August Belmont, Jr. : biography
August Belmont, Jr. (February 18, 1853 – December 10, 1924) was an American financier, the builder of New York’s Belmont Park racetrack, and a major owner/breeder of thoroughbred racehorses.
World War I
Following the United States’ entry into World War I, August Belmont, Jr., at age 65, volunteered to assist and was sent to France by the United States Army. He received a commission as major in the United States Army Air Service. His wife, Eleanor, also devoted much time to raising funds in aid of Belgian relief efforts and for the Red Cross, she made a number of trans-Atlantic trips as an inspector of United States Army camps. at www.metoperafamily.org
Thoroughbred horse racing
Like his father, August Belmont, Jr, was an avid thoroughbred racing fan. According to his TIME magazine obituary, August Belmont, Jr. "is credited with having saved thoroughbred racing when it was at its lowest ebb in the East, after the repeal of the racing law in New York State."
August Belmont, Jr. served as the first president of The Jockey Club and was chairman of the New York State Racing Commission. In 1895 he was one of the nine founding members of the National Steeplechase Association.
August Belmont, Jr. inherited Nursery Stud, a Thoroughbred breeding operation established in 1867 by his father at his Babylon, New York estate. There, Belmont, Jr. raised polo ponies and played on a polo team with Harry Payne Whitney. It was here he stood the Hall of Fame stallion Kentucky. In the early 1880s, Belmont, Sr. leased a farm property in Kentucky, located about three miles outside Lexington. After transferring all of the breeding business there, August Belmont, Jr. developed a very important stud farm whose influences are still felt today. Given the same name as the New York operation, at the Kentucky Nursery Stud he bred 129 American Stakes winners. The greatest of the horses he bred was Man o’ War, born while he was serving overseas in World War I. In his absence, his wife Eleanor named the new foal "My Man o’ War" in honor of her husband but because of his age and the uncertainty as to the war’s end, August Belmont, Jr. decided to disband the stable and with the "My" dropped from the name, Man o’ War was sold to Glen Riddle Farm in Maryland.
August Belmont, Jr. organized the Westchester Racing Association in 1895. In 1905 he built Belmont Park racetrack in Elmont, on Long Island which operates to this day as the largest thoroughbred racing facility in the state. In the year of its opening, the prestigious Belmont Stakes, inaugurated in 1867 and named in his father’s honor, was transferred from the financially troubled Morris Park Racecourse. Three times, horses from August Belmont, Jr.’s stable won the Belmont Stakes, the first coming in 1902 followed by back-to-back wins in 1916 and 1917.
Belmont, Jr. also had horses competing in England and in 1908 his American-bred colt Norman III won a British Classic Race, the 2,000 Guineas. In addition to his Kentucky horse farm, in 1908 Belmont established Haras de Villers, a breeding operation near Foucarmont in Upper Normandy, France. Following the cessation of racing in New York State as a result of the Hart-Agnew Law banning parimutuel betting, Belmont, Jr. stood American stallions at Haras de Villers such as Flint Rock, Ethelbert, and the sire of Norman III, Octagon. At his French farm, he bred notable horses such as Prix de Diane winner Qu’elle est Belle as well as Vulcain, one of the best three-year-olds of his generation in France. at www.tbheritage.com
August Belmont, Jr. operated the Kentucky farm until his death in 1924 after which the business was broken up and its bloodstock sold. According to Thoroughbred Heritage, today the property is home to a condominium development. Its horse cemetery, which became part of Hurstland Farm then the Nuckols Farm, is now occupied by the Rood and Riddle Veterinary Clinic.
His son, Raymond, owned Belray Farm near Middleburg, Virginia where the Hall of Fame horse Colin lived out his final years, dying there in 1932 at the age of 27.