Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of touring Mill Ridge Farm with Ed DeRosa. We looked at yearlings being prepped for the Keeneland and Saratoga sales; gazed on foals gamboling with their mothers; and listened to stories about the farm’s long and auspicious history.
Kent Hollingsworth, in an undated article from his collection The Archjockey of Canterbury, wrote of Mill Ridge that it’s “a 400-acre section of Beaumont Farm, purchased in 1880 by George Washington Headley, enlarged by his son, Hal Petit Headley, and made famous by his son, Hal Price Headley.”
The parcel of Beaumont land on which Mill Ridge sits was given by Headley to his daughter, Alice Chandler, the farm’s owner. Her son, Headley Bell, Mill Ridge’s managing partner, was our Tuesday tour guide, and listening to him talk is like walking through generations of racing and breeding history.
Part of that history sits just off the main entrance to the farm’s offices, where hangs a large framed account of the 1937 Futurity, won by Beaumont homebred Menow.
Hal Price Headley’s signature mare, Alcibiades, won the Debutante in 1929 and the Kentucky and Arlington Oaks in 1930; regarded as a champion in both of those years, in 1935 she foaled a colt by the British-bred Pharamond, whom Headley had purchased from Lord Derby. That colt was Menow.
He was trained by Duval Headley, nephew of Hal Price Headley, and had won just one of four starts, that one by a nose, when he came to Belmont for the Champagne in September of 1937. At odds of 12-1, he dispatched a field that included Bull Lea, winning by four lengths. His Daily Racing Form chart reads, “Easily best.”
A month later, that publication used the same words to describe Menow’s win in the Futurity, that one, too, by four lengths. His odds were significantly lower that October afternoon, when, according to the New York Times, he set a new world record of 1:15 1/5 for six and a half furlongs. Wrote Bryan Field, “He stamped himself a colt of the highest class.”
“He came to contention strongly halfway through the race, and drew ahead just about as he pleased. There was nothing to it. That was how easily the colt took the lead, and how easily he won.” (Field)
Described as “jubilant,” the Headleys, according to Field, took “double satisfaction” in the victory, as breeders and as owners. (Click on photos to enlarge them.)
Menow’s Futurity was run, according to William H.P. Robertson, on the Belmont Park straightaway; this Times photo indicates that the races were still being run from left to right. The 1905 map provides a sense of the track’s layout; horses would have started in the chute running in front of what is now the clubhouse.
Menow would be named two-year-old champion and go on the Derby trail in 1938, but after disappointing runs in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (fourth and third respectively), Menow came back to Belmont, running his record to three-for-three over the big track in the Withers. Concerned about distance limitations, his connections elected to keep him out of the Belmont, sending him to Suffolk Downs to run in the Massachusetts Handicap. He won by eight, defeating reigning Horse of the Year War Admiral.
Following retirement in the fall of 1938, Menow returned to Beaumont Farm, where he sired Tom Fool, who would follow in his father’s footsteps as a Futurity winner and two-year-old champion. Tom Fool would also be crowned champion sprinter and horse of the year in 1953.
And in a delightful confluence of events, while in Lexington I interviewed John Gaver III, grandson of John Gaver, who trained Tom Fool for Greentree Stables. A profile of Gaver III to follow.
Menow is reportedly buried at Mill Ridge, but we visited horses that will race for the farm in the future, not those that raced in the past, so we didn’t see the equine cemetery. Perhaps, though, somewhere on that farm is the winner of the 2012 Futurity, who will follow in the impressive horseshoes of the Beaumont/Mill Ridge runners who came before him.
“Belmont Park Opens To-Day With Big Race.” New York Times. May 4, 1905.
Bowen, Edward L. Legends of the Turf: A Century of Great Thoroughbred Breeders (Vol. I). Lexington, Kentucky: Eclipse Press, 2003.
Field, Bryan. “30,000 at Belmont; Menow Goes 6 ½ Furlongs in1:15 1/5…” New York Times. October 3, 1937.
“Hal Price Headley Dead at 73.” New York Times. March 23, 1962.
Hollingsworth, Kent. The Archjockey of Canterbury and other tales. Lexington, Kentucky: The Blood-Horse, Inc. 1986.
Menow’s Pedigree Query page.
Robertson, William H.P. The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America. Bonanza Books, 1964.