by Michael Compton
Leading Thoroughbred breeder and owner Arthur I. Appleton of Bridlewood Farm in Florida died Jan. 15 at the age of 92.
In 1977, Appleton bought the initial 500 acres of Bridlewood Farm. The farm now encompasses 960 acres and is home to a large and important stallion roster.
Among the notable Bridlewood stallions through the years is Skip Trial, sire of 1997 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner and Horse of the Year Skip Away, a Florida-bred multi-millionaire.
George Isaacs has served as the farm’s general manager since 1996. “Mr. Appleton was truly a great man, a loving husband and father,” Isaacs said. “He was a brilliant businessman, a fiercely competitive sportsman, and a generous philanthropist. Underneath his tough, Swedish exterior beat a huge, giving heart. I personally witnessed so many acts of kindness he anonymously bestowed on people over the years I can’t begin to count them all.
“He was a rock to his family, friends, and employees at Bridlewood Farm. He was a big dreamer and he lived his dreams. Anyone who knew Mr. Appleton knows he left nothing to chance. He put the groundwork in place several years ago so that Bridlewood Farm would continue to be his and his family’s proud legacy and flourish as the industry stalwart that it has become.”
Having attended the races at Arlington Park as a youngster with his father, Albert, Appleton was bitten with the racing bug early in life. His family also had a residence in south Florida and regularly attended the races at Hialeah Park and Gulfstream Park. The family later owned an interest in Gulfstream Park.
Appleton became involved in the Thoroughbred industry as an owner in 1969. He raced his first stakes winner, Gallant Knave, in 1972.
Among the best horses bred and/or raced by Appleton are millionaires David Junior, Jolie’s Halo, Super Nakayama, Black Bar Spin, Forbidden Apple, Wild Event, and Southern Image. In 2002, Forbidden Apple was named Florida Horse of the Year, and his dam, North of Eden, was named Broodmare of the Year. Among the top runners bred by Appleton recently include Smokey Stover, Icy Atlantic, and In Summation.
Appleton’s name routinely carved its place in the leading breeders list year after year. In 2007, Appleton was again among the top 10 breeders in North America with horses he bred earning $3,782,956 on the year.
In 1991, Appleton was named Florida Breeder of the Year, and in 1998 Appleton was the recipient of the Bruce Campbell Award, bestowed upon him by The Florida Horse magazine (a publication he once served as chairman of the board) for bringing prestige and honor to Florida’s Thoroughbred industry. He also served several terms as a director on the board of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association.
“It was an honor to serve under his leadership,” said Richard Hancock, executive vice president of the FTBOA. “He was a tough, but fair businessman, and he was one of the main reasons the association owns The Florida Horse magazine and Wire to Wire. We are fortunate that his vision will see to it that Bridlewood Farm will remain a major breeding farm and training center in Florida.”
Born in 1915 in Chicago, Ill., Appleton earned a business degree from Dartmouth College. He became president and chairman of the board of Appleton Electric, a company founded by his father, in 1957 at the age of 32. The company was later sold to Emerson Electric in 1982. An avid inventor, Appleton acquired more than 150 patents on different types of electrical systems and switch boxes.
Appleton was also an avid art collector, and in 1987 along with his sister, Edith-Marie Appleton, opened the doors to the Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala. The museum was originally built to display and preserve his art collection. The museum has expanded to include traveling exhibitions, educational programs, and cultural events. Today, the widely respected museum is an important part of the area’s cultural scene.
Appleton was preceded in death by his wife, Martha (1998), and son, John (2005). He is survived by sons Thomas, Arthur Jr., James, and William; daughter Linda; and 13 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.
A private funeral will be held in Chicago, and a day of celebration is slated for Feb. 4 at the Appleton Museum at 1 p.m. EST.