06/05/2013 9:04AM

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame: Mellon, Belmont II named first Pillars of the Turf

Barbara D. Livingston
Paul Mellon campaigned both Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero and Epsom Derby winner Mill Reef.

August Belmont II and Paul Mellon, two breeders who played prominent leadership roles in the industry, have been selected to be the first two “Pillars of the Turf” to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, the organization announced on Wednesday.

Belmont, the breeder of Man o’ War and one of the founders of the Jockey Club, was selected from 13 nominees in the category of pre-1950. Mellon, who bred and raced champions in both the U.S. and England, was nominated with 12 others in the category of post-1950. The selections were made by a 12-person committee that included Daily Racing Form executive columnist Jay Hovdey and DRF contributor Mary Simon.

The Hall of Fame announced the formation of the new Pillars of the Turf category last year. A guideline used by the committee for the selection said that the category “will honor individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to Thoroughbred racing in a leadership or pioneering capacity at the highest national level.”

In addition to breeding seven champions and more than 100 stakes winners, Belmont was the chairman of the Jockey Club from shortly after its founding in 1894 until his death in 1924. He was also the chairman of the New York Racing Commission. According to a biography prepared by the Hall of Fame committee, he was also “associated with the revitalization of Saratoga and Belmont,” two tracks in New York that had rocky histories in the early 1900s due to prohibitions on gambling. Both tracks are now among the most prominent in U.S. racing.

Mellon, a co-heir of the Mellon Bank fortune who was one of the richest men in the U.S. during his adult lifetime, was named Outstanding Breeder in both 1971 and 1986. Racing under the name of his Virginia breeding operation, Rokeby Stables, he campaigned Horses of the Year Arts and Letters and Fort Marcy as well as the champion Key to the Mint and major stakes winners Java Gold and Winter's Tale. His most famous homebred was Mill Reef, a champion in England who won the Epsom Derby and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Mellon, who died in 1999, was inducted into both the English Jockey Club Hall of Fame and the Virginia sports Hall of Fame, and received the Eclipse Award of Merit in 1993, the year his homebred Sea Hero won the Kentucky Derby. He had served as the vice chairman of the Jockey Club and a director of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, and he donated millions to equine research and aftercare.