Cain Hoy stable, the Thoroughbred racing organization that began in 1934 as a one-horse outfit, ended 1959 as the leading money-earning stable in the country for the first time in its life. Last year its familiar blue-and-white blocked colors finished in first place 37 times, took 30 seconds and 19 thirds, earning in all $742,081. If this showing has the appearance of an upset, the reason is not hard to find. While horses belonging to more headline-prone stables were making most of the news, Cain Hoy was running up its own record total with only one horse—Bald Eagle—among the country's top 10 money-winners.
This is a success mostly explained by a precision which characterizes everything about the stable and its owner in particular. That man is 69-year-old Harry Frank Guggenheim, who is looking out on the opposite page across the fabulous new $33-million Aqueduct track that he helped to build. He has never really believed in doing things halfway.
Never, that is, until he thought about getting into racing 26 years ago. "I started by buying just one yearling," Guggenheim recalled recently. "I thought the ideal stable would have no more than eight or 10 horses in training and a few brood mares on a farm. You see, I've always believed that racing should be a man's outlet, even though it sometimes grows into big business. This isn't to say that racing shouldn't be taken seriously. It should be, but in my own case I wouldn't want it to be my sole or even chief concern. I like my racing and everything to do with it only so long as I can devote my primary energies to the conduct of other affairs."
Guggenheim's blue eyes studied the lower Manhattan skyline from the walnut-paneled New York offices of Guggenheim Brothers at 120 Broadway, headquarters during the last half century of the family's worldwide mining and metallurgical enterprises. He smiled faintly and said, "My wife told me the other day, 'For something that started out as just an avocation, your racing seems to have grown into something awfully big, hasn't it?' I had to agree with her. I never dreamed that Cain Hoy would be as big as it is or that I would actually head the owners' list. I don't know quite what to think about it."
January 18, 1960
Winning is hardly the exception to an old established Guggenheim custom. Long before the astonishing victory of his colt, Dark Star, over Native Dancer in the 1953 Kentucky Derby, Guggenheim was both noted for and rich from his endeavors in other fields. An executive of many years' experience in his family's enterprises, Guggenheim is best known as one of America's leading philanthropists. Guggenheim Foundations, in which he has always played a prominent role, have furthered countless research studies in aviation, jet propulsion and flight rocketry. One of the foundations was also responsible for the controversy currently rampant in architectural circles over the illuminated turnip, better known as New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Memorial Museum, designed by the late Frank Lloyd Wright.
TO IMPROVE RACING
Harry Guggenheim, who was a naval aviator in both world wars, is a former Ambassador to Cuba (1929-1933) and is married to the former Alicia Patterson, editor and publisher of Long Island's profitable tabloid Newsday (of which he is president). Writers who misquote him can usually expect a personal and pointed note from Captain Harry, as he is called by many who still recognize the naval rank with which he was retired in 1945 after active duty on an aircraft carrier.
Guggenheim runs an estate at Port Washington, N.Y. and a 15,000-acre timber and cattle plantation known as Cain Hoy north of Charleston, S.C. (The name is derived from an old Angola Negro Gullah corruption of "cane hay," which is a South Carolina plant used for making rattan chairs.) But, despite his determination to concentrate on business, Guggenheim finds himself drawn increasingly to the management of his own racing stable and into the over-all management of racing in New York state. Along with John W. Hanes and Christopher T. Chenery, he was one of the three original members of The Jockey Club picked to reestablish first-class racing facilities in New York (SI, Sept. 27, '54). Now that new Aqueduct is launched, however, Guggenheim is of no mind to slacken off. "We think we are already giving New Yorkers the best racing in the country," he said, "but our efforts from now on will be to make the racing even better—for those at the track and for those at home. Right now I'm interested in some ideas to improve televised racing."
The practical element is strong in Guggenheim. When a friend asked him the other day how it felt to own the most successful racing stable in 1959, he looked briefly but sharply at his questioner, then gave one of the rather pedantic answers for which he is noted. "When you think of success in a racing stable you've got to think of a balance sheet in two parts. One, of course, is the operating expense ledger, and on this one you'll seldom make a profit if you run a big stable. On the other side is the capital investment ledger, and this is what I think of more than anything else. For example, we now own some 90 horses, the majority of them homebred, and we have shares in stallion syndicates [last count: 21 shares in 13 stallions]. The only way to find out how much they are worth—and how successful you are—is to hold a dispersal sale. But I'm not looking for a dispersal sale."
If he did sell out, the Guggenheim dispersal would certainly rank among the major transactions in the horse world. Although Cain Hoy Stable's total strength is considerably smaller than Rex Ellsworth's in California, for example, it ranks from the standpoint of prestige and value with the best in the world.
In this stable there is both strength in all age divisions and a healthy assurance that, if breeding to the best available stallions has any significance, the future could be rosy. In addition to Dark Star and some shares in Turn-to (both of whom stand at Claiborne Farm), Guggenheim is in on the syndicates of such studs as Ambiorix, Daumier, Jet Pilot, My Babu, Princequillo, Ribot and Tulyar.
When Harry Guggenheim is drawn out on his philosophies about racing, he speaks with the conviction of a hardheaded, not overly imaginative man who is delighted to find in this particular sport an element of life lacking in the day-to-day conduct of other businesses. "There are," he noted, "so many variables and imponderables in the racing and breeding of Thoroughbred horses that any owner, breeder, trainer or jockey can make a strong argument to prove almost any case that he wants to make. Maybe that is why I find the sport so alluring.
"For example, a trainer can build up almost any kind of argument either for riding a certain jockey, or for not riding that same jockey. He can give you a million reasons for wanting to race at a certain track, for pointing for a specific stake race or for wintering in a particular spot. Now, maybe, a person with complete intellectual honesty would be able to see the logical course to steer through many of these controversial decisions, but the fact is most people are swayed by emotions and personal desires rather than by intellect. Differences of opinion—which is the reason people bet on races—also stimulate our own enthusiasm as owners and breeders. After all, if there were set and proven ways to breed the best horses and to train them systematically to win, there would be little difference of opinion and therefore little interest in racing."
Captain Harry sat down at a broad desk and tapped a pencil lightly on its glistening top. "When I'm asked," he went on, "what we do at Cain Hoy to get the best results, I can honestly say there is no set formula. My favorite reply is an old one used often before: breed the best mares to the best stallions. Then get the best trainer and the best jockey. Then hope for good luck. Without Lady Luck on your side you're done. With luck and good organization you can get somewhere."
Looking at a nearby calendar, Guggenheim thumbed back to a day last fall. "It's a racing day I'll never forget," he said, pointing at Saturday, October 24. "I had three horses in three different $100,000 races. I don't think it will happen to me again the rest of my life. We had Heavenly Body in the Gardenia at Garden State and Bald Eagle and One-Eyed King in separate divisions of the Man o' War at Aqueduct. Two of them were favorites, and the other was a second choice, and if ever there was a chance this was a day to make racing history. Well, about 3 o'clock in the morning of October 24 I woke up and heard the most awful noise outside. In a second I knew it was the kind of a downpour that wasn't about to let up—and in the same moment I knew that the slow tracks would give us little chance in any of the three races. Luck wasn't on our side that day, and there was no earthly way to do anything about it."
THE GREAT BARGAIN
"In 1953 Eddie Hayward was training for me, and Henry Moreno was our jock. We won the Derby with Dark Star and that fall The Garden State with Turn-to. Luck was with us, but not for long: Dark Star broke down in the Preakness, and the following spring Turn-to had to be retired after winning the Flamingo and becoming the Derby favorite. There's no telling how good either of those two colts might have been had both of them been able to complete normal racing careers."
Dark Star, for whom Guggenheim paid Warner L. Jones Jr. $6,500, proved how good he was at Churchill Downs on the afternoon of May 2, 1953, when he picked up $90,050 for winning the Kentucky Derby. Although he had won the Derby Trial five days before, the handsome brown runner attracted so little attention at the mutuel windows that, the enormous crowd, in its feverish rush to stamp Alfred Vanderbilt's unbeaten gray, Native Dancer, as the 7-to-10 favorite, established Dark Star's price at an inviting 25 to 1. Guggenheim still looks back on that day with mixed emotions: he was thrilled that he won, and yet even seven years later he is still bothered that Dark Star's victory was, at least in the view of the general public, tainted.
A NEW TEAM
"When Native Dancer was bumped by Money Broker going into the first turn, some of the press were quick to build up a story that pictured Native Dancer spun virtually sideways. Actually, the patrol films verified only that he was slightly brushed. But meanwhile Dark Star was on the front end, and before it was over two or three horses had made good runs at him, and each time he withstood them. His winning time of 2:02 has been beaten by only four other Derby winners in 85 years."
Cain Hoy's trainer today is Woody Stephens. Manuel Ycaza is the jockey. Stephens signed up in 1956, and the first day he reported to work Guggenheim told him, prophetically, "I don't look for us to make much of a mark until 1959, so don't be impatient." Ycaza had a reception of a different nature.
"From the first time I saw him I knew this boy had exceptional ability," said Captain Harry. "His faults, at first, were natural ones. He didn't know the way things are done in New York, and his ignorance got him into trouble. He'd been a big shot in the bush leagues and simply didn't comprehend what was expected of him. His hotheaded temper got him into more trouble. I think what Ycaza needed from the start—and I like to think that perhaps Cain Hoy helped provide it for him—was a binding confidence in something.
"I offered him a contract in the fall of 1958, but he went off to California and didn't bother about us until he came back last spring. One day he called up and said he wanted to speak to me, and I sent word back that I wouldn't talk to him until he decided to sign the contract. Finally we got together one afternoon at Jamaica. I handed him a routine Jockey Club contract, but one which, in view of Ycaza's talent, certainly was not very advantageous to him. As he stood to shake hands with me after signing, I said to him, 'Manuel, to be a success in anything you do you must put your trust in somebody and have confidence in him. By signing this contract you have shown me that you have trust in me. Is that correct?' Manuel smiled and replied, 'Yes, sir.' Still looking at him I reached over for the contract, tore it up and sat down to write another one with more generous terms. Ycaza's agent poked the boy and said, 'Look! You haven't even started working for the man and already you have a raise!' "
Cain Hoy Stable's superb showing in 1959 is in every sense a triumph for Guggenheim, Stephens and Ycaza together. "Woody and I go over policy decisions," Guggenheim said, "but I never interfere in the training. Training horses isn't my business, and I'll never pretend to make it mine. I expect Woody to run the horses when they are ready, nothing more. And I don't want the men around the barn to feel that they have to hide things from the boss. When a horse has bowed I know it's not the trainer's fault; it's just one of those things that happen."
The coming year could be another good one for Cain Hoy. Bald Eagle, the most improved older horse in the country at the end of last year, is at Hialeah to tackle Horse of the Year Sword Dancer in the handicap division. And he might get some help from his older brother, One-Eyed King. The stable's Kentucky Derby prospects, all of whom have lots of improvement to show yet, are All Hands, Clean Sweep Down, Sweet Prince and To Fortune. Among the nation's fillies Heavenly Body and Make Sail should more than hold their own.
The uncertainties of horse racing are such that they invest platitudes with a disarming truthfulness. And so Guggenheim can add: "It's too much to hope that we will have as good a year as we did last season, but we can hope. We can also remember that in this field, like in all other human endeavors, there is no substitute for intelligence, perseverance and fair play. Oh, yes, and don't forget Lady Luck."