August 11, 2020

Calumet Farm tops breeders list for first time in nearly six decades

The past and present Calumet Farm colors (Vance Hanson)

The Jockey Club announced Wednesday in a press release that Calumet Farm topped the individual breeders list in North America in 2019, the first time the famed Lexington, Kentucky, nursery has done so in nearly six decades.

According to statistics released by The Jockey Club Information Systems, horses bred by Calumet earned $12,545,854. The farm accounted for 332 wins, 310 seconds, and 323 thirds out of 2,435 starts.

Roughly 30% of that total was accumulated in graded stakes. Notable horses bred by Calumet that won graded stakes last year include Mongolian Groom, Zulu Alpha, Channel Cat, and English Bee.

Operated by Brad Kelley, Calumet once enjoyed a New York Yankees-like dynasty among American breeders. Under original owner Warren Wright, Calumet first led the money-won list in 1941 when the farm’s Whirlaway won the Triple Crown. They topped the list again in 1944, and then for 11 straight years from 1947 through 1957, by which time the farm was owned by Wright’s widow, Lucille Wright Markey.

Calumet last topped the money-won list in 1961 when horses bred by it earned $1,078,894, the equivalent of more than $9.2 million in today’s dollars. Horses bred by Calumet accounted for 156 wins, 120 seconds, and 144 thirds that season (starts were not tabulated until 1963).

Roughly 70% of that 1961 total was accumulated by horses raced in the famous devil red and blue silks Calumet was once famous for. Who were Calumet’s leading runners that year? Yorky got Calumet off to a fast start that season by sweeping all three of Hialeah’s main-track features for older horses: the Royal Palm H., McLennan H., and most importantly the Widener H.

There was also the 3-year-old Beau Prince, who missed the Triple Crown, but knocked out big wins in the Travers, American Derby, and Fountain of Youth, the latter over division champion Carry Back.

Calumet’s latest revival is now in full swing and has the potential to last awhile, a treat for fans of the sport and its history.