arthur hancock, bloodstock depression, castleton farm, celt, colin, commando, domino, ellerslie stud, elmendorf, foxhall daingerfield, gambling restriction, james r keene, leading sires, loss of business in kentucky, loss of farming in kentucky, lucky baldwin
(This is the third in a series of short posts about happenings in 1911. If readers have comments or ideas, I will happily consider including those in the series.)
Kentucky was one of the hardest-hit areas from the massive bloodstock depression that occurred a hundred years in the aftermath of repressive legislation that outlawed gambling in most states with racing.
The impact was worst for the massive farms that had caused the bloodstock business in the Bluegrass to thrive. James B. Haggin’s Elmendorf Farm had shrunk from more than 1,000 horses to 200, including new foals, in 1911.
In California, Lucky Baldwin’s vast estate was broken up and sold by his heirs, and even more importantly, James R. Keene’s Castleton Farm was sold in November.
Castleton was actually the greatest blow to quality because Keene had been phenomenally successful since his return to racing in the 1890s with magnificent Domino and his descendants. In that glorious 20-year run, Keene had bred five winners of the Futurity Stakes and six winners of the Belmont Stakes.
Among the most notable of these were the unbeaten Colin, still in training in 1911, and his stablemate and understudy Celt. The latter also was a son of Commando, and after a distinguished racing career, first went to stud at Castleton in 1910, where he covered a full book of mares.
In response to the restrictions on racing, however, “almost all of these mares were sold in the Argentine, in England” and in Lexington in the fall of 1910. So Celt had few prospective American foals when the elder Arthur Hancock arranged a lease with Keene and his bloodstock manager (and brother-in-law) Foxhall Daingerfield for the following season.
Celt went to stud at the Hancocks’ Ellerslie Stud in Virginia in 1911, and the stallion became the leader sire in the country in 1921.
Before much was known of Celt’s qualities as a sire of racehorses, however, Keene died. His racing and breeding stock was sold at auction in September 1913, when Celt’s few first foals were 2. The top price at the Keene dispersal was $38,000 for Peter Pan, selling to Payne Whitney, then $30,000 for Colin (Price McKinney). Hancock bought Celt for $20,000, and the horse proved a star for Virginia breeding.