Asked what he thought of the impact of The Jockey Club on American racing in general, a daily double player at Jamaica last week scornfully replied: "If some of them jocks weren't so busy throwin' shindigs for themselves at the Waldorf-Astoria they could probably give my horses a better ride in the afternoon."
Some time before this, Ashley Trimble Cole, chairman of the New York State Racing Commission and an old hand at dealing with delicate situations, found a genuine puzzler in his morning mail. "It was," he recalled later, "a request from my old friend (and former Postmaster General) Jim Farley to help get a friend of his elected to The Jockey Club. I knew, of course, something was wrong because anybody who knows anything about The Jockey Club must know that they simply don't go around electing friends of nonmembers just to do a favor for another nonmember. I got right on the phone to Jim and, after explaining the situation, told him I'd be very pleased to send him a list of The Jockey Club's membership if he cared to pursue the matter further. Suddenly there was a great roar from his end, followed by, 'My God, how dumb of me! When I said Jockey Club I really meant that Turf and Field Club out at Belmont.' "
That anyone so well learned in the school of who-belongs-to-what-social-or-political-group as Jim Farley should even momentarily have confused the identity of The Jockey Club is surprising. But that a Jamaica daily double player should get The Jockey Club mixed up with the Jockeys' Guild (an organization restricted to riders and one which actually gives itself but one shindig at the Waldorf each year) is entirely understandable.
All for the best
November 11, 1957
The truth of the matter is that among the millions of Americans who have even a slight interest in Thoroughbred racing there probably is not more than one in 500 who knows or cares anything at all about this organization that has—for more than half a century—played a primary role in both the development and management of the country's No. 1 paid spectator sport.
Actually, The Jockey Club is far more than a club. It is a group of men claiming belief in—and devotion to—only the highest ideals for the cleanest possible conduct and management of American racing. The group is not big, although the club's membership is the largest in its history (until the death last week of Robert L. Gerry it numbered 66). For most of its long life the club strictly limited its number to 50—half a hundred men who maintained nearly absolute control over both the people and the animals involved in racing along the eastern seaboard.
The Jockey Club member of today is usually the possessor of some degree of distinction outside the field of Thoroughbred racing, but he is nonetheless fully aware that his Jockey Club membership carries neither the full significance nor the almighty authority that was once associated with any wearer of the club's sterling silver membership button. And yet, though the Jockey Club has lost much of its jurisdictional power, its place in racing can be said to be secure. It always has lent a tremendous amount of prestige—and still does—to a sport whose principles have often been questionable and whose motives have from time to time been clearly suspect. More than that, it remains the guardian of the American Stud Book and official registrar for the entire Thoroughbred industry. Thus The Jockey Club still controls all the horses in racing even if it can no longer dictate to most of the people engaged in the sport. From Scarborough Downs to Golden Gate Fields or from Arlington Park to Hialeah no horse may race until his Thoroughbred identity has been established with the issuance of an official Jockey Club certificate. No Thoroughbred, for that matter, gets an official name until the name has been approved by The Jockey Club.
The rules of racing at most U.S. tracks today are essentially the same rules once drawn up by The Jockey Club. The Jockey Club has also—perhaps not as successfully as might have been expected—taken over the management (in cooperation, of course, with the New York State Racing Commission) of racing at New York. It is hardly a coincidence that all 20 members of the board of trustees of the Greater New York Association—which operates Belmont, Jamaica and Saratoga and is building a new track on the old Aqueduct site—also happen to be Jockey Club members.
The Jockey Club member—either with or without the power he inherited within a body that once upon a time simply voted itself power and then hung onto it quite extralegally for almost 60 years—stands first of all for respectability in racing. In 1900 a Jockey Club steward used his influence toward this end by denying a license to any trainer or jockey considered by the club to be of unsavory character. Fifty years later, with its self-appointed licensing power confiscated for good by law, The Jockey Club can only use its influence as a group of unquestioned integrity to see that the conduct of the sport is kept clean.
That The Jockey Club has been able to succeed in this goal in the face of severe and unfair criticism seems to be justification enough for its continuation as a vital part of the over-all racing scene. And if The Jockey Club member is annoyed at hearing his group categorized as "primarily a social organization, dedicated to the preservation of class distinction and snobbery" he can challenge the critics in the words of George D. Widener, The Jockey Club's present chairman: "We'll probably always be called stuffed shirts, high-hats and just plain snobs. The tragic part of it all is that if our critics took time to learn about The Jockey Club they would see for themselves that we are today interested only in building up racing—and not trying to run it."
The gentlemen interested, as Mr. Widener says, in building up racing have, for the most part, names thoroughly familiar to any regular race track visitor—names such as Widener, Phipps, Morris, Bostwick, duPont, Whitney and Vanderbilt. Many of the other names and faces of The Jockey Club's membership (all 65 of them are shown on pages 62-63) may not be as familiar to racegoers as would seem likely for a representative national turf body, but then the club has always been predominately eastern. It always has had its headquarters in New York and has drawn heavily on New York and Philadelphia for its members. There is, for example, only one lifelong resident of California (Santa Anita's Director of Racing Carleton F. Burke) in The Jockey Club, and even proper Boston is represented by but one member, Bayard Tuckerman Jr.
Jockey Club members are, despite what most of their critics say, hardworking men in a multitude of important fields, whether it be representing America at the Court of St. James's or running the King Ranch. But whether The Jockey Club man is a Wall Street financier, a diplomat, or just someone whose chief qualification seems to be that he has married into the right racing-minded family—the common bond among members is supposed to be a deep-rooted unwavering devotion to horses. For different reasons, to be sure. It would be difficult, for example, to find anywhere in the world two more astute admirers of the great spectacle of a fine, evenly-matched race than F. Ambrose Clark and Harry La Montagne. .And yet their fascination with their sport cannot, in a way, be said to be greater than that of a professional breeder like Arthur B. Hancock, or, in fact, greater than the interest of two former amateur riders like George H. (Pete) Bostwick and Stuart S. Janney Jr. At the same time, there is an equally important devotion to racing on the part of such men as John C. Clark, William duPont, Louis Lee Haggin II, Amory L. Haskell, Henry A. Parr III, Donald P. Ross and F. Skiddy von Stade—just to name a few—who at one time or another directed their full attention toward the administration of race tracks. Their very presence lends respectability to a great sport and has helped build up public confidence where it is most needed.
People outside The Jockey Club set rather enjoy picking apart the membership on the grounds that at least a few of the 65 members hardly share Mr. Widener's love of racing nor are interested in his constant quest for "the improvement of the breed." Pointing out, as one critic did not long ago, "that some of these guys couldn't find their way to Belmont Park if you dropped them off at the front gate," the question was raised as to the desirability of such a restricted membership. One man, very close to The Jockey Club scene, said, "If breeders are being elected, what's wrong with taking in trainers? Where are you going to find more knowledgeable or keen horsemen than men like John Gaver, Preston Burch, Bill Winfrey or Sherrill Ward? And why, for that matter, shouldn't they some day elect a jockey?"
Although such an election day may come in another generation it won't in the foreseeable future. Neither, apparently, will the day soon arrive when women will be considered for membership, even though some of America's leading stables are owned and managed by women today. This attitude, of course, is a carryover from the last century, when racing was strictly a man's world—as was big business—and if a woman took any interest in the sport she was supposed to do so as a dutiful wife rather than as owner or even co-owner. Actually, outside of a handful of ladies (outstanding current example: Mrs. Ogden Phipps) there are few U.S. women thoroughly qualified to take a leading role in the management of national racing affairs.
The Jockey Club member has always—whether he has earned it or not—come to expect respect when he goes racing. His button stamps him as a man fully aware of the luxuries of good living, and as a gesture of courtesy between race tracks the button entitles its wearer to free admittance to any clubhouse grounds. At least it's supposed to. One member, upon arriving at West Virginia's Charles Town track last year, was informed by the gate-man that he'd never heard of The Jockey Club and that if the man wanted in he could get in the same as anybody else—by paying cash. The man paid.
For all the accumulated wealth of its membership. The Jockey Club operates like no other club in the world. It is, in fact, just about as "unclubby" as the private chambers of the Supreme Court. It has no elaborate clubhouse of its own—nor any facilities for either housing or feeding its members. Its headquarters are a few large rooms on the 20th floor of the new Colgate-Palmolive Building at 300 Park Avenue in New York. Roughly half of the club's floor space is occupied by a secretarial task force under the direction of the registrar, Mrs. Lillian Brennan. The other half is divided into three areas: the corner office of Executive Secretary Marshall Cassidy; the paneled club-room where both general membership meetings and those of the nine stewards are held and, finally, an adjoining room which serves as the private office of the chairman of The Jockey Club. Off the latter office is a small anteroom containing a library of foreign and U.S. stud books and trade publications. And, whereas election to The Jockey Club itself is presumed to be a rare honor, there is nothing overly presumptuous or secret about The Jockey Club's rooms. In fact, anybody in the world—on legitimate business—is welcome to come up and dig information out of the stacks of The Jockey Club's library.
With not much of a "place to go," so to speak, Jockey Club members seldom find one another just "hanging around" the club's lofty Park Avenue perch. The chief reason for going at all is to attend a meeting, and even at the general membership meetings, according to one member, there is rarely much spontaneous enthusiasm. "When the last minutes have been read and a few general matters discussed we may get around to voting on a new member. The ballot box is passed (one blackball in seven is sufficient to exclude) and then it seems everyone is in a terrible hurry either to dash up the street to the Racquet Club or catch the next train back to suburban Philadelphia."
Because of its social overtones The Jockey Club has often been represented as a body of wealthy men with little regard for anything but their own welfare and the preservation of their own prestige. This is an unfair criticism—for racing has always urgently needed more prestige, and had it not been for an awareness of this fact by the men who founded The Jockey Club more than a half century ago there might never have been the fine racing we know in this country today.
In the 1890s individual racing associations ran their meetings to suit themselves and the dishonesty among trainers and jockeys (and in some cases even the stewards) had created a situation in New York which was pure heaven for the professional gambler and pure hell for owners and horsemen trying to play the game straight. This was the time before effective racing commissions; there was no Thoroughbred Racing Association; nobody had dreamed of the policing methods of today's superb Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. Neither had anybody conceived of the protection given to the sport's professionals by such organizations as the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association or even the Jockeys' Guild. To be sure, various jockey clubs ruled over their meetings with a certain degree of authority, but along the eastern seaboard, where virtually all the big owners lived and raced, there was a desperate need for enforced discipline.
It was into this deplorable and unruly mess that a group of wealthy and respected men voluntarily stepped in 1891. Headed by Pierre Lorillard, owner of New Jersey's Rancocas Farm, the group was at first known as the Board of Control, but three years later, under the leadership of James R. Keene, it set itself up as a more representative organization and was, on February 10, 1894, incorporated in New York as The Jockey Club. The model chosen on which to pattern the operation of the new Jockey Club was The Jockey Club in England, which since 1750 had been in absolute control of the sport in Britain. Its self-appointed, or extra-legal, power encompassed a great deal of territory, ranging from a nationwide control of licensing to the prescription of rules for racing, and, naturally, enforced discipline to see that The Jockey Club's rules were not abused. The Jockey Club's aims were set down in very positive language:
"First: To establish a firm authority over all racing upon all the Associations' courses which may come under its control.
"Second: To punish offenders against accepted racing laws.
"Third: To protect the interests of the public and thereby insure its confidence and support.
"Fourth: To maintain and disperse exact justice in respect to all questions pertaining to racing...."
John Hunter, one of the owners who had originally helped organize the Board of Control, was elected the first chairman of The Jockey Club and upon his resignation shortly thereafter he was succeeded in 1895 by August Belmont, The Jockey Club's first influential and powerful leader. Since Belmont's "reign" the club has had but three other chairmen: Frank K. Sturgis, William Woodward Sr. and the present chairman, George D. Widener. From the very beginning these men, who had chosen to assume the tremendous responsibilities of managing a growing sport, ruled with a firm hand. The tracks that chose to align themselves with Jockey Club jurisdiction—which included all New York tracks at a time when New York was the unchallenged focal point of national racing—were allotted racing dates by The Jockey Club, had their officials appointed by The Jockey Club stewards and also had their cases heard before Jockey Club stewards, who acted, in effect, like a Senate committee of racing, ready to investigate and cope with any problem that came up.
The great challenge
To be effective The Jockey Club often had to be tough, and much of the antagonism against it grew from rulings which sometimes seemed undeservingly severe. Any habitual "bad boy" was ultimately ruled off for life, and many a part-time bad boy received the scare of his life. One such scare resulted from an incident in 1942 at Aqueduct. Eddie Arcaro had a score to settle with a Cuban rider named Vincent Nodarse who had shut him off at the start of a race. Arcaro went after his foe and did everything he could to put him over the infield fence. Nodarse survived but Arcaro very nearly didn't. Called before the stewards—who were experimenting at the time with a tape recorder for jockey hearings—Arcaro stormed into the room yelling, "I'd have killed that Cuban son of a bitch if I could!" Chairman Woodward and Steward Marshall Cassidy were so horrified at what they heard that both were in favor of ruling Eddie off the race track for life. As it was, he did a year on the ground before Woodward, in receipt of a letter from Arcaro's contract employer, Mrs. Payne Whitney, in which the owner of Greentree Stable beseeched leniency for her favorite jockey, finally consented to lift the sentence. Recalling the circumstances of thecaserecently Mr. Widenerremarked, "I will always believe that the year Eddie had on the ground was what really made him. In the years since then he has become not only a great rider but also a credit to the sport and a man who respects the authority that any honest sport must have."
The absolute authority of The Jockey Club was, to be certain, challenged from time to time, but the club's position was nonetheless secure until the great challenge of 1949: the celebrated Fink case. Jule Fink, a member of a group known as the "speed boys," was denied an owner's license by The Jockey Club on the ground that he was an associate of bookmakers. It wasn't the first time an owner had been turned down, but it was, as it turned out, the first time The Jockey Club had crossed swords with anyone possessing Fink's indefatigable tenacity. Working with a lawyer thoroughly acquainted with corporation law, Fink succeeded in proving that The Jockey Club's self-granted "right" to issue occupational licenses was an unconstitutional usurpation of authority. So, suddenly, after half a century of what amounted actually to unlimited power, the club now found itself detached from one of its strongest arms.
If The Jockey Club had not possessed many other desirable attributes, the Fink decision might have killed it. Actually, the club shifted smoothly from a directional to an advisory role. In New York, for example, all occupational licenses are now issued by the three-man Racing Commission, a politically appointed body which nonetheless relies heavily on Jockey Club counsel. Whereas The Jockey Club also once wrote, rewrote and revised the Rules of Racing, the task has similarly fallen to the Racing Commission, which still, however, calls on The Jockey Club for approval before making its rulings final. A most harmonious feeling exists between The Jockey Club and the Racing Commission today (as there likewise is between The Jockey Club and racing commissions in states other than New York). The New York State Racing Commission still hasn't seen fit to issue an owner's license to Jule Fink, although, as Chairman Ashley Cole was saying the other day, "if he applied again now, I for one would be perfectly willing to grant him a license—on the grounds that I think he's learned his lesson and has been kept out long enough." Fink, meanwhile, is a regular at New York tracks, where he usually sits with former Racing Commissioner Herbert Bayard Swope. Fink also finds time to write a Saturday racing column in the New York Journal-American.
Under each of its revered chairmen The Jockey Club has made invaluable contributions to racing. The first of these, back in 1896 under August Belmont, was the acquisition of the American Stud Book (which was first published in 1868) from Colonel S. D. Bruce, who had discovered publication costs too expensive. The Stud Book, as much a part of racing as the tracks themselves, is a complete and thorough record of every American Thoroughbred, and its publication by The Jockey Club at once gave it the authoritativeness that was needed. The maintenance of the official records has always been an integral function of The Jockey Club, and over the years it has accumulated a file of owner certificates, occupational contracts and a complete listing of every owner's racing silks. Jockey Club members themselves don't undertake this thankless but vital chore, but have always lent their support to such tasks with the knowledge that if racing does not keep its own house in order it is hardly worthy of public confidence.
And if August Belmont inspired confidence in a group which was looked upon with some suspicion in the 1890s, William Woodward's 20-year term of office as chairman (1930-1950) was probably the greatest era The Jockey Club has ever known. In those pre-Fink days The Jockey Club still had its power to control New York racing and William Woodward was a man who, on balance, used his power both wisely and influentially. To many people Woodward appeared to be a stubborn man—and yet he had a considerable sense of humor. When he was first informed that owners (as well as trainers and jockeys) would be required by law to take out licenses in New York, he is said to have replied, "I'll be damned if I'm going to take out a license just like a damn peddler." Upon being told that there was no way out—even for the chairman of The Jockey Club—his retort was, "Oh, very well then, but I'll be damned if I'll pay any lawyer to legalize the thing." Woodward was an impressive, handsome man who left a lasting impression on the American racing scene. "I think he taught me more about racing than any man I know," said Marshall Cassidy not long ago. "He was shrewd, smart and compassionate, and he used his legal training in the proper analysis of a thousand things he never knew about before. Fifteen minutes after I would tell him something, he knew more about it than I did. He was the only man I ever met who was like that."
If Woodward, as a member and later steward and chairman of The Jockey Club, was a guiding force in the improvement of American racing standards and management, it has remained for a nonmember and paid employee of the club, Marshall Cassidy himself, to build this tradition into a lasting monument to The Jockey Club's unswervingly high ideals. Indeed, it is quite likely that no man in the history of racing anywhere in the world has devoted his life so energetically as has Marshall Cassidy to the perpetual improvement of the over-all efficiency of the sport. The reason is simple: Cassidy knows the sport as no other man because he has lived with it for most of his 65 years. As a teen-ager he served as assistant starter under his father, and today he holds the post of director of racing of the comparatively new Greater New York Association.
In the course of his career Cassidy has naturally made many enemies because he has rapped many a knuckle. He has been accused of selfish prejudice in favor of innovations which he himself nurtured from an idea to a reality: for example, The Jockey Club's first unchallenged horse-identification system (developed in cooperation with the Pinkerton Detective Agency) over the more widely used lip tattoo system; or putting increased stress on the value of the film patrol because, as one of his critics points out, "he was the first man to film a race." Although his position as executive secretary of The Jockey Club has made it necessary for him to enforce many judicial decisions which not all horsemen agreed with, Cassidy's life has been dedicated to building up the sport—and today he can proudly point to a score of Jockey Club-sponsored ideas which have contributed more to Thoroughbred racing than anyone would cafe to estimate. For one, The Jockey Club pioneered the nationwide adoption of saliva and urine tests (which the various state racing commissions have now seen fit to take under their charge). The Jockey Club has recently announced a new program of typing the blood of Thoroughbreds as an aid not only in the future safety of blood transfusions but also as a surefire check on the identity of foals of double parentage.
A training ground
And, of course, Cassidy will be remembered forever for his role as the unofficial president and headmaster of The Jockey Club School for Racing Officials. An on-the-job training program for promising future officials—whether they are paddock or patrol judges, horse identification supervisors, examining veterinarians, clerks of scales or even licensed stewards already—the Cassidy school has grown in 12 years from an idea into a most unique organization. Hundreds of the most important racing officials in the U.S. today have done a tour of duty at a New York track under the best-trained men in the business—and always under the direct supervision of Cassidy himself. H s students work on a rotation system around every vital race track post, and graduates are in constant demand to accept responsible jobs at major tracks in other states. The Jockey Club makes no charge or the service of training an official and, to date, men have come to learn under Cassidy from every racing state in the country as well as from Canada, Cuba, France, England, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and New Zealand.
Despite its many contributions, The Jockey Club today is faced with a stern challenge for survival in the future. American racing has in the 63 years of the club's life outgrown the need for one group of 65 men to dictate the rights and obligations for all. Efficient racing commissions are revising and enforcing the rule book. But most important of all, times have changed and so has the outlook for racing's future. The Jockey Club will continue to safeguard the Stud Book, but it can do racing a service by looking ahead instead of into a past that can never be reincarnated. The Jockey Club was once born of necessity because racing had no control whatsoever in that part of the country which needed it most. The men who founded The Jockey Club refused to recognize that racing was a betting game; their only concern was for the conduct, the character and the rules of the sport. Similarly, the founding fathers were men who knew nothing about public relations and cared even less. "When they ran anything," says James C. Brady, currently The Jockey Club secretary and treasurer, "whether it was a railroad, a steel mill, a gold mine or a race track, they grabbed it by the neck and really ran it. And if the public or the press didn't like it, that was just too bad."
In a modern, complicated world where racing is truly a big business involving millions of dollars annually even The Jockey Club has learned the value of good public relations. Whether they have learned all there is to know about public relations is, however, open to debate—for if there is one valid criticism of current Jockey Club thinking it is that those members who serve as trustees of the Greater New York Association have failed to show as much acumen as a group as they have individually. The GNYA, which, in effect, is nothing more than an executive committee of The Jockey Club, has an obligation to a faithful racegoing public. To a certain extent this obligation has been unfulfilled, and to those outside The Jockey Club sphere of influence it seems a little ridiculous that so much collective brain power has not yet produced an efficient working organization.
In the meantime, The Jockey Club is steadily going ahead doing what it deems necessary to maintain the prestige of which it has always been so proud. For the last five summers The Jockey Club has held a round-table conference where certain of its members meet with representatives of every other branch of the racing industry for a few hours of valuable exchange of ideas. This week Chairman Widener and Executive Secretary Cassidy will play host at the first Jockey Club International Seminar in Washington. There will be a good deal of talk about furthering the cause of international racing, and one of the highlights of the two-day junket (at which The Jockey Club expects visitors from England, France and Ireland) will be a formal Jockey Club call on President Eisenhower.
As the daily double player at Jamaica might have said, "Man O man, if that Widener guy can get Ike out to Jamaica some Saturday—that would really be something, eh?"
THE 65 MEN WHO WEAR THIS BUTTON
The Jockey Club sterling silver lapel insignia, (at left) customarily entitles its wearers to lifetime privileges at Thoroughbred race meetings
ALBERT C. BOSTWICK
GEORGE H. BOSTWICK
JAMES COX BRADY
HENRY W. BULL
CARLETON F. BURKE
CHRISTOPHER T. CHENERY
F. AMBROSE CLARK
JOHN C. CLARK
J. SIMPSON DEAN
WILLIAM duPONT JR.
CHARLES T. FISHER
WALTER D. FLETCHER
JOHN W. GALBREATH
GEORGE A. GARRETT
EDWARD H. GERRY
HENRY A. GERRY
RAYMOND R. GUEST
HARRY F. GUGGENHEIM
LOUIS LEE HAGGIN II
A. B. HANCOCK JR.
JOHN W. HANES
AMORY L. HASKELL
GEO. M. HUMPHREY
HOWELL E. JACKSON
STUART S. JANNEY JR.
WALTER M. JEFFORDS
ROBERT J. KLEBERG JR.
C. MAHLON KLINE
HARRY LA MONTAGNE
TOWNSEND B. MARTIN
CHARLES E. MATHER II
A. H. MORRIS
JOHN A. MORRIS
HENRY A. PARR III
W. HAGGIN PERRY
JOSEPH M. ROEBLING
DONALD P. ROSS
JOHN BARRY RYAN
JOHN M. SCHIFF
GERARD S. SMITH
E. P. TAYLOR
BAYARD TUCKERMAN JR.
DANIEL G. VAN CLIEF
ALFRED G. VANDERBILT
F. S. von STADE
JOSEPH WALKER JR.
CORNELIUS V. WHITNEY
JOHN HAY WHITNEY
GEORGE D. WIDENER
P. A. B. WIDENER III
S. BRYCE WING
WILLIAM ZIEGLER JR.