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The gentlemen interested, as Mr. Widener says, in building up racing have, for the most part, names thoroughly familiar to any regular race track visitor—names such as Widener, Phipps, Morris, Bostwick, duPont, Whitney and Vanderbilt. Many of the other names and faces of The Jockey Club's membership (all 65 of them are shown on pages 62-63) may not be as familiar to racegoers as would seem likely for a representative national turf body, but then the club has always been predominately eastern. It always has had its headquarters in New York and has drawn heavily on New York and Philadelphia for its members. There is, for example, only one lifelong resident of California (Santa Anita's Director of Racing Carleton F. Burke) in The Jockey Club, and even proper Boston is represented by but one member, Bayard Tuckerman Jr.
Jockey Club members are, despite what most of their critics say, hardworking men in a multitude of important fields, whether it be representing America at the Court of St. James's or running the King Ranch. But whether The Jockey Club man is a Wall Street financier, a diplomat, or just someone whose chief qualification seems to be that he has married into the right racing-minded family—the common bond among members is supposed to be a deep-rooted unwavering devotion to horses. For different reasons, to be sure. It would be difficult, for example, to find anywhere in the world two more astute admirers of the great spectacle of a fine, evenly-matched race than F. Ambrose Clark and Harry La Montagne. .And yet their fascination with their sport cannot, in a way, be said to be greater than that of a professional breeder like Arthur B. Hancock, or, in fact, greater than the interest of two former amateur riders like George H. (Pete) Bostwick and Stuart S. Janney Jr. At the same time, there is an equally important devotion to racing on the part of such men as John C. Clark, William duPont, Louis Lee Haggin II, Amory L. Haskell, Henry A. Parr III, Donald P. Ross and F. Skiddy von Stade—just to name a few—who at one time or another directed their full attention toward the administration of race tracks. Their very presence lends respectability to a great sport and has helped build up public confidence where it is most needed.
People outside The Jockey Club set rather enjoy picking apart the membership on the grounds that at least a few of the 65 members hardly share Mr. Widener's love of racing nor are interested in his constant quest for "the improvement of the breed." Pointing out, as one critic did not long ago, "that some of these guys couldn't find their way to Belmont Park if you dropped them off at the front gate," the question was raised as to the desirability of such a restricted membership. One man, very close to The Jockey Club scene, said, "If breeders are being elected, what's wrong with taking in trainers? Where are you going to find more knowledgeable or keen horsemen than men like John Gaver, Preston Burch, Bill Winfrey or Sherrill Ward? And why, for that matter, shouldn't they some day elect a jockey?"
Although such an election day may come in another generation it won't in the foreseeable future. Neither, apparently, will the day soon arrive when women will be considered for membership, even though some of America's leading stables are owned and managed by women today. This attitude, of course, is a carryover from the last century, when racing was strictly a man's world—as was big business—and if a woman took any interest in the sport she was supposed to do so as a dutiful wife rather than as owner or even co-owner. Actually, outside of a handful of ladies (outstanding current example: Mrs. Ogden Phipps) there are few U.S. women thoroughly qualified to take a leading role in the management of national racing affairs.
The Jockey Club member has always—whether he has earned it or not—come to expect respect when he goes racing. His button stamps him as a man fully aware of the luxuries of good living, and as a gesture of courtesy between race tracks the button entitles its wearer to free admittance to any clubhouse grounds. At least it's supposed to. One member, upon arriving at West Virginia's Charles Town track last year, was informed by the gate-man that he'd never heard of The Jockey Club and that if the man wanted in he could get in the same as anybody else—by paying cash. The man paid.
For all the accumulated wealth of its membership. The Jockey Club operates like no other club in the world. It is, in fact, just about as "unclubby" as the private chambers of the Supreme Court. It has no elaborate clubhouse of its own—nor any facilities for either housing or feeding its members. Its headquarters are a few large rooms on the 20th floor of the new Colgate-Palmolive Building at 300 Park Avenue in New York. Roughly half of the club's floor space is occupied by a secretarial task force under the direction of the registrar, Mrs. Lillian Brennan. The other half is divided into three areas: the corner office of Executive Secretary Marshall Cassidy; the paneled club-room where both general membership meetings and those of the nine stewards are held and, finally, an adjoining room which serves as the private office of the chairman of The Jockey Club. Off the latter office is a small anteroom containing a library of foreign and U.S. stud books and trade publications. And, whereas election to The Jockey Club itself is presumed to be a rare honor, there is nothing overly presumptuous or secret about The Jockey Club's rooms. In fact, anybody in the world—on legitimate business—is welcome to come up and dig information out of the stacks of The Jockey Club's library.
With not much of a "place to go," so to speak, Jockey Club members seldom find one another just "hanging around" the club's lofty Park Avenue perch. The chief reason for going at all is to attend a meeting, and even at the general membership meetings, according to one member, there is rarely much spontaneous enthusiasm. "When the last minutes have been read and a few general matters discussed we may get around to voting on a new member. The ballot box is passed (one blackball in seven is sufficient to exclude) and then it seems everyone is in a terrible hurry either to dash up the street to the Racquet Club or catch the next train back to suburban Philadelphia."
Because of its social overtones The Jockey Club has often been represented as a body of wealthy men with little regard for anything but their own welfare and the preservation of their own prestige. This is an unfair criticism—for racing has always urgently needed more prestige, and had it not been for an awareness of this fact by the men who founded The Jockey Club more than a half century ago there might never have been the fine racing we know in this country today.
In the 1890s individual racing associations ran their meetings to suit themselves and the dishonesty among trainers and jockeys (and in some cases even the stewards) had created a situation in New York which was pure heaven for the professional gambler and pure hell for owners and horsemen trying to play the game straight. This was the time before effective racing commissions; there was no Thoroughbred Racing Association; nobody had dreamed of the policing methods of today's superb Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. Neither had anybody conceived of the protection given to the sport's professionals by such organizations as the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association or even the Jockeys' Guild. To be sure, various jockey clubs ruled over their meetings with a certain degree of authority, but along the eastern seaboard, where virtually all the big owners lived and raced, there was a desperate need for enforced discipline.