Belle Meade Stud

March 1899: Obituary of Tremont

Tremont, known in his racing days as ‘The Black Whirlwind,’ is dead at Belle Meade. In some unaccountable manner, he broke his stifle Thursday, and yesterday when the veterinarian looked at him, it was decided best that he be destroyed to put him out of his misery.

Tremont, was bred at Elmendorff [sic] stud, by the late Daniel Swigert,  and was by Virgil, son of Vandal, out of Ann Fief, by Alarm. He ran eleven races as a 2-year-old, winning them all, and earning the title given him above. Early in his 3-year-old career and before he had faced the flag, he developed a ring-bone. He was the property of the Dwyers, and his career had been such a phenomenal one that Mr. Swigert paid $25,000 for him and took him back to Kentucky. At the Elmendorff [sic], disposal sale, some years later, Gen. Jackson bought the unbeaten stallion, paying $17,500 for him. Since that time he has been domiciled at Belle Meade.

Tremont’s get were numerous, but the best of them were Dogonet [sic] and Lovelace. El Telegrafo also gave promise at one time of being a wonder.

The dead stallion was of a highly nervous temperament. He was almost unmanageable, often kicking his barn until he was exhausted. It is presumed he met with the accident which cost him his life during one of these tantrums.” (The Nashville American, 03/04/1899)

April 1890: Gen. W. H. Jackson refuses to let his “famous five” go

In 1888, Judge Howell Edmunds Jackson, owner of Belle Meade Stud in triad with John Harding and Gen. William Harding Jackson, expressed his desire to retire from the breeding business.


The New York Times, 04/25/1890

Upon hearing this news, Harding and Gen. Jackson set out to purchase Judge Jackson’s interests; however, the three parties were unable to come to an agreement. Ultimately, John Harding would relinquish his interests to the brothers Jackson, leaving the two men sole owners of the property and bloodstock contained therein. Gen. Jackson then attempted to buy out his brother for sole ownership, but once again an agreement could not be reached, resulting in Judge Jackson suggesting that the farm’s stock be disposed of at auction, so that the public could set an appropriate value on each animal. Gen. Jackson, with no intention of losing his bloodstock, agreed to his brother’s suggestion, but stated that he would be an active bidder on the day.

The dispersal was initially set for the autumn of 1889, but was later delayed until April of the next year, the time of the farm’s annual yearling sale, where from April 24-25, 1890, sixty-one yearlings, seventy-six mares, and five stallions would appear on the auction block.


The New York Times, 04/26/1890

While heavily publicized and attended by somewhere between 500-600 individuals, the sale would be a dispersal in name only, as Gen. Jackson would buy back a total of fifty-two broodmares and stallions for $107,275, including his “famous five” of Bramble, Enquirer, Great Tom (GB), Iroquois, and Luke Blackburn, and broodmares Bric-a-Brac, Tarantula, Touch-Me-Not, and Tullahoma.

Now that the bloodstock matters had been settled, the issue of property remained, as Judge Jackson still owned a half-interest in the Belle Meade property. He would transfer his interests (under private terms) to Gen. Jackson in June 1890, at which time it was written that:

“Gen. Jackson has spent the best years of his life in perfecting and making famous this home of the high-bred race-horse. While he has encountered many difficulties, he has risen superior to all of them, and now finds himself the sole head of the most famous of American thoroughbred nurseries. At the sale in April he purchased the cream of the mares, wisely letting pass some of the more undesirable ones, thus greatly strengthening the stud.” (The Daily American (Nashville, TN), 06/14/1890)

“There was something pathetic in the summary dismissal of so many mares from the ring. They had seen their best days in the nursery, were now knocked down at one-tenth of the price they might have commanded in earlier years. This unthinking dishonor of self-sacrificing maternity, which had given up the glossy coat and symmetrical form in order that many offspring might rejoice in what the mother had lost, was strikingly contrasted by the spell of excitement which fell over the hitherto listless crowd when the last mare was led out and the great stallions were announced.

For a moment, whispered conjectures of the probabilities of the sale were interchanged, then there was a dead silence, and then a storm of enthusiastic applause as Uncle Bob entered, proudly grasping the halter of handsome Luke Blackburn.

Luke Blackburn at Belle Meade

Luke Blackburn and Uncle Bob at Belle Meade, date unknown.
Photo: Tennessee State Library and Archives

“You have before you, gentlemen,” said Capt. Kidd, hesitating as if out of deference to his subject, “a horse that is known and admired from Maine to California. He is the sire of Proctor Knott, and by many of the wisest turfmen and breeders, is regarded as the greatest horse in America, for he is certainly the most even and beautiful breeder. You have come from the East and the West. I see among you faces tanned by the breezes of the Atlantic and bronzed by the suns of California. You have come to witness and participate in the sale of this immortal stallion. How much am I bid to start him? Will you give me $20,000?”

The crowd for the most part was inclined to catch its breath at such figures. Some few sat coolly in their seats as if considering the proposition. The skillful auctioneer ran quickly down the gamut of possible starts until Ed Applegate, of Louisville, sang out $5,000. Uncle Bob’s large eyes rolled anxiously in the direction of his master, but already Gen. Jackson’s head had fixed the bid at $6,000. There was a lull. The spectators were excited, and Applegate did not seem inclined to follow his bid with another.

While the auctioneer was urging him to put up $500 more, their parley was interrupted by a calm voice near the canvas across the ring, saying, $10,000. It was Van Kirkman, bidding for Reuben Payne, of Knoxville, proprietor of Shepherd’s Bush Stud, in the county where Blackburn was foaled. Uncle Bob was in an agony of suspense as the bids were quickly interchanged, and there was no pause until Mr. Kirkman’s original bid had been doubled. Capt. Kidd talked on, but his eloquence was in vain. “Breeders of the United States,” he said, “you are being weighed in the balance.”

This appeal seemed to excite a little interstate pride, and there was a stir in the crowd. Uncle Bob watched until he saw nothing was coming of it, and then with triumph in every smiling wrinkle of his intelligent face, he called out, “Colonel, Colonel! The scales won’t balance!”

And Uncle Bob was right. Urge as he might, not a bid was offered the eloquent auctioneer by the silent assemblage. “When my hands close he is a sold horse,” Capt. Kidd cried, and the hands slowly approached each other.” Long before the intended climax was reached, however, the eager stable boys had carried the dapper gallant of the stud from the ring, as if they were rescuing a loved one from death, and cheer after cheer resounded through the pavilion as Gen. Jackson was declared the owner.

Uncle Bob was ecstatic. “Three cheers for Tennessee!” he cried, waving his hat in the air, and every man there joined him. Gen. Jackson was called on for a speech. “I do not know which affords me the greatest pleasure,” he said, bowing, “the ownership of that noble animal or the good will you extend to me. I have labored twenty years to build up this stud, and nothing is more grateful to a man than to know that his efforts are appreciated by his friends.

It was evident after this that Gen. Jackson was determined to have the sale all his own way, and the burst of admiration that greeted the superb Iroquois as he entered the ring was not blended with the excitement of uncertainty that had trebled the volume of Blackburn’s applause. The auctioneer called a start for several minutes with no response.

Then Mr. William Easton, of New York, himself a wealthy dealer, and holding a commission to bid high on the famous Derby winner, said: “I will give $15,000 for that horse.”

The murmur from the crowd had scarcely subsided before a desultory war of bids began to wage thick and fast. It ended in a few seconds by George E. Wheelock, the bookmaker, and Gen. Jackson, being left alone in the fight, hurling $1,000 advances at each other with incredible swiftness and apparent disregard for any pecuniary considerations. The crowd was standing on tip-toe, breathless with interest. It was understood that the great “Lucky” Baldwin, the magician of the Santa Anita Stables, of California, was behind the nervy bookmaker, and there was no telling where the giant race would go.

It was already $26,000.

“Twenty-seven?” asked the auctioneer.

Wheelock took it.

“Twenty-eight,” said Gen. Jackson.

“Twenty-nine,” nodded Wheelock.

“Thirty,” said Gen. Jackson, and his antagonist promptly answered, “Thirty-one,” but when the auctioneer proposed the next move he faltered. Thirty-three thousand dollars – that was something to think about. He would not look at the auctioneer. Gen. Jackson sat serene and confident, ready to bid down any adversary. “Thirty-three thousand dollars, gentlemen,” said Capt. Kidd impressively – “Tennessee against America!”

There was a swelling in every Tennessee heart, and they lifted the canvas with their cheers. “Is there no further bid?” asked the man on the box. “Then I close him.”

Sam Nichol, who was holding the halter, cried out excitedly, “You make shore you close him on the right man!” and every citizen of Nashville echoed Sam’s appeal. The bookmaker turned and nodded his head.

“Thirty-three thousand,” announced the auctioneer.

Quick as a sparrowhawk Gen. Jackson said “Thirty-four,” and the fight was ended. Again the enthusiasm knew no bounds and Uncle Bob embraced the princely horse as he received him to his own again.

There was no more bidding. Everyone realized that Gen. Jackson was determined to keep his stallions at any cost, and when Enquirer and Great Tom were brought in there were only the praises of the crowd and the eulogies of the auctioneer, who had, in Great Tom’s instance especially, been selling from them ever since he had learned the arts of the block, but the bidders were silent and the fine old stallions walked out, coveted by many, but coveted in vain.

“No one need have had any anticipation of leading that horse out,” said Gen. Jackson, as Great Tom passed from view, “I had no more idea of giving him up than Iroquois.”

Some idle bidder seemed to have discredited this, for when Bramble entered he bid $1,000, but he was scared off at $2,500, and the last of the famous five went back to the old, familiar paddocks as if there were no such possibility as leaving home.

Thus closed the greatest sale ever held on the soil of Tennessee – probably the greatest in America – and on the brow of the old Volunteer State were placed the laurels of a new supremacy; $66,490 had been brought by the yearlings, $77,300 by the broodmares, $58,500 by the stallions. In all, $200,290.” (The Daily American (Nashville, TN), 04/26/1890)

Grave of Enquirer on the grounds of Belle Meade Stud. Photo: Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Grave of Enquirer on the grounds of Belle Meade. Photo: Tennessee State Library and Archives.

“Enquirer and Great Tom were not sold, the managers of the sale refusing to allow them to be bid on, after the crowd had shown no disposition to start them for $1,000. This was owing to their advanced years. Gen. Jackson said that he would take them himself at that price, keep them until their death, and then lay their bones beside those of Vandal, Bonnie Scotland, and other dead heroes of Belle Meade.” (The New York Times, 04/26/1890)

March 1902: Obituary of Duchess

“Gen W. H. Jackson lost by death yesterday morning the famous thoroughbred matron Duchess, aged 22, by Kingfisher, out of Lady Blessington, a daughter of Eclipse. The second dam was Philo, by Mariner, out of Cassandra, by the imported horse Priam, and the third dam was Flirtilla, Jr., by Sir Archy.

Her death was due to a spasm. She was considered by the master of Belle Meade to be one of his best broodmares, she having produced many good race horses. Duchess leaves a weanling filly by the imported stallion Tithonus; also, a brown colt by imp. Loyalist, the latter being assigned to the sale which will be held in New York in June. The daughter of Kingfisher was perfectly well on Saturday, but rallied only a few minutes after she was taken ill.

Duchess was a capital winner, and also foaled the winners Clifford, the best horse of his day, and winner of 42 races, including the Phoenix Hotel, First Special, Sea Foam, Albany, Moet and Chandon (seven furlongs in 1:25 2-5, best on record), Second Special, Oakwood, Omnium and other stakes. Archduke, the winner of the Grand Union Hotel Stakes, beating Hamburg, sold for $15,000 and sent to England; Waterson, winner of 40 races; Jim Head, Utica, a stake winner in this country and also a winner in England in 1895, 1896, 1897 and 1898, under the name of Eau Gallie.

Duchess was a half sister to the Baroness, dam of Badge, winner of 70 races and a prominent sire, and the winners Baronella, dam of Sweet Alice, Romolo, Ballarina [sic], dam of Ballister, Goldbaron and May of Teck, dam of St. Distaff and others. The dam of Duchess, Lady Blessington, was a stake winner and also produced Count D’Orsay, The Countess, Lady Margaret and other good race horses.

Duchess’ death is a severe loss to Gen. Jackson, as her produce always brought top prices on the market. She was the dam of Titian, a three-year old that was never raced, for whom Mr. Murphy of Philadelphia, paid $6,500 at auction. The dead matron will be buried to-day in her paddock. The weanling filly was given to the broodmare Madge.” (The Nashville American, 03/10/1902)

Gen. W. H. Jackson speaks on overbreeding

“The high, if not fancy, figures which are being paid for stallions, both imported and domestic, representing the purest strains or of pronounced success upon the turf is creating a tendency among some purchasers to overserve them. It is seldom that such a course, even though it results in rapid financial returns, does not ultimately result disastrously. When Gen. W. H. Jackson, of Belle Meade, went East to purchase Iroquois he said to a representative of the Spirit of the Times:

‘Twenty-five mares are enough for any horse, at least such I have found by experience. When I first used Enquirer he was very popular. McWhirter and Falsetto were fresh in the public mind, you know, and being too greedy we bred him to nearly fifty mares each season. You might have noticed (I know the public generally did) that for a few years his colts and fillies did nothing on the turf, and when I found it was affecting the horse – he began letting down in his pasterns – I stopped it, bred him to only a few mares and see how well the Enquirers are doing now. Inspector B has run him away in the ‘winning sires.’ It was the same with Priam, the greatest English race horse that ever crossed the Atlantic. Mr. Merritt let him cover 150 mares the first season in America at $100 each, and thus he got the money back he paid for him. What was the result? Simply that Priam was a failure, while before he left England his success was tremendous. After he came to Tennessee Gen. Harding saw what was the matter, but it was too late.’

‘Don’t it strike you Mortemer has been similarly overbred?’ we asked.

‘I have no doubt of it at all. I am told he covered nearly fifty mares each season at Rancocas until this. The result is his get have failed lately, and every one is down upon them. It’s all a mistake. Mortemer is a great horse. His getting such great ones in France and one like Wanda here, proves that. Such excessive covering will ruin any horse’s reputation. Consider a horse having to serve fifty mares in a season! That means covering nearly 200 times in a season, particularly if the mares be old ones and keep on taking the horse.’”
(The Daily American (Nashville, TN), 02/29/1888)

McWhirter (1874)

McWhirter (1874 ch. c. by Enquirer – Ontario by Bonnie Scotland (GB))
Breeder/Owner: Gen. Abraham “Abe” Buford II (Bosque Bonita Farm)
Trainer: Abraham “Abe” Perry (1876-1878); Raleigh Colston (Fall 1877)
Female Family 3

“Only when the last race is run, and the last thoroughbred horse shall be buried, will the name McWhirter be forgotten. Long after these events have happened will the children of unborn generations, far down the vale of time, relate the history of his glorious death, and thus excite the sympathetic admiration of eager listeners charmed to silence by the marvelous episode.” (The Spirit of the Times, as republished in the Louisville Courier-Journal, 07/15/1878)

“McWhirter was a very pretty chestnut, gracefully built, well proportioned, and his only fault, probably, was a lack of strength and large bones. He was nearly 16 hands high and worth about $3,000.” (St. Louis Republican, 06/06/1878)

“…if I can pass through the pearly gates of heaven in a chariot drawn by Enquirer and McWhirter, I would shout with great joy…” – Gen. Abraham Buford (The River Press (Benton, MT), 05/31/1882)

“To this day he [McWhirter] is cited as the most remarkable example of courage known in the history of the thoroughbred.” (Daily Racing Form, 04/14/1912)

By the Leamington (GB) stallion Enquirer and out of the Bonnie Scotland (GB) mare Ontario, McWhirter’s pedigree could cause one to think that he was a product of Belle Meade Stud; however, that is not the case. At the time of McWhirter’s foaling in 1874, both Enquirer and Bonnie Scotland had yet to arrive at the storied nursery.

A blood bay standing just over 16 hands, Enquirer (1867), by Leamington (GB) and out of the Lexington mare Lida, was a “high type thoroughbred” bred by H. F. Vissman of Louisville, KY.

Purchased for racing by Gen. Abraham Buford, Enquirer, who was named for the Cincinnati Enquirer, would only win one race (George Elliot S.) in three starts at the age of two. However, he would come into his own as a three-year-old, going undefeated in six starts (Citizens S., Continental Hotel S., Kenner S., Phoenix Hotel S., Robbins S., and an unspecified stake at Cincinnati) and earning around $20,800.

Continental Hotel S. (Republican Banner 1870.08.04)

Republican Banner (Nashville, TN), 08/04/1870

One of Enquirer’s sophomore races was the Continental Hotel Stakes, a series of one mile heats run at Long Branch, NJ (Monmouth) in August 1870. A bad start would cost Enquirer (listed as “Inquirer” in the chart at left) the first heat, and he would ultimately finish third behind winner Lynchburg, a highly-regarded Leamington colt who was also bred by Gen. Buford. During the second heat, Lynchburg would step in a hole, breaking a shoulder. Enquirer would subsequently win the final two heats with ease.

Note on Lynchburg: Following Lynchburg’s injury, a fundraising campaign spearheaded by the Long Branch Racing Association raised $4,000 for owner Major T. G. Bacon in order to help him recoup perceived losses from his out of commission colt, who was valued around $10,000 at the time of his accident. Lynchburg would ultimately survive his injuries and enter the stud.

The field for the Continental Hotel was rather extraordinary in regards to future impact on the breed, as in addition to Enquirer it included the Australian (GB) filly Maggie B. B. and the Lexington filly Susan Ann. This race wasn’t the first time that Enquirer and Maggie B. B. had faced off, but it was the first time that Susan Ann joined the fray. Maggie B. B. would foal the great Iroquois in 1878, and her influence as a broodmare is still felt today through the influence of her many daughters, while Susan Ann would foal the great racemare/broodmare Thora in 1878.

An ankle injury would necessitate Enquirer’s premature retirement to stud at the age of four (he would briefly attempt an unsuccessful comeback as a seven-year-old, finishing fourth in a two mile race at Lexington in September 1874), and he would spend the first nine years of his stud career at Gen. Buford’s Bosque Bonita Farm in Lexington, KY.

Enquirer was a impressive looking individual, and a write-up in the Lexington (KY) Press would elaborate on his physical type:

“A magnificent bay colt, standing fully sixteen hands high, with a slight star, and left hind foot white, extending almost half way to his hock; he has no other marks. Upon the first glance he is a leggy-looking colt, but as you approach him you find that his body is well in keeping with the length of his legs. Combining a wonderful structure of body with a most noble and majestic figure, he takes more after the dam side of the house of Lexington than his sire Imp. Leamington; he has a good head and neck, running into powerful and well-inclined shoulders; his length is great, and he appears to couple loosely, but with the hips and quarters, immense stifles and nerve, more length from the point of the hip to the whirlbone and thence to the back, we venture to say, than any horse on the turf; he stands high on his legs, but has a great deal more body than his sire; has good feet and legs, easy, graceful, and active, he cuts down all his opponents with his immense strides.”

Additionally, Enquirer’s physical measurements were reported by Sanders Dewees Bruce in the 1883 edition of The Horse-Breeder’s Guide and Hand Book as:

“16 ¼ hands high, girth 73 in., length of shoulder 29 ¾ in., circumference of arm 22 in., around the leg below the knee 9 in., from point of shoulder to turn of the buttocks 69 in., from point of hip to point of hock 38 ½ in., around the gaskins 18 in., and weighs 1,200 lbs.”

Enquirer would have immediate success in the stud for Gen. Buford, with his first crop including the outstanding colt Searcher (1872). His success would continue in successive crops, and by the time Enquirer was sold to Gen. W. G. Harding of Belle Meade Stud in Nashville, TN for $10,000 in June 1879, he had become known as “the greatest of living American stallions.”

Grave of Enquirer on the grounds of Belle Meade Stud. Photo: Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Grave of Enquirer on the grounds of Belle Meade. Photo: Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Shortly after Gen. Harding’s purchase of Enquirer, Pierre Lorillard reportedly offered Harding $18,000 for the horse. He would decline the offer, and Enquirer would continue his success at Belle Meade, siring Inspector B. (1883), among others.

Upon Enquirer’s death at Belle Meade in September 1895, it was written in the Nashville American that “It has long been an axiom of the American turf that ‘you never had an Enquirer beaten until the wire was reached.’ They are, almost without exception, game to the finish.”

His son McWhirter was the embodiment of this statement.

ONTARIO (1865)
Ontario (1865), by Bonnie Scotland (GB) out of the Monarch (GB) mare Lady Lancaster, was a stakes winning heat racer (Mobile Colt S.) bred by John Reber of Ohio, and raced by S. Leonard and E. A. Smith of Cincinnati, OH.

By all accounts, Ontario was an attractive individual, taking first premium in the class for Thoroughbred mares, three years and under at the 1868 St. Louis (MO) Agricultural and Mechanical Association Fair. At the same fair, her then fifteen-year-old sire Bonnie Scotland would win first premium for Thoroughbred stallions of any age, having already taken first premium in the class for Thoroughbred stallions, four years and over.

Ontario’s dam Lady Lancaster was a successful broodmare, with one of her noted foals being Ontario’s full brother Malcolm (1862). While a stakes winner on the track, Malcolm is best known today as the sire of the filly Marian (1871), herself the dam of El Rio Rey (1887), Emperor of Norfolk (1885), The Czar (1886), and Yo Tambien (1889), among others.

Pan Zareta (HOTC)

Photo of Pan Zareta as published in Hoofprints of the Century.

Owned by Gen. Buford by the time she produced her first foal in 1871, Ontario would pass through various hands during her breeding career, producing at least fifteen foals through 1889. In addition to McWhirter, she would later produce the Iroquois (GB) colt Rancocas (1887), himself the sire of Caddie Griffith (1901), the dam of Pan Zareta (1910).

Burnie Bunton - Worth 1902 (SDN-000633, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum)

Burnie Bunton at Worth Race Track (Chicago, IL), ca. 1902.
Photo: SDN-000633, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum.

Rancocas would have impact on the foundation of the American Quarter Horse, as in addition to the aforementioned Caddie Griffith, he would sire the sisters Burnie Bunton (1898) and Miss Anxious (1903), as well as the colt Booger Red (1905) (who was himself out of a half-sister to Burnie Bunton and Miss Anxious). All three mares would ultimately become foundation dams of the American Quarter Horse, with Booger Red becoming a foundation sire.

Owned by M. Byrnes of Eatontown, NJ at the time of her death, Ontario would pass away at Belle Meade Stud in late 1891 at the age of twenty-six. A full list of her progeny is located at the end of this post.


Named in honor of Captain A. J. McWhirter of Tennessee, the equine McWhirter was reportedly “about blind in his left eye and weak in his right.”

When the time came to begin his racing career, McWhirter joined the Buford string then under the guidance of successful African-American trainer Abe Perry. Horse and trainer would become tightly bonded, with Perry later stating that he thought more of McWhirter than he did of any person living. With the exception of a brief period during the fall of 1877 when it appears that the Buford horses were placed with Raleigh Colston, McWhirter would remain with Perry for the entirety of his career.

McWhirter - Colt and Filly S. (NYT 1876.05.12)

The New York Times, 05/12/1876

1876: (8) 3-1-2
McWhirter’s career debut came at Lexington in the Colt and Filly Stakes (aka Spring Sweepstakes) (5f) on May 11, 1876. Defeating an unnamed colt by Glen Athol and out of Susan Overton (who was later named Allen Pinkerton) for the win, McWhirter’s final time of 1:04 ¾  for the five furlong distance was the second fastest ever recorded at Lexington, falling only behind the time of 1:04 ½ set by Aristides.

Travelling next to Louisville for the Alexander Stakes (4f) on May 15, McWhirter would not repeat his previous winning effort, instead finishing second by three lengths to the Phaeton (GB) colt Lisbon. Gen. Buford was irate following McWhirter’s loss, and it was later reported that McWhirter was to be sold to an unknown party for $10,000 had he won.

Remaining at Louisville, McWhirter then finished third by approximately four lengths behind winner King Faro (Phaeton (GB)) in the Tennessee Stakes (6f) on May 19.

“Much difficulty was experienced at the start, a dozen false attempts having been made before the horses got off. The McIntyre entry and Buford’s McWhirter showed a disposition to lead, and by the time the horses did get off, the latter was killed, so far as the race was concerned.” (The Daily American (Nashville, TN), 05/20/1876)

McWhirter - HEADLINE Colt S. (LCJ 1876.09.13)

Louisville Courier-Jounral, 09/13/1876

McWhirter would then take a lengthy absence from the track, not returning to the barrier until the Colt Stakes (6f) at Lexington on September 12. After a poor start left him forty yards behind the others at the onset, McWhirter would gain ground to dead heat with King Faro for the win. The race was ultimately decided with the two colts dividing the purse.

Continuing on to the Louisville fall meeting, McWhirter followed up on his (co-)winning effort with a win over the Australian (GB) colt Baden-Baden in the Belle Meade Stakes (6f) on September 22. McWhirter’s winning time of 1:17 in the six furlong dash was reportedly a new stakes record.

Remaining at Louisville, McWhirter next ran in Grand Sweepstakes (1 mi.) on September 27, finishing third behind the filly Belle of the Meade (Bonnie Scotland (GB)) and Baden-Baden. On the same card, McWhirter’s five-year-old half-brother Kilburn (Ringmaster) would take the first race, winning two out of three heats in a one mile association purse.

McWhirter ran unplaced in two other races in 1876 – the Sanford Stakes (1 mi.) at Louisville on an unspecified date, and a second unknown race on/at an unknown date/location.

1877: (7) 4-1-1
McWhirter’s sophomore campaign commenced at Lexington with a third place finish behind the longshot War Dance filly Bradamante (aka Brademante) and Planet filly Classmate in the spring edition of the Phoenix Hotel Stakes (1 ⅛ mi.) on May 12.

Every expectation was on McWhirter to win the Phoenix Hotel, and when he did not:

“This race nearly broke Woodford county, whose citizens always come to the Lexington races enthusiastically in favor of some Woodford county horse. The defeat of McWhirter was a great blow to them, but no greater than it was to his owner, General Abe Buford, who stood out in the cooling-ground during the race; where he could see every step of the course. When he returned to the stand he did not look like a happy man.”
(Louisville Courier-Journal, 05/13/1877)

Remaining at Lexington, McWhirter regained the favor of his fans by winning a 1 ½ mile race on May 17 over Whisper (Planet) and Emma C. (Planet).

It was announced on May 18 that the six-year-old Phaeton (GB) horse Ten Broeck (already the holder of American records at three and four miles) would make two attempts against time at Louisville in the coming weeks – the first on May 24 in an attempt to break the one mile record, and the second on May 29 in an attempt to break the two mile record. Upon hearing of Ten Broeck’s upcoming schedule, Gen. Buford stated that McWhirter could beat Ten Broeck at one mile, and was displeased that his colt was not allowed to line up against the horse in the trial on May 24.

McWhirter’s third start of 1877 would come not against Ten Broeck, but instead against ten rivals in the third edition of the Kentucky Derby (1 ½ mi.) at Louisville on May 22. Never a threat in the race, McWhirter would finish fifth behind winner and familiar rival Baden-Baden, who took the race by two lengths over Leonard (Longfellow).

Two days later on May 24, Ten Broeck sets a new one mile record of 1:41 ¾ in his first trial at Louisville.

Baden-Baden, McWhirter, and Derby fourth place finisher Vera Cruz (Virgil) made a quick return for the Clark Stakes (2 mi.) at Louisville on May 28. Only in its third year of existence, the Clark was at the time restricted to 3-year-olds and considered to be a “sequel” to the newly established Kentucky Derby. It was not until 1902 that the Clark would be re-branded as a handicap for horses 3-years-old and up.

Drama would fill the pre-race festivities, as Derby winner Baden-Baden was sold to William Astor of New York for $12,500 ten minutes prior to the race. Baden-Baden would ultimately finish last behind the filly Hyena (Longfellow) in the four horse field.

McWhirter - HEADLINE Clark S. (LCJ 1877.05.29)

Louisville Courier-Journal, 05/29/1877

Despite being ten pounds overweight, McWhirter came running in the final half-mile to win the Clark by approximately eight lengths over Vera Cruz. His final time of 3:30 ½ in the race was a new American record, lowering the previous record set by the Lexington horse True Blue at Saratoga in 1875 (3:32 ½) by two seconds.

“Yesterday, when Gen. Buford’s horse McWhirter won the Clark Stake, a dash of two miles, in 3:30 ½, the fastest time ever made, the old soldier’s exuberant feelings so carried him away that he took the head of the gallant animal between his two hands and lovingly kissed him. A very young person on the Grand Stand exclaimed that ‘she would rather it was the horse than she that received the kiss.’ ” (The Daily American (Nashville, TN), 05/31/1877).

With Ten Broeck’s two mile race against time scheduled for the day after the Clark, McWhirter’s unexpected record added some additional excitement to the festivities, causing observers to question whether Ten Broeck would even be able to approach McWhirter’s extraordinary time.

HEADLINE - Ten Broeck 2 mile record (LCJ 1877.05.30)

Louisville Courier-Journal, 05/30/1877

The concern was unwarranted. With the largest crowd ever assembled at the Louisville Jockey Club cheering him on, Ten Broeck (racing against stablemate pace horses St. Louis for the first mile and Necy Hale [aka Neecy Hale] for the second mile) would lower McWhirter’s two mile record by three seconds (3:27 ½), becoming the sole American record holder for one, two, three, and four miles (with all records set at the Louisville track).

Despite no longer being an American record, McWhirter’s time of 3:30 ½ remained both the fastest two miles ever run by a 3-year-old and the fastest run under actual race conditions.

Following on the heels of his record setting effort in the Clark, McWhirter headed up to Chester Park in Cincinnati, defeating the Longfellow gelding Odd Fellow (aka Oddfellow) by three lengths to win the Ohio Derby (aka Cincinnati Derby) (1 ½ mi.) on June 2.  His time of 2:40 was reportedly a new stakes record.

With McWhirter in increasingly good form, Gen. Buford continued to maintain that in a race between McWhirter and Ten Broeck, McWhirter would win, and remained eager to set up a match between the two at Louisville later in the year, expressing that in his opinion, “running a horse against time on a smooth, solid track, with running mates, and putting a horse in a full field of starters to take the rough-and-tumble changes on the home stretch, are too [sic] vastly different things.” (Louisville Courier-Journal, 06/07/1877)

After five races in less than a month, McWhirter entered an extended absence from the track, not returning to the races until mid-September. Now under the temporary care of trainer Raleigh Colston, he made two starts in quick succession at Lexington, finishing second to Vera Cruz in a 1 ¼ mi. sweepstakes on September 17 and winning the fall edition of the Phoenix Hotel Stakes (1 mi. heats) on September 19.

His comeback would be short lived.

“Late intelligence leaves no doubt of the fact that McWhirter is broken down. He is hurt in the tendon of one of his forelegs, and will never be fit for service on the turf again. His race on Monday, when he slipped and fell against another horse, and the severe driving he was subjected to on yesterday, finished him.” (Cincinnati Commercial, 09/20/1877)

1878: (2) 0-1-0
McWhirter’s leg troubles would develop into a lingering problem, delaying his 4-year-old debut until the end of May. Following a second place finish to Solicitor (Enquirer) in the Galt House Stakes (2 mi.) at Louisville on May 24, it was decided that due to his continuing soundness issues, his next and final career start would be the Greeley Stakes (3 mi.) at St. Louis’ Cote Brilliante track on June 5.

“During the three days and nights previous to the race, Abe Perry, McWhirter’s trainer, was continually bathing his legs, both day and night, and it was very much feared that he would not be able to make the race. If he had held out during the race it would have been his last one anyhow, for Gen. Buford had determined to take him off the track.”
(St. Louis Republican, 06/06/1878)

On June 5, McWhirter, with his mane festooned with ribbons in the red and white Buford colors, took to the track for his career bow in the Greeley Stakes.

“The saddest and most heart-rending scene ever witness on any race-track in the world happened in the three-mile dash, yesterday, when McWhirter’s forelegs broke down on the back stretch while the third mile was being run.

McWhirter, Mahlstick, Red Bluff and Joe Rodes were the starters in the race, the former too soon taking the lead and keeping even neck and neck until after the three-quarter pole had been passed in the second mile. About midway between the three-quarter and eighth-mile posts McWhirter stumbled. Old horsemen standing near that part of the track knew immediately that the horse’s career on the race-course was ended forever, for it was only too evident that his foreleg had broken down. Mr. Geo. Cadwallader shouted for the rider to stop the horse, but with a persistence unexplainable he kept ahead, pushing McWhirter to his utmost speed, as was perfectly evident to all.

By the time the first quarter of the third mile had been reached McWhirter had dropped behind Mahlstick a length and a half, and when just entering on the back stretch he stumbled again, and before the half-mile post was reached, Joe Rodes had passed him, and Red Bluff was pretty close behind. Just about at the second turn Red Bluff was seen to pass McWhirter, and at the same time ran against him, throwing him down and sending the jockey into the dirt. A little further on, Red Bluff stumbled and fell down. As soon as Mahlstick and Joe Rodes had passed the judges’ stand, a great rush was made for that part of the track where McWhirter fell.

A most sickening sight met the eyes of the crowd as it gathered around McWhirter, who by this time was on his legs again, but only on two feet. The poor horse was hobbling around on the stumps of his forelegs, the limbs having become unjointed at the pastern joint; and the hoofs were hanging loose, joined to the legs by only a small portion of the skin. The jockey, Link, stood near the head of his horse, crying and saying that they “musn’t blame him for it; he didn’t know the horse’s legs were that way.”

It was decided immediately that the horse must be shot, and Officer Keeble, of the Fifth district, was detailed to the unpleasant job. When the officer pulled out his revolver, and placed the muzzle against McWhirter’s head, the poor dumb brute did not even wink; and when the shot was fired he only jumped a little with his forelegs, and the second shot did not affect him much more. Neither of these shots was placed where it should have been. But the third shot, near to the left eye, was evidently more painful than the first shots, and made the horse jump, and he finally started across the track, hobbling on the bare bones of his fore-legs.

It was then that the spectators turned away, sickened from the horrible sight, and quite a number cried out to the officer “to end his miserable job without any more blundering,” and he did, shooting the racer for the fourth time in the forehead. The horse reared on his hind legs and then fell down, but not dead by any means. He laid on the ground kicking for several minutes, and when hauled away a few moments afterward was still alive.

As soon as he was down a number of jockeys and stable boys gathered around with pocket-knives in their hands and began to cut off little bunches of his mane and tail for mementoes, but the officer did not allow them to make very many hauls of the long chestnut hair. The celebrated racer rests under an elm tree in the southeast corner of the grounds, near the track, where in after years, they said he could hear the other racers speeding over the track which was his death-bed.

From all that can be learned of the unfortunate affair, it seems that McWhirter’s right foreleg broke down when he stumbled the first time, and the other leg when he stumbled the second time. He ran nearly a quarter of a mile after the second leg broke down before the bones broke through the skin, and then he ran about a quarter on the bare bones before Red Bluff ran against him. Such a spirit of gameness could only be exhibited by a thoroughbred horse, and not many of them would do the same thing.

Some time last fall one of McWhirter’s forelegs became weakened in some of the fall races, and since that time everything possible has been done to give strength to the affected limb and it is thought that by too much attention being given to one leg the weakness in the other was not noticed. Although the colt did not exhibit any signs of lameness, it was known to those familiar with him that his career on the race course would necessarily be very short.

During the three days and nights previous to the race, Abe Perry, McWhirter’s trainer, was continually bathing his legs, both day and night, and it was very much feared that he would not be able to make the race. If he had held out during the race it would have been his last one anyhow, for Gen. Buford had determined to take him off the track.

McWhirter was a very pretty chestnut, gracefully built, well proportioned, and his only fault, probably, was a lack of strength and large bones. He was nearly 16 hands high and worth about $3,000. He was not insured. In the Clark stakes at Louisville last fall he made two miles in 3:30 ½, and he has beaten Solicitor in 3:34. He also ran in the Cincinnati Derby and made a mile and one-half in 2:40 ½ .

Abe Perry, Gen. Buford’s trainer, feels the loss very much as he was strongly attached to the pretty chestnut colt from having been with him so long and given him so much attention. After the accident yesterday Perry sat around the stables, looking as though he had lost his best friend, and in conversation he said he thought more of McWhirter than he did of any person living. Gen. Buford, too, was very much affected by the loss and it is certainly a very said affair to all.” (St. Louis Republican, 06/06/1878)


“The bones of the legs were not broken, but the tendons gave way and both the legs slipped from their sockets at the fetlock joint.” (The Galveston (TX) Daily News, 06/11/1878)

The tale of McWhirter’s horrific final moments would not remain solely within the confines of the track, but rather was published in newspapers across the United States, enshrining his memory in the public consciousness.

“The death of McWhirter at St. Louis in the presence of 8,000 ladies and gentlemen while gallantly doing his master’s will, under circumstances that sent a thrill of pain keenly and directly to every one who witnessed the sickening scene, and almost as sensibly to the whole nation as the electric fluid conveyed the sad tidings to every section of the Union of his giving up his life in the midst of fidelity to duty, carried with it none of the mortifying regrets that must be felt by every true turfman when contemplating this unfortunate affair.

McWhirter left the arena upon which he had acted so prominent and so brilliant in part amid such a halo of glory, gathering, as he went, a diadem about his name, thickly set with jewels far richer than ever decked the brow of prince or impelled respect for monarch. We joined thousands in the earnest, almost prayerful hope, to be spared another spectacle so cruel, so sad, so lamentable, so torturing. But it was like the dying of a soldier, a great soldier in the storm of battle, struggling for the ascendancy of liberty, for victory in the name of justice, and, though he breathes no more, though the brilliancy of his triumphs are over, though he has passed into history, the name he bore is as immortal as the love of the people, for the sport of kings shall be lasting.

Only when the last race is run, and the last thoroughbred horse shall be buried, will the name McWhirter be forgotten. Long after these events have happened will the children of unborn generations, far down the vale of time, relate the history of his glorious death, and thus excite the sympathetic admiration of eager listeners charmed to silence by the marvelous episode.” (The Spirit of the Times, as republished in the Louisville Courier-Journal, 07/15/1878)

Upon later reports, McWhirter was buried at the head of the Cote Brilliante track, beside an oak tree on the north side of Page Boulevard, about 200 feet west of King’s Highway in St. Louis. Following the track’s closure, McWhirter’s resting place would quickly be lost to the ages until the spring of 1895, when one story indicates his skeleton was unexpectedly uncovered by excavators digging a cellar on the site in preparation for the construction of a home. Research was conducted into the potential identity of the remains, which was positively identified as being that of McWhirter. His grave was then exhumed and reportedly moved “east.”

However, an alternate story indicates that McWhirter’s remains were merely relocated a short distance from his initial burial site, if they were even relocated at all.

McWhirter’s death in June 1878 would be the first in a string of personal tragedies for Gen. Buford. Having already lost his son William seven years prior, Gen. Buford’s wife Amanda would pass away at Bosque Bonita in February 1879 following a long illness.

In mid-March 1879, it is reported that in the coming months Gen. Buford planned to sell Bosque Bonita and disperse his stock. Shortly after the sale announcement, news arrives that Gen. Buford’s brother, Col. Thomas Buford was charged with the March 26 assassination of Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge J. M. Elliott in Frankfort, KY. Gen. Buford, whose financial situation was already in precarious waters due to a speculation habit, spends a sizable amount in his brother’s defense. Following an acquittal following a sentence to life in prison, Col. Buford was confined to the Central Lunatic Asylum in Anchorage, KY.

Despite announcing the imminent dispersal of his stock and lands in March 1879, it is not until March 1881, with his financial difficulties mounting, that Gen. Buford sells the heavily mortgaged Bosque Bonita to D. A. Lyons for $30,000.

Following on the heels of the sale of Bosque Bonita, Gen. Buford’s racing stock was dispersed in a March 23 vendue at Lexington. Included among the horses offered were McWhirter’s full siblings McHenry (1875) and Lizzie McWhirter (1879), who sold for $130 and $1,300, respectively. Other notable horses up for bid on the day included the 7-year-old Enquirer mare Mannie Gray, who was acquired by Barak G. Thomas of Dixiana for $725. Mannie Gray would become a successful broodmare, foaling Correction, Domino, and the prolific broodmare Lady Reel, among others.

Upon the sale of Bosque Bonita, Gen. Buford moved to the home of his nephew D. O. Buford in Louisville. While there would find comfort in religion, becoming baptized in February 1882, and shortly thereafter renounced the sport of horse racing.

Upon the news of Gen. Buford’s baptism, his pastor Dr. Yancey spoke with the Louisville Courier-Journal regarding Gen. Buford’s newfound feelings towards the turf:

“He still thinks that racing can be carried on legitimately and not inconsistent with moral or religious principles. But he says that as it is now conducted on all public courses it is abused and coupled with abominations which are destructive of its true objects. I don’t think he will ever be seen on the track again. I shall counsel him against it.”

In May 1882, Gen. Buford takes to the pulpit and states his own feelings on the matter in a lecture titled “Church and the Turf” at the Campbell Street Christian Church in Louisville, KY, elaborating on his feelings towards the conflict between Christians and gambling, and the difficult position the sport of horse racing was put in as a result.

Regardless of his sudden change of heart towards racing, Gen. Buford retained great fondness for his previous charges, stating:

“My earthly career is drawing rapidly to a close, and my great aim now is to win the race for eternal life; and, as you have before said, if I can pass through the pearly gates of heaven in a chariot drawn by Enquirer and McWhirter, I would shout with great joy…”
(The River Press (Benton, MT), 05/31/1882)

Ultimately, Gen. Buford’s renunciation of the turf was short-lived. While speaking with a reporter of the Louisville Courier-Journal in July 1882 regarding the recent success of his former racer, the Enquirer colt Goodnight (a full-brother to Mannie Gray), he unexpectedly changes his tone.

“Speaking about this victory, it was a handsome one. Goodnight is a fine animal. I tell you, young man, I have had some of the grandest horses in the world,” continued the General, as he led the thermometer a few lengths.

“How was it you said Goodnight was beaten at St. Louis?”

“That was the race with Lord Murphy. McLaughlin, Dwyer’s rider, pulled him, because his boss had money on the other horse. Why, Goodnight finished the mile in 1:42, and was as far ahead of Lord Murphy as that house across the street is from where we stand. Why, another length and he would have shut him out.”

The reporter remarked that, after all there was some very fine sport in horse racing.

A reflective look came into the old General’s eye, and then he broke out suddenly, “I’m going back to the turf. Yes, I will have to go back; I can’t keep away from it. I tell you I am going to own a fine horse, and that very shortly.”

“Are you going to leave the church?”

“Leave the church?” italicised the General; “leave it? Why, bless your soul, no. Why should I? A man can own a fine horse, and run him, too, and go to heaven.”

Gen. Buford wastes no time returning to the turf following his proclamation in July 1882, serving as a judge at Louisville in September and at Memphis in October. While in the Bluff City, Gen. Buford receives notification that his brother Tom had escaped from lockup, reportedly heading for Indiana.

In November, Gen. Buford ceases his affiliation with the sporting publication Turf, Rod, and Gun, stating his intentions to launch a Christian turf paper tentatively named the Christian Turfman and Farmer. However, he would instead take charge of the Southern Bureau of Dunton’s (Chicago) Spirit of the Turf.

Time would pass with Gen. Buford’s financial and personal burdens continuing to weigh heavily on his soul. With things too much to bear, he would commit suicide on June 9, 1884, while visiting his nephew Benjamin T. Buford in Danville, IN.

The following letters were found with Gen. Buford’s body:

“DANVILLE, Ind., Monday A. M.

B. T. Buford:
DEAR SIR: Be not affrighted. I have no home to go to, and prefer death to any further struggle with life. My cross is too heavy; I can’t keep it out of the dust. Send my body to my brother, J. H. Buford, Lexington, KY., and may God have mercy on my bewildered soul. My troubles and those of my unfortunate brother Tom have driven me mad.

Beside the letter was the following, scribbled out on a bit of paper:

My financial troubles have driven me to despair. Have lost my only chance to retrieve my unfortunate brother and self, and the future is too dark for me to struggle against any further. I want my body sent to Lexington, KY. My dear friends there will put it away alongside of my dear wife and boy. Peace to all the world, and may God have mercy on my troubled soul.
A. BUFORD” (The New York Times, 06/10/1884)

Later that month, Col. Tom Buford was apprehended after ten months on the run and returned to confinement, where he would remain until his death of chronic dysentery in February 1885.

Ontario was an extremely fertile mare, producing at least fifteen foals through 1889. She would pass away at Belle Meade Stud in late 1891 at the age of twenty-six.

1) Kilburn (1871 ch. g. by Ringmaster)
Winning heat racer.

2) McCreary (1872 ch. c. by Enquirer)
Aka McCreery. Ran in the first edition of the Kentucky Derby (was pulled up after a half-mile). Following retirement, stood at stud for James B. Prather in Marysville, MO. Died April 10, 1880 of a ruptured blood vessel.

3) Curiosity (1873 b. f. by Enquirer)
Owned by Ayres and Sutcliffe of Albany, NY, then by R. W. Walden of Middleburg, MD. Died at Walden’s farm during the last week of April 1879 after foaling a dead foal by Harry Clay.

4) McWhirter (1874 ch. c. by Enquirer)
Record aforementioned.

5) McHenry (1875 ch. c. by Enquirer)
Aka T. McHenry. Winner. Upon the sale of his sire Enquirer in 1879, McHenry was named by Gen. Buford to take his place at stud at Bosque Bonita. Sold by Buford at auction March 23, 1881 to D. L. Bohn of Labelle, MO for $130.

6) McGregor  (1876 ch. c. by Enquirer)
Aka Grayson.

7) Marshal McDonald (1878 (Mar. 31) b. c. by Enquirer)
Aka Marshall McDonald or McDonald. Sent to England by owner J. R. Keene, where he raced over both flat and hurdles. Won the All Ages Stakes at Sandown Park on September 6, 1881, where he was sold out of the race for ₤325.

8) Lizzie McWhirter (1879 ch. f. by Enquirer)
Winner. Sold by Buford at auction March 23, 1881 to P. G. Speth of Louisville, KY for $1,300. Died 1884.

9) McElroy (1880 b. c. by Enquirer)
Owned by J. A. Grinstead until sold at auction May 1, 1882 to R. W. Preston for $325. Died 1886.

10) Heva (1882 ch. f. by Mortemer (FR))
Owned by William Astor (Ferncliff Stud) from unknown date to October 1890 when sold at auction (in foal to imp. Kingston) for $1,150 to W. A. Engeman of Brighton Beach, NY.

11) Hercules (1883 ch. c. by Mortemer (FR))
Steeplechaser bred by Pierre Lorillard (Rancocas Stud). Won jump races at Monmouth in August 1887 and at National Jockey Club (Washington, DC) in October 1888. Was owned by J. H. McCormick, then by Peter Small of Toronto, ON by 1893.

12) Hypasia (1884 ch. f. by Mortemer (FR))
Stakes filly bred by Pierre Lorillard (Rancocas Stud). Later sold to A. F. Walcott of New York, NY for $3,500 in February 1886. Dead by 1889.

13) Heyday (1886 b. c. by Iroquois)

14) Rancocas (1887 ch. c. by Iroquois)
Damsire of Pan Zareta; influential in the foundation of the American Quarter Horse. Died 1904.

15) McKeever (1889 b. g. by Iroquois)

Note: The American Stud Book reported Ontario as barren in 1877, 1881, 1885, and 1888.