By Sid Fernando
This post is a follow up to a column I wrote on Jan. 15 in the TDN, “The Widener Influence in Capo Kane,” and I suggest that you read that, if you haven’t already, before continuing below to better follow along.
The last 100-year history and relevance of the ownership of historic Elmendorf Farm in Lexington is generally thought to go from the Wideners to Max Gluck to Jack Kent Cooke, which is fine for an oral retelling. They were, after all, the major names. But for the sake of history and facts, there were two owners in between P.A.B. Widener lll and Gluck, and their names have mostly been lost through time.
P.A.B. lll sold the main 605-acre breeding section of the vast farm to the partnership of Tinkham Veale ll and Sam A. Costello in 1950, and it was Veale and Costello who sold the property to Gluck in 1952. Chances are, however, that if you Google Elmendorf and read the many articles and websites on Elemdorf’s history available online, you won’t find the names of Veale and Costello but will instead read that Gluck bought the farm in 1950.
Fortunately, that fine writer and historian Ed Bowen has the facts right in his book Legacies of the Turf: A Century of Great Thoroughbred Breeders, Vol. 2. On Page 93, he wrote: “In 1952 Maxwell Gluck purchased a portion of the property owned by Tinkham Veale ll and S.A. Costello.”
Who were Veale and Costello? The Sept. 22, 1950, edition of the New York Times shed light on the sale of the farm by P.A.B. lll: “Purchasers were Tinkham Veale 2d and Sam A. Costello, both of Cleveland, and both sons-in-law of the late A.C. Ernst, thoroughbred breeder. Veale and his wife also own Ernst Farm. Costello had not previously been in the thoroughbred business.”
Ernst, who died in May of 1948, owned the accounting firm that would later become Ernst & Young and campaigned quite a few notable horses, including subsequent blue hen Alablue (Blue Larkspur), who won the Test S. at Saratoga after Ernst had died. Alablue was subsequently sold with his other horses in training at the Spa, and it just so happens that her influential daughter Alanesian was by Gertie Widener’s Polynesian and was bred by E. Barry Ryan’s Normandy Farm, which was once part of Elemendorf.
Veale probably developed his interest in racing after marrying Ernst’s daughter, but a few months before buying Elmendorf he’d also purchased the bloodstock of Virgina-based Abram S. Hewitt, a notable breeder and bloodstock writer. Hewitt had owned Montana Hall Stud and sold more than 75 head in the transaction to Veale’s Ernst Farm, including his interest in Belmont S. winner Phalanx, standing at C.V. Whitney’s farm in Lexington at the time.
After selling Elmendorf to Gluck, Veale raced a stable of runners with some success, enjoyed a fabulous business career, was a philanthropist, and later owned Ellis Park for a while. Not much is known of whatever happened to Costello, his brother-in-law and short-time partner in Elmendorf.
Haras du Mesnil
Newspaper accounts of J.E. Widener frequently noted that he owned a French stud farm, some actually naming it as Haras du Mesnil, but I’ve never been able to definitively get to the bottom of this. However, there was a limited edition book published in 1931 that said as much, though I haven’t seen the book. There’s only one copy of it that I’m aware of, at a library in California.
If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that Widener did have an ownership stake in the stud but later gave it (or his interest) to the Couturies, Jean and Elisabeth, sometime at the advent of World War ll. Widener died in 1943, but his daughter-in-law Gertie Widener and granddaughter Ella Widener Wetherill continued to breed their stock at the farm from the 1950s onward when it was under the sole ownership of Elisabeth Couturie.
It’s never easy uncovering facts, and in this case the people who’d have known are all dead.
C’est la vie.