Belmont II, Mellon Named Pillars of the Turf

Belmont II, Mellon Named Pillars of the Turf
Photo: NYRA/Bob Coglianese
Paul Mellon with Arts and Letters

August Belmont II and Paul Mellon have been selected as the inaugural Pillars of the Turf inductees into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

The pair will be inducted into the Hall of Fame along with jockey Calvin Borel and the Thoroughbreds Housebuster, Invasor  , Lure, and steeplechasers McDynamo and Tuscalee. The ceremony will be held at the Fasig-Tipton sale pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Aug. 9 at 10:30 a.m. EDT. It is open to the public and free of charge.

In an effort to show a more comprehensive history of Thoroughbred racing in America, the National Museum of Racing's executive committee approved a motion to expand its Hall of Fame with the new category, Pillars of the Turf, beginning this year.

Joining the three original Hall of Fame categorieshorses, jockeys, and trainersthe Pillars of the Turf category is designated honor individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to Thoroughbred racing in a leadership or pioneering capacity at the highest national level.

Belmont and Mellon were selected as finalists by a museum selection committee and were required to receive 75% approval from the committee's members to gain election.

Belmont II, born in 1853, graduated from Harvard and went into the family banking business before having a profound influence on racing. Upon his father's death in 1890, he became heavily involved with racing and took over August Belmont & Co., a New York City bank.

He also served as chairman of the board of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and director of the National Park Bank.

Belmont II bought seven of his father's mares at a dispersal auction and continued his father's practice of raising horses at Nursery Stud in Kentucky. Belmont II bred more than 100 stakes winners, including seven champions: Man o' War, Beldame, Rock View, Friar Rock, Hourless, Mad Hatter, and Chance Play.

He sold his entire 1917 yearling crop, including Man o' War, because of his involvement in World War I.

Belmont II was deeply entwined in the workings of American racing. He was associated with William Collins Whitney in the revitalization of Saratoga Race Course in the early 1900s, and also served as chairman of both The Jockey Club and the New York Racing Commission. Belmont II was among the founding members of The Jockey Club in 1894 and served as chairman from 1895 until his death in 1924.

He was also a founding member of the National Steeplechase Association in 1895 and organized the Westchester Racing Association that same year.

In 1905 Belmont II opened Belmont Park on Long Island, N.Y. That year, the Belmont Stakes, inaugurated in 1867 and named in his father's honor, was transferred from Morris Park to Belmont Park.

Belmont II won the race in 1902 with Masterman and in 1916 and 1917 with Friar Rock and Hourless, respectively.

After Belmont II's death in 1924, fellow members of The Jockey Club expressed their admiration for him: "He loved the horse as an animal and saw in racing an opportunity for raising the standard and improving the qualities of the Thoroughbred, thus adding to the prosperity of the breeder and furnishing broader avenues for clean and honest sport."

Mellon was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1907. After graduating from Yale in 1929, he went to work for Mellon Bank, which was founded by his grandfather, Thomas, and later passed to his father, Andrew, who served more than a decade as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

He began racing under the banner of Rokeby Stables in 1948. His horses won more than 1,000 stakes and had total earnings of more than of $30 million.

Mellon won the Eclipse Award for outstanding breeder in 1971 and 1986. Among his many exceptional runners, Mellon campaigned Hall of Fame members Arts and Letters and Fort Marcy. Other standouts included Kentucky Derby and Travers Stakes (both gr. I) winner Sea Hero, Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Quadrangle, and champions Key to the Mint and Run the Gantlet.

He had a prominent European division of horses as well, including champions Mill Reef, Glint of Gold, and Gold and Ivory. Virginia-bred Mill Reef won the Epsom Derby (Eng-I) and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I).

Mellon is the only individual to win the Kentucky Derby, Epsom Derby, and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

He was a trustee of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and one of only six individuals to be named an Exemplar of Racing by the museum. He was inducted into the English Jockey Club Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

Mellon also served as vice chairman of The Jockey Club, director of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, and maintained key leadership and support roles with the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and the National Steeplechase Association.

He donated and bequeathed millions of dollars to support equine research and Thoroughbred aftercare programs. He also received the Eclipse Award of Merit. Mellon died in 1999 at the age of 91.

A committee of 12 industry experts and historians, under the guidance of Edward Bowen, comprise the Pillars selection committee: Bowen, Christopher Dragone, Jane Goldstein, Ken Grayson, Jay Hovdey, G. Watts Humphrey, Bill Marshall, Bill Mooney, Mary Simon, D.G. Van Clief Jr., Michael Veitch, and Gary West.

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