Look Back: Maryland-Bred Challedon Wins 1939 Preakness

Look Back: Maryland-Bred Challedon Wins 1939 Preakness
Photo: BloodHorse Library
Challedon

In conjunction with Tom Hall's Throwback Thursday features in BloodHorse Daily, BloodHorse.com each Thursday will present corresponding race stories from the pages of the magazine. 

This week is a column from Joe Palmer titled "Maryland, My Challedon;" followed by the race recap of the Preakness Stakes won by Challedon, a Maryland-bred who won the 1939 Baltimore classic. The race story carried the headline, "An All Maryland Preakness." Both stories ran in the May 20, 1939 issue of BloodHorse magazine.

Maryland, My Challedon, by Joe H. Palmer

Marylanders are a highly patriotic people. There is nothing inexcusable about this, for it is a green and pleasant state, with good grass and good horses, and persons who are prevented by circumstance from living in Kentucky can do very well there. This may not be taken along the Potomac as an unmitigated compliment, but it is so intended. 

I am reminded of an occasion in Florida a few years ago when Tom Underwood, after listening to an encomium of that state, rose to his feet holding a little-necked clam, still dripping butter, between thumb and finger. He allowed some of the merits claimed for Florida but kept recurring to the clam. The text of the address unfortunately has been lost to posterity, but the conclusion was that if Kentucky produced little-necked clams, there would be no reason for anyone to leave the state. Without consulting Mr. Underwood, I believe he would enlarge this to include the Chesapeake Bay oyster, unfortunately not in flower during Preakness week. Marylanders do not boast of their patrimony; they just take you around and leave the rest to your judgment.

At any rate, the victory of Maryland-bred Challedon in the Preakness Stakes May 13 was accepted in and around Baltimore with about the same spirit that citizens of Atlanta, Ga., took the news of the first battle of Bull Run. When the Brann horse threw himself into the battle on the upper turn, with the hell-for-leather abandon of a bull pup, he was cheered on by many a voice whose owner had taken 2-to-5 on the Fitzsimmons entry. 

There was about as healthy a scene of enthusiasm as I have seen recently while the blanket of black-eyed susans was being flung over Challedon (which paid no attention to them at all) and Mr. Brann and Governor O'Connor were presenting each other the Woodlawn Vase and being photographed. If everyone who was pleased with the result had bet on the winner, he would have been about 1-to-10. 

The horse, however, and not the play, was the thing, and led up the stretch a general bedlam went with him. As far as I could see, no one paid any attention to the last two races on the card; they were satisfied to run the Preakness over and over again. And about midnight a song composed for the occasion by Edgar G. Horn of Turf and Sport Digest (Baltimore) was spreading through the nightclubs and hot spots of Baltimore, carried I suppose by scattering Turf writers. The tune always approximated 'Maryland My Maryland' and the words were:

You shall not cower in the dust,
Challedon, my Challedon.
Your gleaming plates shall never rust,
Challedon, my Challedon.
You stood off Johnstown's vaunted rush,
You left Ciencia in the slush,
And we all went home plenty flush!
Challendon, my Challedon.


An All-Maryland Preakness
Pimlico had good weather for nearly all of its meeting, but May 13 dawned cloudy and grey, and about 9:30 a thin drizzle of rain began. At 11 A.M. the rain increased a bit, then gradually dwindled during the afternoon. Not a great deal of water fell, but by the time of the first race the track was muddy. 

There was not much chance for the 49th Preakness Sakes ($50,000 added, 3-year olds, 1 3/16 miles), to result in anything but a popular victory. Belair Stud's Johnstown and Wheatley Stable's Gilded Knight went to the post at 2-to-5, so the crowd had financial reason for cheering the Fitzsimmons entry. Challedon, Maryland-bred and -owned, was a local product. A victory for Impound, under the silks of Alfred Vanderbilt, would have pleased patrons of a race track which Vanderbilt has greatly improved. And there was a sentimental interest in King Ranch's Ciencia, as the only filly in the field. Saratoga Stable's Volitant was perhaps the only entry which would have pleased only those who took the 12-to-1 against him. 

On the night before the race it seemed that half of the population of Baltimore was asked, in radio interviews, its opinions of the race. Turf writers chose Johnstown almost to a man, though a cautious few gave Challedon a chance in the mud, suggested that Gilded Knight might carry his running mate too fast. Outsiders, perhaps expressing what they wanted more than what they expected, inclined to Challedon. So after the race, though they may have had a good many useless pari-mutuel tickets, they also had something on the "experts."

The field went to the post under grey skies, to the strains of "Maryland My Maryland." A lead pony accompanied Challedon, but when the horses got to the gate, it seemed that Volitant was the one which needed something to quiet him. He lunged out of the gate repeatedly, while the others gave little trouble. After about five minutes James Milton got a good start, though Donald Meade had to ease Volitant a little to avoid crowding. Johnstown, as was expected, jumped at once to the front and established a clear lead in the first three-sixteenths. Gilded Knight, lying just behind him near the rail, was second, and Ciencia, making her only worthwhile effort, was third the first time past the stands. Challedon, some five lengths behind the leader, was fourth around the turn, with Impound running just outside him, Volitant last. 

Challedon seemed to drop back entering the backstretch and Impound made a strong move which took him up to third place. There was a great cheer as the popular cerise and white diamonds moved into the gap behind Johnstown and Gilded Knight, but Challedon began running hard again, soon got back into third place, and in the doing he gained a length or so on the leaders. Johnstown, nicely restrained, seemed to be running within himself, as did Gilded Knight, and there was nothing in the Jamestown colt's stride to indicate the mud was bothering him. 

Into the final turn the race was going just about as expected, but a half-dozen strides changed everything, and Johnstown, which had had no serious challenge to meet this spring, suddenly had not but one, but two. Gilded Knight was only about a length behind, and Donoso began sending him up outside of Johnstown. Challedon was a length farther back, and George Seabo took him still farther out and made his run at the same time. Gilded Knight had to gain a length to engage Johnstown, Challedon had to gain two, and it was significant of the speed of the *Challenger II colt unleashed that the two reached the Belair colt at the same time. Around the turn and into the stretch the three were running head and head, and it became evident that, whatever the winner, it would not be Johnstown. In the upper stretch Challedon came out, Gilded Knight holding on well just behind him, and Johnstown falling back rapidly. A furlong from the finish Challedon seemed to have the race won, but Seabo took no chances, rode him out. It was perhaps as well, for Gilded Knight hung on grimly and was beaten only a length and a half. More or less unnoticed behind the struggle for first place,  Volitant had come up gradually, and in the last quarter-mile he raced smartly, got into third place, three lengths behind the *Sir Gallahad II colt. Impound, though he could not gain, held on well and finished fourth, three lengths farther back. Johnstown barely beat Ciencia for fifth place, though Stout had taken him up hard at the finish, four lengths behind Impound. 

Challedon, which came rapidly to prominence last fall by winning the New England and Pimlico Futurities in succession, had been out only twice previously this year, finishing third to Gilded Knight and Impound in the Chesapeake Stakes, second to Johnstown in the Kentucky Derby. In his two seasons he has started nine times, won five races, finished once second, twice third, and has earned $128,910, making him the leading money earner of his age. He will not be in the next of the great spring 3-year old classics, having been taken out of the Belmont Stakes when he was a weanling. He has no engagements at Belmont Park, and his next important race will probably be the Classic at Arlington Park. 

The Owner
When Challedon came back to the winner's circle, to be received by two lines of mounted policemen (one of whom will probably bear the jests of his fellows for some time for falling off his horse), William L. Brann was probably the most collected of Challedon's people. Possibly this was because his ambition was not to win a Preakness or a Derby or a Futurity, but to breed a great horse, and he must already have been sure of at least partial success. 

Mr. Brann, together with Robert S. Castle, imported *Challenger II in 1930 and put him in the stud at Branncastle Farm near Frederick, Md., where no one paid a great deal of attention to him, or the good band of mares which was quietly assembled there. A few years ago, the partnership was dissolved, chiefly because of Mr. Castle's concern for his health, the name of the farm was changed to Glade Valley Farm, and Mr. Brann carried on alone. He lives at the farm a few months each year, but his principal residence is at Hillsdale, N.Y. He is a native of southern Indiana, near Louisville, though he has lived most of his life in the East, where he was engaged in the advertising business. 

Challedon is by far the best horse Mr. Brann has owned or bred. He began his connection with the present Preakness winner with bad luck. Shortly after he and Mr. Castle had purchased *Challenger II, the colt got tangled in a roll of barbed wire, cut himself so severely that he could never be brought back to the racing class which had been responsible for his purchase. At Pimlico the day before the Preakness, Mr. Brann added another good mare to his collection in Inchcape Belle, 16-year old dam of Thanksgiving and other winners. She had been bred to Bud Lerner; if she proves not to be in foal she will probably be sent to *Challenger II. 

The Trainer
When Challedon came back to the winner's circle, Trainer Louis J. (Lou) Schaefer made a dead line for him, got through the ropes all right, but was stopped by the police. "I'm the trainer of that horse," he told them, and he had no further difficulty.

 It was the second time that Schaefer had visited the Preakness winner's circle; the first time there was no attempt to stop him, as he was riding a horse. This was Dr. Freeland, which Schaefer rode to victory in the silks of Walter J. Salmon in 1929. He was a prominent rider about that time, and Sun Beau, General Thatcher, Display, Snowflake, and others were his mounts. He sold his tack in 1935 and began training, did fairly well with a few platers. In August of 1937 he took over the Glade Valley Farm horses, at the time the Brann-Castle partnership was terminated. He won the New England Oaks with Savage Beauty that fall, for his first stakes. Last year, after Challedon won the Pimlico Futurity, Trainer Schaefer modestly said he did not account himself as successful a trainer as he had been a jockey, because Dr. Freeland's purse was $55,325, while Challedon's was but $33,410. If Trainer Schaefer holds to this standard, he now must find little difference between his success in his two vocations, as Challedon got $53,710 for the 1939 Preakness. 

Lou Schaefer began riding when he was about 14 years old. For about five years he rode for Preston M. Burch, who was training for Nevada Stock Farm. For about four he rode for Walter Salmon, whose horses were trained by Thomas J. Healey. It was from such competent employers that he learned the skill which has made him one of the leading trainers of the last two seasons. He is now 22 years old and is thus one of the youngest of the more prominent trainers. 

The Jockey
When Challedon came back to the winner's circle, Jockey George Seabo seemed slightly at sea, as if he couldn't quite believe he had done it. A little later he was smiling all over himself. He dismounted and said, "Gee, it was swell. I thought I had it at the quarter pole." 

In the backstretch it had been Impound that worried him, for the Vanderbilt horse seemed to be going easily. Later Jockey Fallon said that Impound did all right when he was under restraint, lost some of his action when he was given his head. 

Jockey Seabo was born in Croton, N.Y. in 1911, and is a veteran rider as veterans go among American jockeys. He was an apprentice in 1928 and rode 102 winners, the largest total he has ever ridden. Since that year he has been successful but not greatly so, and through last season he had ridden 475 winners in 11 seasons. The best year in numbers since he lost his apprentice allowance was 1936, when he has 173 winners for a percentage of 13. Last year was his best in respect to earnings, Challedon's three victories at the end of the season giving his mounts a total of $126,700 in earnings. Challedon is by far the best winner he has had; in fact he has won few stakes on any other horse, though he won the What Cheer Handicap with Howard in 1936 and the Yonkers Handicap last year with Busy K. 

Challedon, in fact, is the best winner the owner, trainer, or jockey has had so far, may prove to be the best horse bred in Maryland in many years. 

Notes After the Preakness
•    While Challedon was being cooled out around his stable at Pimlico after the Preakness, owner William L. Brann broke out a case of champagne (he must have had it ready) for jockey Seabo, trainer Schaefer, exercise boy Clayton Trippy, assistant trainer Dan Brogan, and everyone near the stable.
Trainer Schaefer, who rode Dr. Freeland to victory in the Preakness a decade earlier, said "I rode Challedon harder than I did Dr. Freeland."
•    Volitant lunged out of the gate so hard that he split his hood, allowing the cup on the left side to flap slightly. A brief attempt was made to repair it before he left the post.
•    James (Sunny Jim) Fitzsimmons, never one for excuses, said of Johnstown, "He came back tired. I guess he just can't run in the mud. But he'll catch them again on a dry track."
•    The Preakness was named for a horse which was named for a crossroads town in northern New Jersey, four miles west of Paterson. But if the entire population of Preakness, N.J. had come to Pimlico, it wouldn't have been noticed. It is too small to have a post office.
•    The Woodlawn Vase, famous trophy for the Preakness, was presented by Governor Herbert O'Conor to Mr. Brann, who can keep it for a year—and longer, if he can find another Preakness winner—along with a small replica which he may retain. Later the trophy was put on exhibition in the Pimlico clubhouse. Four female figures around the center of the trophy hold wreaths in each hand. One nymph has lost a wreath, possibly to a souvenir hunter.

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