In Memoriam: John R. Gentry (2:00 ½)

The below is an obituary for the legendary pacer John R. Gentry (2:00 ½), following his passing at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds (former Cumberland Park, Nashville, TN) on December 13, 1920 at the age of 31.


John R. Gentry ad (Trotwood's Monthly Oct. 1905)

Ad for John R. Gentry at Ewell Farm in Spring Hill, TN (Trotwood’s Monthly, October 1905).

“John R. Gentry, 2:00 ½, is dead.

It is the same as saying “the king is dead.” What a flood of memories are linked with his name.

“The Little Red Horse,” a pioneer of speed, a superb sire of a long list of capable performers and an emperor of the harness world, was found dead yesterday afternoon at 3:30 o’clock in his quarters at the State Fair grounds. Sam Seay, for many years colored caretaker of the celebrated horse, discovered his beloved charge peacefully asleep.

Yesterday morning the monarch of the turf appeared in his usual good health. But for the rain he would have been given his drive. Instead he was exercised, watered and fed. A few hours later John R. Gentry was but a memory.

Where he lived so long, John R. Gentry will be buried.

It is the plan of John Early, J. W. Russwurm, and Johnny Thomas, who loved the horse so well, to lay him to rest tomorrow morning on the infield in the home stretch.

The estate which owned the Gentry horse, the Harriman estate, have been notified of his death, but it is not believed they will deny the wishes of local turfmen.

John Trotwood Moore, long a lover of horses, will deliver the eulogy with Dr. Stoves expected to speak, in the elaborate exercises.

To commemorate the memory of the “little red horse,” the Harrimans will be asked to erect a handsome judge’s stand at the state fair grounds.

Near 32 years old.
For twenty years John R. Gentry was a world record holder. The wagon record, double team record and half mile record belonged to this royal blooded king. He was the oldest noted race horse in the world. He made the half mile record of 1:05 ¼ at Madison, Ohio.

Had he lived until New Year’s day, John R. Gentry would have celebrated his 32nd birthday. He was foaled in 1888. Regal blood flowed in his veins. “The Little Red Horse” was sired by the great Ashland Wilkes, while his dam was by Wedgewood. That wonderful mare was once owned by the Hermitage Stud here, May Overton having brought her to that nursery at a price of $25,000.

Almost a hundred pacers can trace their lineage to John R. Gentry, who for years has lived in luxurious quarters at the state fair grounds. He was brought to Tennessee years ago by George Campbell Brown by permission of the late E. H. Harriman. The Ewell Farm at Spring Hill was his home.

When Mr. Brown moved to Nashville John R. Gentry came with him.

Died Like King He Was
At the old Cumberland Park John R. Gentry passed a regal existence, blissfully spending his old age in the glow of tribute from a steady pilgrimage of sportsmen who made his quarters a mecca when visiting Nashville. “The Little Red Horse” having long since passed from the stud became a shrine of worship for horsemen.

R. Weston, long associated with the Harriman, came to care for the great horse, who had conquered at some time or another in his racing career every turf foe he met. Though he had tasted defeat, the great Joe Patchen, 2:01, a rival to many spirited harness duels, and Robert S, 2:00 ¼, had trailed him past the judges’ stand at various times. For in the heydey of his turf triumphs John R. Gentry reigned supreme. He was almost the harness Man o’ War, noted for his beauty of lines, clean limbs and conformation, all of which splendid qualities he bequeathed to his get.

John R. Braden Was His Get
The most noted descendant of the great Gentry is John R. Braden, 2:02 ¼. He belongs to Johnny Thomas, veteran grand circuit and state fair track campaigner who, with the Braden horse, set the above mark this year over the Poughkeepsie track. Numerous get of “the little red horse” are in the 2:30 class and almost as many more in the 2:10 class.

To R. Weston, “the little red horse” was an idol. By an singular prank of fate death called both Mr. Weston and the charge he loved so well this year. The end came for Mr. Weston in New York as the year was just dawning. With 1920 dying John R. Gentry passed away.

The noble horse caused Mr. Weston to create a fanciful circle of companionship which he christened the Sunshine Club. Its headquarters were at Cumberland park in a tiny office adjoining the quarters of the Gentry horse. Eligibility in the Sunshine Club only required love for John R. Gentry.

Had Occult Powers
There in the Sunshine Club Mr. Weston never tired of relating stories of duels between Gentry and Joe Patchen and Robert S. and other noted rivals. There hung on the walls but two pictures. One was of John R. Gentry and the other of Star Pointer, Tennessee’s great contribution to the turf, hailed by Mr. Weston as the only racer comparable with “the little red horse.”

Gifted with near human brains was John R. Gentry. Mr. Weston found no more pleasing pastime than demonstrating the uncanny knowledge which was stored in the head of the wise old horse.

“Gentry knows all his get apart,” Mr. Weston was fond of saying, which, to a layman, brought skepticism. And to prove it his caretaker would have the colts and fillies about the barn paraded before “the little red horse.”

It fell to our good fortune to witness one of the demonstrations of Gentry’s occult powers.

Set Mark in 1896
A beautiful filly was led by his stall. She was the poetry of grace, the epitome of bewitching lines, a Venus de Milo in horse flesh. A shrill whinny from John R. Gentry greeted her. There was the vanity of parental pride in it. And she was led away.

A colt was brought by. He was unkempt. The lip of John R. Gentry curled. There was the scorn of a thoroughbred for one less exalted in the horse peerage. John R. Gentry turned his head away, walked to the other end of the stall and gazed out upon the empty track.

Until death called him it was the custom of Mr. Weston to celebrate the great horse’s birthday by driving him in person once around the State Fair track. Only in exercise in the late years were the reins on his back where, in the glorious past, they had been held by W. J. Andrews as the “little red horse” who set his mark September 4, 1896, in Portland, Me., sped on to another victory.”
(Blinkey Horn / The Nashville Tennessean, 12/14/1920)


“Surrounded by friends who had loved him living and mourned him dead, John R. Gentry was buried yesterday on the in field diagonally across from the judges stand. The Harriman estate consented to his burial here.

A wreath was placed upon the last resting place of “the little red horse” by loving hands and John Trotwood Moore delivered a eulogy over the great pacer who held such a warm spot in his heart. “Though often surrounded by dishonesty he was always honest,” declared Mr. Moore, “and scientists could play with stars did they have the patience of Gentry.”

A suitable marker will be erected over the grave of the celebrated stallion and it is planned to have the Harriman estate erect a handsome judges stand as a lasting memorial to Gentry.

Among those who gathered at the grave were John Early, J. W. Russwurm, Chief of Police Alex Barthell and numerous others.”
(The Nashville Tennessean, 12/16/1920)


More on John R. Gentry (including photos) can be found here.

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