the world is awash in many shades of grey. While artists of the pre-color photography era painted portraits of great horses and imagined scenes of famous races and venues in color, they are few and far between and not always easily accessible.
So, I was surprised to find, while paging through some new additions to the collection of texts at the Internet Archive, that paintings aren’t the only source for seeing the colors of racing at the turn of the last century. There, I found an 1884 text titled American Racing Colors: Colors of the Owners of Racing Horses as Worn by their Jockeys at the Meetings of the American Jockey Club.
Title page from American Racing Colors
The book contains little else but color pages of owners silks from the early modern era of racing, when involvement by wealthy urbanites and interest by the general public — especially in New York — made it one of the most popular sports in the country. It is a fascinating source and one that literally sheds light on the colors of racing’s past. What follows are a few selections from the book…view the text in its entirety at the Internet Archive
James R. Keene -- Arguably the most successful owner of his era, Keene campaigned such legends as Colin, Domino, Maskette, Peter Pan, and Sysonby. With his longtime, Hall of Fame trainer James Rowe, Keene won nearly every prestigious race run in New York and New Jersey including six editions of the Belmont Stakes. In an article about Keene, published in 1905, the auther wrote: “...the world-famed ‘white, blue dots’ has been borne by a long list of equine heroes whose famous deeds make racing history.”
E.J. ‘Lucky’ Baldwin -- The prominent California businessman, most well know in the racing world for building the original Santa Anita Race track, was described in his obituary in 1909 as a “pioneer, soldier of fortune, and owner of horses.” He campaigned his horses at the most prestigious meets in the country and won the American Derby at Washington Park in Chicago three times, including a win in 1896 with the Emperor of Norfolk, one of his best horses.
Dwyer Brothers -- The Brooklyn butchers turned racing royalty, won the Kentucky Derby with Hindoo in 1881 and were part owners of the 1896 Derby winner, Ben Brush. The Dwyer Brothers Stable also won the Belmont and Travers Stakes five times each. They owned such greats as Miss Woodford, Tremont, Luke Blackburn, and Hanover. In 1886, they were part of the group that formed the Brooklyn Jockey Club and built the Gravesend Race Track at Coney Island. In 1918, they were posthumously honored with the re-naming of the Brooklyn Derby to the Dwyer Stakes.
Pierre Lorillard -- Prominent owner and breeder whose family’s wealth traced back to the start of the Lorillard Tobacco Co. in 1760, one of the oldest tobacco firms in the United States. Pierre Lorillard founded the Rancocas Stable in New Jersey where he bred horses for his racing stable. The Lorillard family won the Belmont, Preakness, and Travers Stakes. Iroquios, owned by Pierre Lorrillard, was one of the first American-breds to win the Epson Derby.
August Belmont, Jr. -- The namesake and builder of Belmont Park in New York, bred and owned a slew of stakes winners and legends. He inherited a fortune from his father, August Belmont Sr., who founded a wildly successful banking firm in New York in the early nineteenth century. Belmont. Jr. bred and owned the great Beldame and bred a total of five Belmont Stakes winners and four Jockey Club Gold Cup winners. He also bred Man o War but is best remembered for selling him to to Samuel Riddle in 1918.
David Durham Withers -- Withers was an influential racing owner, breeeder, and official who served as the president of the Board of Control, an organization that evolved into the Jockey Club in 1894. He was part of the ownership group, along with George Lorillard, who built the second Monmouth Park in 1890. Racing historian, H.P. Robertson, wrote of Withers: “...he brought racing jurisprudence to a position of respect it never had held before.” The Withers Stakes, named in his honor, has been run in New York since 1874.
I encourage you to flip through all of the owners silks found in American Racing Colors. It’s an amazing piece of historical evidence documenting the early modern racing scene.
SOURCES, NOTES, AND OBSERVATIONS
William Moffett, “Famous American Turfmen — James R. Keene,” Illustrated Sporting News, 1905
H.P. Robertson, “The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America”
So, the the 2010 Eclipse Awards are officially in the books. I was happy to see Zenyatta walk away with the big one, although I likely would have voted for Blame if I had a vote. Personally, I don’t get too excited about the Eclipse Awards. I do care who was Horse of the Year in 1965 but could care less about who wins in the years where I have a living memory. My memories of 2010 won’t be about who won the Eclipse Awards but the actual racing that I witnessed during the year.
Be sure to check out the new homepage if you haven’t done so already…there are some really great articles linked from the ‘Recommendations’ section this week: www.colinsghost.org
THANKS FOR READING AND GOOD LUCK!