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THE YEARS OF TRANSITION

 

1962 - 1976

The 1960's and early 1970's found Calumet in a period of transition. The farm had suffered major blows with the death of Ben Jones in 1961, the retirement of H.A. "Jimmy" Jones in 1964, and the death of Bull Lea the same year. These factors, combined with the tremendous increase in the number of Thoroughbred foals registered in North America, made the odds of continuing dominance, such as had been experienced during the 1940's and '50's, next to impossible.

Calumet, however, continued to be successful throughout this period. For 8 of these 14 years, Calumet ranked in the top 30 on the list of Leading Money-Winning Owners. In 1968 and 1971, the farm returned to the top 5, ranking third in 1968 and fourth in 1971. Also in 1968, Forward Pass gave the farm its eighth Kentucky Derby victory and seventh Preakness triumph. Strong efforts from horses such as Eastern Fleet, Gleaming, and Best Turn helped ensure Calumet's continued respectability.

1968 - 1976

The early 1960's found Calumet in a state of flux. With Ben Jones' death in 1961 and H.A. "Jimmy" Jones' retirement in 1964, the farm had lost the services of two of the finest trainers of the twentieth century. This was compounded in 1964 by the death of the farm's leading sire, Bull Lea, and by the failure of his sons to emulate their sire's performance at stud.

Calumet's ability to dominate racing was inhibited in part by the continuing expansion of the Thoroughbred industry. In 1947, there were 7,705 thoroughbred foals registered in North America. This figure had almost doubled to 14,870 by 1962, and by 1976 it had reached 29,500. In 1968, Calumet reduced its broodmare band and, therefore, its foal crop. With fewer horses and with the tremendous increase in competition, odds were against any stable dominating racing as Calumet had during the '40's and '50's.

There were, however, many bright moments during this period. In 1968, Forward Pass was awarded Calumet's eighth Kentucky Derby victory after the Dancer's Image was disqualified when phenylbutazone, a then forbidden substance, was discovered in post-race tests. Forward Pass went on to score the farm's seventh Preakness victory and finished second in the Belmont. In 1970, Best Turn (c, 4) recorded four stakes victories en route to earning $181,999. In 1971, Calumet climbed back to fourth on the list of Leading Money-Winning Owners, based on strong efforts by Gleaming (c, 3), Eastern Fleet (c, 3), and Son Ange (c, 3).

Calumet Returns to the Summit

In 1977, Calumet's fortunes were on the upswing as a new trainer, John Veitch, guided eventual 3-Year-Old Filly Champion Our Mims and the 2-year-old colt Alydar through successful campaigns. With their rivalry firmly established at 2, Alydar and Affired returned in 1978 to treat fans to some of the greatest racing ever seen on the American turf. Although Affirmed captured the three Triple Crown events,with Alydar runner-up in all, both horses established themselves as true champions.

In 1979, Calumet reaffirmed its return to racing's hierarchy as Davona Dale became the third Calumet filly to capture the National Filly Triple Crown. In also winning the New York Triple Crown for Fillies, she became the first horse ever to capture both titles.

Before Dawn became Calumet's sixteenth divisional champion when she was voted 2-Year-Old Filly of 1981.

1977 - 1978

In 1976, Calumet acquired the services of its eleventh trainer, 30-year-old John Veitch. Veitch, son of Racing Hall of Fame trainer Sylvester Veitch, became the youngest trainer in the farm's history and played an important role in returning the farm to racing prominence. In 1977, Veitch has some powerful ammunition with eventual 3-Year-Old Filly Champion Our Mims and 2-year-old colt Alydar. Our Mims collected $318,304 in winning 5 of her 10 starts, including the Fantasy Stakes and the Coaching Club American Oaks. Alydar scored in 4 of his 9 starts, including victories over evental 2-year-old Colt Champion Affirmed in the Champagne and the Great American Stakes. In three other starts he finished second to Affirmed, setting up one of the greatest rivalries in racing history. Based on the performance of Our Mims and Alydar, Sweet Tooth, dam of both, was named Broodmare of the Year by the Thoroughbred Breeders of Kentucky.

Calumet experienced its first million-dollar year since 1957, with the farm ranking sixth on the list of Leading Money-Winning Owners in 1978. Although 18 horses contributed to the farm's treasury, this was the year of Alydar. Of his 10 starts, Alydar recorded victories in 7. All 3 of his losses were second-place finishes to Affirmed in the 3 Triple Crown races, making him the first horse ever to be a Triple Crown runner-up. Of the 9 1/2 miles run against one another, Affirmed outdistanced Alydar by a cumulative 2 lengths, 3 necks, a head, and a nose. The Blood Horse summed up the two careers as:

"There was a winner and a loser, but the brilliance of each made a hero of the other."

Alydar suffered a fractured wing in the coffin bone of his left front foot, probably instigated in the traffic jam in his disqualification over Affirmed in the Travers. Following this, he was retired for the season.

1979 - 1981

In 1979, Calumet climbed one notch to fifth on the list of Leading Money-Winning Owners with earnings of $1,202,201.50. Three-year-old Davona Dale led the stable, taking 8 of her 13 starts en route to winning 3-Year-Old Filly honors. She gained the distinction of becoming the first filly ever to win both the national and the New York Triple Crown for fillies. Alydar returned at 4 but was never up to his 3-year-old form. He recorded 2 victories in his 6 starts and, after suffering a fractured sesamoid bone, was retired to stud.

In 1980, Calumet slipped out of the money-earned rankings despite a fine performance by 3-year-old filly Sugar and Spice. With victories in the Ashland, the Mother Goose, and the Cotillion Stakes, she became the farm's 147th stakes winner.

Two-Year-Old Filly Champion Before Dawn was Calumet's only stakes winner in 1981. In capturing the title, she became the stable's sixteenth divisional champion, winning 5 of her 6 starts. She returned at 3 to win the Jasmine and the Hibiscus Stakes and the Fair Grounds Oaks before being retired to broodmare duties.

The final chapter of Calumet's first 50 years was written on July 24, 1982, with the death of Mrs. Lucille Parker Wright Markey. Under her guidance and that of her first husband, Warren Wright Sr., Calumet had risen to a position of dominance in Thoroughbred racing unlikely ever to be duplicated. Through five decades Calumet captured 8 Kentucky Derbies, 2 Triple Crowns, 3 Filly Triple Crowns, and had 148 stakes winners with total earnings of $26,410,941.06. The record speaks for itself.

Lucille Parker Wright Markey: 1896-1982

Mrs. Lucille Parker Wright Markey was born near Tollesboro, Kentucky, in 1896. In 1919, she married Warren Wright Sr. and, after he inherited Calumet Farm from his father, she worked with him to establish Calumet as a giant in the Thoroughbred industry. After the death of Mr. Wright in 1950, she assumed control of the farm and saw her efforts rewarded as Calumet continued at the apex of American breeding and racing. In 1952, she married Rear Admiral Gene Markey.

During Mrs. Markey's association with the farm, Calumet amassed racing and breeding statistics that are unlikely to ever be challenged. From 1931--when her first husband, Warren Wright Sr., converted Calumet to Thoroughbred breeding and racing-unitl Mrs. Markey's death in July of 1982, Calumet horses had total earnings of $26,410,941.06. They had recorded a phenomenal 2,401 victories (508 stakes), 1,689 seconds (326 stakes), and 1,509 thirds (246 stakes).

Noted horseman C.V. Whitney echoed the sentiments of many who had known Mrs. Markey when he stated in The Thoroughbred Record (Vol. 216, No. 4, July 28, 1982):

..."She kept Calumet Farm in the tradition of the best type of horse racing and her standards were high. Her death is a great loss to the horse racing industry."

1982 - Present

According to Warren Wright's will, the farm passed into the hands of Warren Wright Jr.'s heirs after Mrs. Markey's death. Partly due to the downturn in the Thoroughbred market and partly through mismanagement, the farm went into a precipitous tailspin resulting in bankruptcy and a forced sale of all land and horses in 1992. Purchased by Count Henryk de Kwaitkowski, Calumet has returned to respectability, and once again the Farm's red and blue silks are becoming fixtures on American tracks.