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THE BUILDING OF A GIANT: 1931-1939

 

Upon inheriting Calumet from his father in 1931, Warren Wright Sr. embarked upon his task of transforming the farm to Thoroughbred breeding and racing. Throughout the decade he methodically gathered the best breeding stock available.

In 1936, Mr. Wright made two purchases which were to have a tremendous effect on the future of the farm. He first bought a quarter interest in A.B. Hancock's imported stallion, Blenheim II. At the Saratoga Yearling Sale, he purchased Bull Lea, a Bull Dog-Rose Leaves colt, which became the foundation for much of Calumet's future success. From Blenheim II and Bull Lea came Calumet's Triple Crown winners, Whirlaway and Citation, and a host of other fine stakes-winning performers.

The services of Ben Allyn Jones, trainer of the 1938 Kentucky Derby winner, were added to the Calumet arsenal in 1939, setting the stage for the fabulous decade which was to follow.

THE EARLY YEARS

While William Monroe Wright was dedicating his energies to establishing Calumet as a prominent Standardbred farm, his duties at Calumet Baking Powder fell to his son, Warren Wright. Utilizing his genius for financial matters, he led Calumet Baking Powder to a pinnacle and then negotiated the sale of the company to General Foods for $40 million.

Warren Wright had been brought into Thoroughbred racing by Yellow Cab magnate John D. Hertz. Hertz had appointed Wright as a director of Arlington Park RaceTrack in Chicago. When he inherited Calumet Farm in 1931, he undertook the task of transforming the farm from a Standardbred to a Thoroughbred breeding and racing operation.

Mr. Wright entered his new venture with the same tough business philosophy that had proved so successful in his days with Calumet Baking Powder. With the investment capital secured from the sale of the family business, he began to build what would, in just one decade, be the finest Thoroughbred racing stable in America.

His first purchases were three yearlings - Warren Jr., Flirting, and Lucille Wright - at the Saratoga sale in 1931. One of these, Warren Jr., became Calumet's first starter on May 30, 1932, and also carried Calumet silks to their first victory at Arlington Park in June of 1932. The stable's first stakes victory came the following year with an A.B. Hancock bred colt, Hadagal.

In 1931, John Hertz had advised Wright to purchase broodmare Nellie Morse (Preakness winner in 1924) from the "Mutt & Jeff" cartoonist, Bud Fisher. She was in foal to American Flag at the time and produced Calumet's first homebred stakes winner and divisional champion, Nellie Flag.

In the latter part of the decade, Wright made three moves which were to have a profound effect on the future of Calumet Farm. In 1936, he purchased a quarter interest in the imported stallion, Blenheim II, from A.B. Hancock. Even more significant was his purchase of a Bull Dog-Rose Leaves colt at the Saratoga Yearling Sale. After a solid racing career, this colt, Bull Lea, became one of the greatest sires in Thoroughbred breeding history. In 1939, Wright made his third move when he acquired the services of noted trainer Ben A. Jones.