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In the 1931 Yale- University of Georgia football game Yale's famous Albie Booth was tackled with such fury that his assailant, a Georgia end named Louis Wolfson, injured a shoulder severely and eventually was forced to quit the sport. It was a characteristic Wolfson attack on an objective, comparable to his later assaults in the fields of business and high finance and his current bold thrust into Thoroughbred racing.
Four years ago Wolfson's distinctive flamingo silks had yet to make their first appearance on a race track. Last year his Harbor View Farm was the third leading money-winning stable, with earnings of $679,865, an achievement virtually without precedent on the American turf. Harbor View's neighbors along Hialeah's "millionaires' row"—Calumet, Brookmeade, Cain Hoy, Wheatley and Green tree—were all founded two and three decades ago and won their present eminence only through long, painstaking effort.
Wolfson's most recent move in racing is a perfect example of his forthright, direct approach and his ability to roll with a punch, a skill undoubtedly sharpened in the corporate world's proxy battles. A few weeks ago Wolfson and his trainer, Burley Parke, were looking confidently to Hialeah's $100,000 Flamingo Stakes with a powerful entry of Roving Minstrel and Garwol (see opposite page). Within hours Harbor View lost both of these fine 3-year-olds. Roving Minstrel, winner of Belmont's rich Champagne Stakes last fall, reared in the walking ring, flipped over backward and fractured a bone in his skull. Surgery failed, and Wolfson's $90,000 colt died the next day. Garwol, purchased for $32,000 and the hero of the Pimlico Futurity, pulled a muscle in his hip and was forced to miss the Flamingo, too.
Wolfson immediately set up a package deal with Major Albert Warner in which he bought four horses for $100,000. One was a French-bred 5-year-old named Wolfram, who won $84,435 in the Bougainvillea Turf Handicap and the Hialeah Turf Cup within a fortnight. Wolfram may be the best grass horse in the U.S. today. Garwol is back in training and is being pointed for the Florida and Kentucky Derbies. Harbor View is on its way again—possibly to a national championship.
"When I first came into racing in 1958," Wolfson says, "I heard all the usual stories. 'You won't be able to do it with money,' they told me. 'You can't buy a top stable. It takes years and a lot of hard work to put a Greentree together.' Well, I didn't know too much about racing, but I was convinced common sense would mean as much in this operation as it does in business, which is the toughest competition in the world. I'd heard all those it-can't-be-done stories in my business career too, yet we managed to do quite a few of them. So racing became a challenge, and I like challenges."
In his first year Wolfson won six races, and his horses, purchased from former Miami Restaurateur Charley Block, earned a total of $20,110. In 1959 the stable won 18 races and $80,161 in purses. Last year, its first full season under the direction of the brilliant Burley Parke, Harbor View won 54 races and was topped in earnings only by C. V. Whitney's stable ($1,039,091) and the Cain Hoy Stable of Captain Harry F. Guggenheim ($708,675).
Wolfson, who estimates he has spent more than $3 million on his Thoroughbred holdings, has set two difficult goals for the 1961 campaign:
1) stable earnings of about $750,000, "if the 2-year-olds turn out the right way," and
2) the acquisition of a topnotch jockey on contract, "preferably one of the Big Three—Arcaro, Shoemaker and Hartack."
The mere spending of money, as Wolfson had been warned, has never been an easy route to success on the turf. John Galbreath, president of the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose huge expenditures in racing include $2 million for the purchase of Swaps and another $1,350,000 to lease the undefeated Italian champion Ribot as a stallion for a five-year period, has yet to gain commensurate rewards after some 20 years of effort.