H. P. McGrath was a barroom brawler who worked his way up from crooked dice games in his native Kentucky to owning posh gambling parlors in New Orleans and New York City. Cashing in his enormous profits, McGrath returned to Lexington, Ky. as a member of the landed gentry in 1867. He built his lordly estate McGrathiana on the crest of a hill a few miles outside town. Breeding, racing, and wagering on top-flight thoroughbreds would dominate the rest of his life.
Henry Price McGrath also gained immortality. His pint-size blood red colt Aristides will forever be remembered in racing history as the first Kentucky Derby winner.
The burly Irishman named the colt to honor his good friend Philadelphian Aristides J. Welch who established Erdenheim Stud shortly after the close of the Civil War. A few furlongs from the village of Chestnut Hill, its barns, boxes and paddocks were the home of many of the greatest thoroughbreds on both sides of the Atlantic in the late nineteenth century.
A purser in the Navy and a prominent contractor, Welch earned early notoriety as a signer of the bond to release Jefferson Davis after the Civil War. Few American horsemen could match Welch’s commercial breeding success. An English stakes winner, Leamington (Aristide’s sire) was the driving force behind Welch’s prominence after his purchase in 1872. The nearly black stallion already had produced some of the sport’s grandest stars-- Longfellow, Littleton and Lynchburg-- while at stud in Kentucky. Still, it was Welch’s astute broodmare selections that would propel Leamington to leading sire in North America titles in 1875, 1877, 1878 and 1881.
FollowHorseRacing.com The Jockey Club Website January 14, 2013
He was the founding father of Florida horse racing. James Harrison Bright bred the first Florida thoroughbred at his farm in Davie, and later teamed up with a friend in starting a thoroughbred farm near Ocala. Today, the region is one of the nation’s top breeding centers.
A native of St. Louis, Bright arrived in Florida in 1907. Five-feet, seven inches and 130 pounds, “Uncle Jimmy” as he was known, was typically seen in a dapper blue suit with a little collar and a bow tie. Bright was operating a cattle ranch on 3,000 acres to the west of Miami by 1920 where he rode his pony all over the property. Familiar with quantities of black marl, Bright reckoned the soil could provide good footing for a racetrack. When his friends heard his theory, old Jimmy was thought to have truly lost his mind.
Bright and partner Glenn Curtiss gave the land-- 160 acres carved out of swamplands-- to the Miami Jockey Club for a nominal $10, provided that it was earmarked as a racetrack. Their daring gamble succeeded.
Followracing.com The Jockey Club & NTRA Racing Website July 5, 2012
Like its namesake, the Hollywood Gold Cup has a long, rich history.
From Seabiscuit’s handy victory in the first Gold Cup, to Lava Man’s three consecutive victories on two different surfaces from 2005-’07 to First Dude’s win by a nose last year, some of the greatest horses in the archives of racing-- Swaps, Round Table, Gallant Man, Affirmed, Native Diver-- have stormed home to victories in the Grade-1 race each July at Hollywood Park. Exiting the clubhouse visitors can gaze upon the names of all the Gold Cup champions engraved on a marble wall.
Founded in the heyday of Hollywood, the Ingleside track opened its doors in 1938 as the Hollywood Turf Club with Warner Brothers executive Jack L. Warner as the first chairman of the Club. The original 500 Hollywood Park investors included numerous producers, directors, actors and actresses. Among those in the venture were Jack and his brother Harry Warner, Al Jolson, Raoul Walsh, Darryl Zanuck, Walt Disney, Samuel Goldwyn, Joan Blondell, George Jessel, Irene Dunne, Hal Wallis, Bing Crosby, Ralph Bellamy, Ronald Colman and Mervyn LeRoy who gave us "The Wizard of Oz," and who served as the director of Hollywood Park from 1941 until his death in 1986.
You don’t come across this notation very often. When Holy Bull made his first start as a 2-year-old on Aug. 14, 1993, Daily Racing Form used the phrase “super speed” to describe his effort.
Here comes Holy Bull. There goes Holy Bull.
A rare mix of raw power, brilliant speed and durability, Holy Bull rose from humble beginnings to become a formidable champion on the racetrack. Known to his legion of fans as “The Bull,” he knew he could put away his opponents, whether it was at 5½ furlongs or the classic distance of 1¼ miles. In his eight victories in 1994, his average Beyer Speed Figure was over 115, which is remarkable for a 3-year-old.
Perhaps the most popular racehorse since Secretariat more than 20 years before, Holy Bull was the “blue collar” hero. Hooking the best thoroughbreds in America, The Bull ran as hard, as fast, and as far as he could race after race.
In the summer of 1994 Holy Bull charged home to win the $500,000 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, scoring his 10th victory in 12 starts. Once more Holy Bull led every step of the way.
Their task was enormous. Imagine plowing through uncharted wilderness with only dodgy maps, let alone a GPS device to confirm your bearings. They calculated a narrow swath through the wilderness in relation to the stars by utilizing a highly developed six-foot brass telescope. The sounds of a legion of lumbermen’s axes echoed across the timberland.
With a crew of upwards of 115 men, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon trudged through flooded fields, confronted poisonous snakes and wild animals, and observed the night sky through frigid winters and oppressive summers. They also risked their lives on the western frontier where Colonists and Indians slaughtered each other in the French and Indian War’s aftermath. The two surveyors persevered over five grueling years-- measuring more than 230 miles of boundary heading west through Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Beyond the 11 novels, through three wives, the big-game safaris in Africa, the bullfights in Spain, and the drinking, carousing and his swaggering public image, Ernest Hemingway’s beloved Pilar was the one constant of his life.
At age 71, Pilar is still waiting. Beached on concrete blocks on a hillside overlooking Havana and the blue sea, Hemingway’s 38-foot fishing cruiser sits under a corrugated metal awning on display at the author’s former Cuban estate, Finca Vigio.
In a splendid new book “Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved and Lost, 1934-1961” (Knopf), Havertown resident Paul Hendrickson uses Pilar as a storytelling prism to deeply explore Hemingway’s turbulent, over-the-top life.
Quite a bit of Hemingway’s inner and outer life transpired on the boat he owned for 27 years. It is where he wrote, read, slept, chased giant marlin, tuna and German u-boats in the Gulf Stream off of Cuba. Here he entertained celebrities, authors, navy brass, seduced women and spent quality time with his three sons. On her decks he also hurled hostile curses at his critics, punched out once good friends and eventually realized his writing skills were fading away. He killed himself in July 1961.
For two centuries Betsy Ross has been held hostage inside her Arch Street parlor in the Olde City section of Philadelphia.
More than 250,000 visitors a year wander through the teeny-tiny rooms, climb up the tight little staircase to explore pocket-sized bedrooms, and tramp down to a cellar kitchen. They examine the period parlor and view models of areas where the Rosses likely worked on their upholstery projects. What is believed to have been the original upholstery shop is now a gift store. Ross’ celebrity snowballed throughout the 20th century when she was merchandized in everything from dolls, towels and teacups to pocketwatches, pianos, and even immortalized as a PEZ (candy) head.
The white-washed myth portrays Ross as a simple and sweet seamstress.
In reality she was a hard-working, lifelong businesswoman, thrice-married who was fond of dark snuff and spinning tales of life in Revolutionary Philadelphia, including George Washington visiting her shop and (so the story goes) ordering the first Stars and Stripes.