Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Horace Brown, Master Horseman (Part 2)

Due to his obvious talent and strong work ethic, Horace was beset with offers from many prominent owners. Before year’s end, he became the trainer and driver for Highland Stock Farm in Lee, Massachusetts, a prolific operation that raced successfully across New England. Wallace’s Monthly, a magazine that covered horse racing, freely praised the hiring in a piece reprinted from Horse and Stable magazine. “It is a fact that the trainer of a farm is secondary in importance only to its stallions and brood-mares…. Horace Brown deserves the credit of whatever renown has been brought to Hamlin Farm…. I found that good horses improved faster under his care than that of any man of whom I had knowledge…. Horace reduced the record of Belle Hamlin to 2:18¼ and won more money with her in a single season than the Village Farm had won in its existence up to that time…. The greatest feat of Horace’s life was, in my belief, the defeat at Cleveland, on July 28 and 29, 1886, of Manzanita, Spofford, Kitefoot, Longfellow Whip, Orange Boy, and Lowland Girl, in a five-heat race that occupied two days.

“The Village Farm was respected during Horace’s pilotage, and he brought a good name and plenty of patronage to the institution. It was all done by hard work. Horace’s victories were won in the stable by unremitting diligence. He drove all his horses, riding from sixty to over one hundred miles a day. Such work deserves its reward; and I want here to commend him to the people of New England as a faithful trainer, a hard-working and painstaking driver, and one who is no quack. He will earn his oats at Highlawn, and will enhance the value of such as are bred there.”

Horace’s success indeed continued at Highlawn Farm, assisted by none other than his twenty-year-old son, Arthur, who had begun training and riding horses at a very young age, just as Horace had done under his own father. Together they prepared a stable of 22 trotters, which a writer for Horseman magazine assessed as “the best string of youngsters he ever had…. Everybody knows Horace. He is the man that piloted Belle Hamlin to her mark, as well as many other star performers of the turf.”

After preparing them at Beacon Park in Boston, Horace’s stable began winning from Beantown, to Pittsfield, to Buffalo, and other stops on the Grand Circuit. In late October at Boston’s Mystic Park, he drove to victory in three straight heats, not an atypical performance — but less than a month later, he decided to leave Highlawn and work for Samuel Rundle and William White in 1889.

He resettled in Danbury, Connecticut, where Rundle & White’s Ridgewood Stock Farm was located, and in spring began working their horses at the Poughkeepsie Driving Park in New York. (Out on his own at this time was Arthur, who hired on to drive and train for William Spier’s Suburban Stock Farm in Glens Falls.) Horace enjoyed great success at Ridgewood, training many champions. In a particularly notable performance at Fleetwood Park in the Bronx, he “won all the races on the day’s programme,” according to the Buffalo Courier. Among the top performers he developed was Andante, who was purchased by the Emperor of Austria, an important figure in Horace’s future.

After two outstanding campaigns for Ridgewood, Horace was hired in fall 1890 to train for Jewett Farm in East Aurora, New York, where he had spent four years running Village Farm for C. J. Hamlin. In reporting the news, the Buffalo Courier said of Brown, now 46, “He is one of the few great drivers now on the turf.”

His success at Ridgewood Stock Farm in Connecticut further elevated Horace Brown’s profile, causing men of great financial means to seek his services. The prosperity of trotting in America had deeply influenced the development of racing in Europe, where there were many contests and large amounts of money to be won. In December 1890, he was off to Paris to train and drive some of the fastest horses on the continent for Don Antonio Terry, a very wealthy Cuban.

Among the great horses Horace handled for Terry was Bosque Bonita, the European champion. She won handily in Berlin, Vienna, and other cities, and despite spotting the competition a 100-yard handicap in Paris, she won there as well. So successful was she that others declined to race against her, prompting plans in 1891 to ship her off to America.

That summer, Horace was joined by his son, Arthur, to help train his growing collection of horses. By the following year, Horace’s stable was acknowledged as the fastest in Europe, an operation that earned large profits from winning races and breeding future champions.

As interest in the sport grew, hundreds of horses were acquired in America for racing on the tracks of Asia and Europe. In November 1892, Horace made one of many trips to the states that resulted in another one to two dozen horses being purchased for competition across the pond. In December, he took several of them to Russia for breeding purposes. He also assisted Dr. John Day, president of the New York State Trotting-Horse Breeders’ Association, in purchasing three large consignments of American trotters slated to compete in Europe.

Horace and his son trained horses in Austria, France, Germany, and Italy before Arthur returned to America in 1894 to work as a trainer in Dutchess County, New York. While Dad usually returned once a year to purchase horses, Arthur often represented him at sales when Horace wasn’t free to travel.

That same year, the recent influx of American horses was deemed a drawback to European homegrown talent. The result was fewer opportunities for horses from the states to compete, but this had little effect on Horace, for he trained whatever the owners provided him with — European stock or American-born horses. Many were valued at the modern equivalent of a quarter million to a half million dollars.

Next week, the conclusion: conquering Europe

Photos: Photos: Horace Brown; Headline, 1889 (Horace at Highlawn Farm); high-wheeled sulkies of the late 1800s (1888)

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Lawrence Gooley, of Clinton County, is an award-winning author who has hiked, bushwhacked, climbed, bicycled, explored, and canoed in the Adirondack Mountains for 45 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored 22 books and more than 200 articles on the region's past, and in 2009 organized the North Country Authors in the Plattsburgh area.

His book Oliver’s War: An Adirondack Rebel Battles the Rockefeller Fortune won the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction in 2008. Another title, Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow, was a regional best-seller for four years running.

With his partner, Jill Jones, Gooley founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004, which has published 83 titles to date. They also offer editing/proofreading services, web design, and a range of PowerPoint presentations based on Gooley's books.

Bloated Toe’s unusual business model was featured in Publishers Weekly in April 2011. The company also operates an online store to support the work of other regional folks. The North Country Store features more than 100 book titles and 60 CDs and DVDs, along with a variety of other area products.


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