Thursday, June 1, 2017

Horace Brown, Master Horseman (Conclusion)

In 1894 Horace Brown relocated to Vienna and won his first race there. Riding fast mounts that he trained in a city stable, he continued claiming victories in important contests, and also won ten races in Germany. The following year was no different, as he captured many high-stakes races in Austria, France, and Germany. Of his ability to train horses and make them great, a writer for Spirit of the Times commented, “Horace Brown can get the speed out of a trotter as well as any, and better than many.”

By the end of September 1895, after heading the season’s winners list at Baden, Germany, and capturing big races at Vincennes and Neuilly in the suburbs of Paris, his contract with French owners expired. He was soon off to Russia, where he completed another very successful campaign.

In early 1896 he began training for Serge de Beauvais, another famous French horseman. After winning many races in the Paris area, Horace set up shop in Vienna, which became his adopted home. By year’s end, partly because of his winning efforts and stellar reputation as a trainer, the city became known in the media as the “foremost trotting center in Europe.”

As European tracks became more accepting of American horses again, hundreds of trotters were purchased in the states and shipped overseas each year. Horace made annual pilgrimages across the ocean, buying good racers and outstanding prospects that filled the stables he operated in France and Austria, where he also housed and trained the steeds of many important European horsemen.

During the 1897 season, he won races in Paris, Baden, Berlin, and Vienna with his own horses and several that he trained and drove for Beauvais. His great success drew accolades from media members covering the world of trotting. In May, a U.S. reporter for American  Horseman Abroad wrote: “I found a good many of my countrymen working their horses there, and among the drivers, I discovered that Horace Brown is conceded to be the best. He is well known in France, and the Austrians have nicknamed him ‘the professor’ on account of his great patience and ability to get a mean horse going square.” Another for Turf, Field, and Farm wrote about a race in Vienna, “… where Horace Brown again showed his masterly skill as a driver.” Breeder and Sportsman magazine added, “Horace W. Brown … is also in Europe, where he is regarded as at the top of his profession.”

His trips to purchase horses in the states continued as the competition became fiercer than ever. Wealthy owners were doing the same each year, sending hundreds of horses across the Atlantic. The pace accelerated to the point where, in early 1898, a single ship, the Phoenicia, left New York City for Europe with more than 500 horses, many with excellent pedigrees.

In the face of it all, Horace continued training and winning without missing a beat. In early 1900, when a large auction of horses was held at Madison Square Garden, a New York Sun reporter interviewed Vienna’s Lieutenant Isidore Schlesinger, the highest-spending buyer from Europe, who said: Well, the best driver and trainer in Europe, according to my opinion, is Horace Brown, an American of considerable prominence here [in the US] ten or fifteen years ago. He earns $4,000 or $5,000 a year in Europe.” (The average race paid winners the 2017 equivalent of about $12,000. Horace’s track winnings alone translated to about $150,000 in modern times.)

In 1900, after racing successes in Russia and Austria, Brown began training for Leopold Hauser, the largest horse dealer in the world at the time. Besides buying racing mounts, Hauser had bought and sold more than 30,000 horses during the past year. Among the clientele he supplied were the governments of Russian and England.

Under Hauser, Horace trained a stable of 35 horses in a sport that was rapidly expanding, drawing tens of thousand of new fans. During the next few years, his efforts and those of other American trainers had a dramatic effect on racing in Europe. By 1903, the city of Vienna, Horace’s home base of operations, was regarded as the nucleus of overseas trotting. Many of his wins came at the Vienna Prater, owned by the Austrian crown and the site of what some called the largest and finest trotting park in the world, featuring three separate grandstands. George McDonald, another American trainer working in Europe, told media members back in the states that Horace “has made a barrel of money over there, and will soon retire from the track and turf, and will probably locate in New York State.”

But at age 59, Brown was still at the top of his game and hardly ready to step aside. After a few more years of winning in Europe, he was hired to train for the Telegin farm, owned by a wealthy Russian breeder. Telegin today is considered one of the two foundations of the Russian trotter breeds.

After a few successful years, he was then hired by Austria’s royal family to train, breed, and develop a huge stable of trotters. Commenting on the former local trainer of great ability, the Ogdensburg Journal said in 1910: “Horace Brown and his son Arthur have made their home, and a fortune combined, in training the horses of the King of Austria, at the capital, Vienna.” His clients included Prince and Princess Ypsilanti, who visited several of Horace’s old haunts in New York, including Buffalo and Niagara Falls, while on a shopping trip for new stock for their stable of forty horses.

In early July 1912, Horace journeyed to America, spending time at the family’s summer home in Northfield, Massachusetts. From August into October, again with the famous Vienna horseman, Isidore Schlesinger, he toured locations across New England during a buying spree. Horace purchased several horses for a number of clients in Austria and France, and Schlesinger acquired another dozen good trotters, all of which were placed in Brown’s care for the trip to Europe.

But back in Massachusetts, Horace fell ill, and when his conditioned worsened, hospitalization became necessary, followed quickly by surgery. But the effort failed, and on October 23, he died at age 68 from what was termed a “gangrenous perforated gall bladder.”

Friends, family, and the trotting world on both sides of the Atlantic mourned the loss of a great horseman and fierce competitor who had made his mark on the world stage. From Buffalo and Rochester to Boston and New York City, and on the greatest tracks in Europe and Russia, he had proven his ability time and time again to compete at the highest levels in his chosen sport, trotting.

The foundation of his success was built in Chazy, Champlain, Potsdam, and at many tracks across northern New York. Horace Brown, a native of the North Country, was one heck of a horseman.

Photos: Horace Brown; trotting scene at Baden, German, 1894; Prater trotting track, Vienna, ca. 1900

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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.


2 Responses

  1. Beth Rowland says:

    This was a fascinating series—thanks!

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