Rocket Fuel
Ultimate 48 Sweepstakes
Please provide a valid email address.
Close

Blog - LEGENDS

William Woodward Sr. ushered Belair Stud into its glory days when he took over the darm in the early 20th century (Photo courtesy of Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation).

In the long and proud history of Thoroughbred racing, there has been a lengthy list of stables that dominated their era and produced a string of great champions.

Somewhere near the top of that list belongs Belair Stud.

Belair’s association with the breed dates back to 1747 when the first Thoroughbreds shipped from England to America were stabled at the Collington, Md., farm.

Belair horses were involved in the colonies’ early races in the 1750’s, but the farm’s glory days came in the 20th century when the Woodward family turned Belair into one of the nation’s preeminent racing and breeding operations.

Under the leadership of owner William Woodward Sr., Belair dominated Thoroughbred racing for more than 20 years. Chairman of The Jockey Club from 1930 to 1950, Woodward built a stable that prospered in the 1930’s through the 1950’s as it produced many of the sport’s greatest champions and many of the era’s major races.

Of the 11 Triple Crown winners, two of the first three raced in Belair’s famed white silks with red polka dots.

The homebred Gallant Fox was the first of them, sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1930.

A cornerstone in Belair’s growth was Woodward’s decision to partner with Arthur “Bull” Hancock and several other men to purchase the English sire Sir Gallahad III for a price tag of $125,000, which was outlandish for the time, and bring him to the United States.

Gallant Fox, a son of Sir Gallahad III, helped to make it a wise investment as he won 11 of 17 races in his career for Belair and legendary trainer “Sunny” Jim Fitzsimmons. In 1930 he was named the champion 3-year-old after becoming the first horse to earn more than $300,000 in a year. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1957.

Aside from the Triple Crown races, Gallant Fox also won the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Lawrence Realization, Saratoga Cup, Dwyer and Wood Memorial.

As great a runner as Gallant Fox was, he was an equally successful sire.

In 1935, Gallant Fox’s son Omaha gave Belair its second Triple Crown winner and a runner who earned more than $150,000 in his career and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1965.

TRIPLE CROWN WINNER OMAHA

Omaha

Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com

Gallant Fox also produced Granville, who carried Belair’s silks victory in 8 of 18 races and numbered the Belmont, Travers, and Lawrence Realization among his 1936 wins.

Granville also defeated Discovery by eight lengths in a match race in the 1936 Saratoga Cup and at year’s end was voted the sport’s first Horse of the Year. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1997.

Sir Gallahad III proved to be an outstanding sire, earning acclaim as the nation’s champion sire four times and turning out talented runners for Belair like Vagrancy, the champion older female of 1942.

Belair’s best horses also included Johnstown, a 1992 Hall of Famer who won the 1939 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes and missed out on a Triple Crown sweep when he finished fifth on a muddy track in the Preakness, and 1932 Belmont Stakes winner Faireno.

HALL OF FAMER JOHNSTOWN

Johnstown

Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com

Woodward passed away in 1953 and his son William Woodward Jr. assumed control of the stable, which had one more grand moment of glory ahead of it.

Though he did not sweep the Triple Crown, Nashua may have been Belair’s most brilliant runner. He was a champion at two, winning the 1954 Hopeful and Belmont Futurity in a campaign that featured six wins out of eight starts.

At three, Nashua cemented a spot in the Hall of Fame and became one of the sport’s most famous champions when he engaged in a classic rivalry with Swaps.

The California-based Swaps beat Nashua in the 1955 Kentucky Derby and then skipped the next two legs of the series as Nashua took the Preakness by a length and the Belmont by 9 lengths.

The two met again later that year in a famed match race that was held at Washington Park on Aug. 31. Swaps was favored, but Nashua was a decisive winner, pulling away to record a 6 ½-length victory under jockey Eddie Arcaro.

Nashua, a 1965 Hall of Fame inductee, closed the year with a five-length victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and was named both Horse of the Year as well as the champion 3-year-old male of 1955.

THE LAST GREAT HORSE OF THE BELAIR DYNASTY WAS NASHUA

Nashua

Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com

The joy that Nashua brought to the Woodward family and Belair, however, was shattered on the night of Oct. 31, 1955 when Woodward Jr. was shot and killed at his home by his wife, who mistakenly believed he was an intruder.

Following Woodward’s death, his Thoroughbred holdings were sold, ending Belair’s long run as one of the sport’s most successful breeding and racing operations.

In the end, Belair was represented by five horses that were voted into the Hall of Fame. Among its more than 630 all-time wins, Belair owned three victories in the Kentucky Derby, three in the Preakness, six in the Belmont Stakes and left behind a legacy of greatness that still resonates nearly 60 years after its final race.

Fun Facts

  • Gallant Fox and Omaha are the only father and son to sweep the Triple Crown.
  • Belair was bought by James T. Woodward in 1907 and was inherited by William Woodward Sr. after his uncle’s death in 1910.
  • Gallant Fox was the second Triple Crown winner and Omaha the third.
  • Nashua was sold to Leslie Combs II at a dispersal sale for more than $1,250,000.
  • Belair’s Nashua and Omaha were both inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1965.
Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Sponsors & Partners

  • FoxSports1
  • NBC Sports
  • Logo 6
  • Saratoga
  • Santa Anita
  • CBS Sports
  • Monmouth
  • Keeneland
  • Gulfstream Park
  • Del Mar
  • Belmont Park
  • Arlington Park
  • OwnerView