Reflections: John E. Madden Most Quoted Man on Turf His Maxims, Opinions Often Heard Today Breed the Best to Best-Hope for the Best Constantly Asked to Discuss Breeding, Daily Racing Form, 1952-06-27


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r y * ■ M ; I REFLECTIONS I By Nelson Dunstan John E. Madden Most Quoted Man on Turf His Maxims, Opinions Often Heard Today Breed the Best to Best— Hope for the Best Constantly Asked to Discuss Breeding NEW YORK, N. Y., June 26. One of the must unusual men ever connected with racing and breeding was the late John E. Madden. He was many things to many people, and to this day is referred to by some as Americas greatest greatest breeder breeder and and horse horse salesman. salesman. Born Born r y * ■ ; I : j 1 greatest greatest breeder breeder and and horse horse salesman. salesman. Born Born in Pennsylvania, he began life as a boxer, but in his early years turned to breeding, and his farm, Hamburg Place, became a show place of the Blue Grass. Prom one of its barns came five Derby winners, Old Rosebud, Sir Barton, Paul Jones, Zev and Flying Ebony. Not far from that barn is Madden s gymnasium. Although retired from boxing, he kept himself in good physical condition. That gymnasium today is the office of C. F. Morris, present master of Hamburg Place. Prom the ceiling still hangs the flying rings and and horizontal horizontal bars bars that that Madden Madden used used daily daily and and horizontal horizontal bars bars that that Madden Madden used used daily daily to keep in trim. On the walls are lithographs of old-time fighters that would be priceless to a collector of sporting prints. There are also paintings of fighters by the well-known artist, George Bellows. But what intrigued this writer most were Mad-dens cabinets and files, cluttered with the correspondence and memorandas of the breeder, whose saying, maxims and opinions are still the most quoted on the American turf. Many years ago, the late Harry "Black Hat" McCarthy, son of "White Hat" McCarthy, wrote a story, "The Maxims of John E. Madden." Although a highly intelligent breeder, we have often wondered if one man could have originated the wealth of adages with which he is credited. He it was who said, "Opinions die but records live," and that has been quoted in racing and breeding as often as the late Alfred E. Smiths, "Lets take a look at the records." Another now famous Madden saying is, "Breed the best to the best and hope for the best." Since his day there had been many breeding theories, along with dosage, systems, nicks and what-not, but in those few words Madden came close to the best theory yet devised. He would have no part of the Bruce Lowe system for mares, nor with the Jersey Act, which barred our horses from the English Stud Book. On this point he said, "If technicalities of pedigree tend to keep Man o War out of England, why not treat this famous horse on his own great merits? In testing lifes values, horses do not differ from men. If horse or man has fine traits and and shows his worth by making his own way, he is entitled to a place without being indebted to forefathers for a history. Man o War has the fine qualities of a great thoroughbred of his time and ancestors cannot help him or hurt him, except in fancy. Let his lineage be as it is and let his pedigree begin with his own great name, Man o War, just as a century ago John Halifax, gentlemen, commenced his chronicle with himself." This so-called Jersey Act has since been modified. A quarter of a century ago there were many breeding controversies just as there are today. In fact, some of the points argued then are still debated, and probably will be for many years. After the career of such horses as Man o War, Exterminator, Sir Barton, Mad Hatter, Grey Lag, Sun Briar, Zev, Purchase and others, opinions were ventured that the thoroughbred had reached his zenith as a race horse. After a long controversy, the matter was presented to Madden and from his own files, we read his answer. Asked the question, "Has the thoroughbred reached his limit as a race horse?" he said, "Yes! I cannot conceive greater race horses in the future than some of those of the past and present day. I have in mind such horses as Hindoo, Ormonde, St. Simon, Man o War, Sardanapale, etc. The only way I can see in which the breed can be improved is by training sounder horses. Possibly it is true that the thoroughbred, starting at a measurement of 15 hands or less, reached his limit as a race horse when he reached the limit of his height, which it is generally conceded has now been attained." It is a question and a controversial one, but we have had many fine, if not great, race horses since Madden uttered those words. Madden was plain spoken and gave forthright answers to the many questions fired at him. On one occasion, he was asked, "Is unsoundness on the increase?" and to that he answered, "Judging by the number of two-year-olds that do not race at three, I am led to believe that unsoundness is on the increase. Many of those that race as three-year-olds show marks of the firing iron." He was asked a follow-up question, "Has soundness been sacrificed for speed?" And that was one of the few occasions when he qualified his reply. He answered, "Yes, to some extent. The horse of great speed, belonging to an unsound family and unsound himself, is ever a great attraction to some breeders, but that horse should be avoided in the best interest of the improvement of the breed." In some quarters today; the expression, "Improvement of the breed" has been ridiculed, especially since the United States Government declared that the cavalry was outmoded in warfare. As to unsoundness in horses, we have as much today, if not more, than in the years when Madden was regarded as the greatest horseman of aU times. During recent years, this very year, in fact, we have seen all too many of our top horses on the sidelines due to unsoundness or injuries. But now that horses are raced summer and winter, it is natural that there is more unsoundness than was the case a quarter of a century ago. A question that is often heard today, and was also a subject of discussion 25 years ago, was whether market breeders should fatten their yearlings before then go into the salesring. On a previous occasion, we quoted Ira Drymon, Kentucky breeder, who last fall made the statement that owners and trainers will not buy yearlings unless they are fattened. It is a strange situation, for the task of bringing the colt or filly to racing condition entails the removal of considerable fat. A quarter of a century ago, Madden was asked, "Are the present methods of treating yearlings favorable or unfavorable to their development as race horses?" Madden answered: "The present day method that was a quarter of a century ago of stuffing yearlings in confined quarters in order to develop their stomachs, instead of their lungs, is not conducive to the development of endurance in our horses. Wide range of pasture and long hours in the open is the best treatment for yearlings. They may not be so attractive to the eye on sales day, but they will not be so likely to bring disappointment to their owners afterwards." In this column, we have but given a few opinions and maxims of this remarkable man.

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