The Most Fortunate of Trainers: James Rowe Tells of His Varied Experiences in Connection with Great Stables and Horses, Daily Racing Form, 1908-11-19


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THE MOST FORTUNATE OF TRAINERS. James Rowo Tells of His Varied Experiences in Connection with Great Stables and Horses. James Kowe, who has trained James H. Kccnes horses since 1809 and who last year sent to the post seventy winners. Hie earnings of which amounted to the sum of $:?97,312, and tliis year lifty winners, which represent In money won the sum of S1..!35. was recently interviewed and Dually inveigled into telling the story of his life. "Which was the greatest horse 1 ever trained?" repeated Mr. Rowe to the lirst question asked him. "Tltat is a question that 1 cannot answer off-hand. I have trained so many great race horses, and the period of time when they raced stretched over so many yours that it is impossible to properly decide which was the greatest. "Race horses, like our presidents, have many traits and characteristics and qualities. . Some men have always maintained that George Washington was our greatest president, while others have sung the Yiraises of Abraham Lincoln. It was merely a matter of time and tho opportunity, and they passed judgment accordingly. This applies to the race horses that I have trained. Some were great in one year and others at different periods. I cannot say which was my greatest horse, hut I can tell you that I believe the title rests between Sysouby and Colin." Lolling back in an easy chair in the sitting room in his little cottage just outside of the stable which sheltered James R. Keenes race horses. Mr. Rowe, the man who has won with his charges in twenty-right years nearly SU.OOO.OOO. puffed on a cigar as he told me of some of the incidents in his life and those of his race horses. As lie spoke Rowe gazed fondly out of the window to the stall where Colin was nibbling liay. His face was aglow with animation and his eyes sparkled with pride -as he mentioned tlie name of the great son of Commando. Rut there was not that in his voice which showed any degree of affection. For he is reticent by, nature and not given to he demonstrative. "Do you think that colts are superior to fillies? I asked him. "Well, I dont know." was the non-committal reply. "Colts will stand much more racing than fillies, but when you get one of the gentle sex that is sturdy and big and courageous they arc hard to beat. Such, lilllcsi as Miss Woodford and La Tosca were much; above tho average colt and beat many horses that were called champions. I .always had good luck with lillies. Perhaps that is why I am rather partial to them." "What caused you to enter the turf world? Was your father a horse owner or trainer?" "No. I was sort of dragged into it. My parents were Virginians and I was horn in Fredericksburg. 1 was alive and old enough to realize the important victory that Stonewall Jackson gave the south when he whipped Rurnside in the historic battle at that town. I was not big enough at that time to shoulder a gun or I might have worn a gray uniform. Being a Virginian, my sympathies were naturally with the south. I remember at the time that I regretted my youth, for I wished to follow old Stonewall in his campaigns. "It was during the reconstruction period and while I was keeping close watcli over a newspaper and tobacco stand, that the golden opportunity to become a jockey came strutting past me in the form of Colonel McDaniol. Next to being a soldier, I thought a jockey was the greatest thing in life for a. boy. Accordingly, when the, colonel, who had a , big -string of race horses, came up to my stand and iisked."im if I wanted to be a race rider. I thought he was" nearly as great as Stonewall Jackson, and the latter, you know, was my hero. My parents objected when I told them that I was going with tho colonel, but when 1 said that I would go north with or without their consent, they reluctantly granted the desired permission. "I did not weigh more than seventy -three pounds at that time. Rut in less than a year I was ridiug horses in a race. My first winning mount was on a mare which Colonel MeDaniel had purchased from August Belmont, the father of the present chairman of the Jockey Club. That was in 1S70. A few yc-ars later I had the mount on Harry Rassett when that horse beat Longfellow. That was a great day of triumph for me. for Longfellow was considered the greatest race horse of his day. "Although I was the leading jockey and had many winning mounts to my credit. I failed to make money as rapidly as the present-day riders. Old Dame Fortune used to glance at me, but that was all, and her shower of gold went into Colonel McDanieliS lap. You see, the colonel was a thrifty old soul, and he had an all-prevailing lielief that money in the hands of a youth meant a quick race on the straight road to perdition. Consequently, the colonel sought to save my soul by checking my hankering after the llesh pots of the cast. Instead of giving me money after winning a race, tho old gentleman would say: " Now. James, you have been an exceedingly good boy. You have ridden well and I intend to reward you handsomely. You have always wished to own a pair of nice red-topped boots. Well. I will buy them for you. The oijes witli the brass tips look much nicer than those that are plain. Remember to keep the brass well polished and try not to stub your toes. "At other times he would purchase a suit of clothes for me. There was a bit of Scotch blood in the colonel, and it is not surprising that lie was inclinwl to be thrifty. The clothes, were not always made of the best fabric, and the amount of the bill was never more than S7 or . "After several years of this kind of remuneration for my services I had a quarrel with the colonel and quit his employ. My fame as a rider caused 1. T. Rarnunr. who was about to inaugurate soma hippodrome races at tho old Gilmores Garden, to engage me as u jockey. I rode in the arena races, and when we Avent on the road I mixed my profession by acting as an acrobat. Wilh me at the time was Charley Fox, who recently owned the mare Economy, now a jumper. "The circus was -a good place for a young man to learn to be self-reliant and to understand that he had his own potato patch to hoe if he wished to make a success in life. It was a grand place for experience, and I learned many things there that have been useful to me in the latter days of my life, but I failed to accumulate any large amount of money and soon returned to the nice track. "It was at this period of my life that I entered upon my career as a trainer. The following summer I blossomed out in that vocation by handling Kadi, a horse that belonged to Dick Shea, a well-known betting man. I won several races with that horse and then obtained an engagement with T. R. and W. It. Davis of Virginia. "After a short engagement with the Davis brothers I signed a contract to train ifor Philip J. and M. F. Dwyer. The butcher hoys. as they were known in Rrooklyn. were just gathering together a string of horses. With such horses as Rhadamanthus. War-field. Luke Blackburn. Hindoo and Miss Woodford I won many of the big stakes. Success attended my efforts for many years, and while I was with the Dwyers the red and blue racing colors became noted. "In 1SSC tho late August Belmont hired me as his trainer. While in his employ I won many bigl turf classics with Potomac, La Tosca. Raceland and Prince Royal. "After the death of Mr. Belmont I was engaged to act aa a starter ou the metropolitan race tracks. Those were the days before the barrier was in use. My friends and the turf reporters said that my work was satisfactory. I never heard any great complaints against it, and I managed to make equitable starts without the aid of a barrier or starting device of any kind. "Just why that new fangled thing is used to start horses I can not understand. If a man can not line horses up and cend them away on even terms without the aid of a barrier he is not a good man to intrust with a Held of race horses and can not be called a starter. If I had my way all the starting barriers would lie burned up or sunk in the sea. You can not start race horses witli a machine. "After I had a short lling as a starter I acted as a judge of racing. It was during the days when the old Ray District track was in existence In California. After a short session of this kind I went back to training horses. I came east and was signed by Colonel Thompson to look after ids horses. He died shortly after I went into his employ, but his two sons. W. P. and L. S. Thompson, took up the stable and I looked after their- interests. They had such good horses as One I Love. Requital and Preston, and I won the Futurity for them later with LAlouette. The latter was a very poor lilly and was probably the worst horse that ever won a Futurity. "Soon after this James R. Keene was in quest of a trainer and he selected me. This was in 1SD3. and I have been in his employ ever since. During this last part of my career I have trained some of the greatest horses that were ever foaled in the United States. They all saw the light of day for the first time at the Castletou Stud Farm, with the exception of Chacornac. which I sold to Mr. Keene for 5,000. The horse proved to be a good bargain for he later won the rich Futurity for Mr. Keene."

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