01/29/2010 12:00AM

Oil baron, Arizona maverick among past titans

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Almost from the time the first horses were imported from England to the New World in the early 1600s, their owners were anxious to prove they had the fastest runners.

Gradually - as it was in England - breeding and owning racehorses in America grew to be the leisure pursuit of the landed gentry - the bluebloods.

Later, when racing became organized in America, many of these same wealthy owners established clubs and built lavish racetracks, not to make money (they usually didn't), but to showcase their stars for the public.

By the late 1900s, many families who had been involved in racing for generations moved on to other diversions and Thoroughbred racing moved from the sport of kings to just another commercial enterprise where return on investment is king.

Robert B. Lewis was one of the dying breed of owners who raced horses for love of the sport. He and his wife, Beverly, campaigned numerous champions, including Hall of Fame member Silver Charm, who competed over four seasons in the 1990s.

As Santa Anita prepares to remember Lewis with a stakes in his name Saturday, test your knowledge of famed owners of the past.

1. His first year of prominence in the sport was 1879, but it was at his Castleton Stud in Kentucky from 1893-1912 that he dominated Thoroughbred racing.

Records from the 1800s are sketchy, but publications reported that horses he owned won a record $279,458 in 1893.

He was officially leading owner in money won by his horses from 1905 to 1908. In 1907, he set a world record with winnings of $397,342 - a mark that would not be surpassed until 1923.

Seven horses that he bred and/or owned are today members of the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Name him.

2. One of the richest oilmen in the country, this gentleman came on with a flourish when he entered the sport of racing in 1920.

He was leading owner in the nation in money won the following three years, breaking the world record for purses won with $438,849 in 1923.

A central figure in the infamous Teapot Dome scandal, he eventually spent six months in federal prison for hiring detectives to shadow jurors hearing a bribery case against him. Name this owner.

3. For the past dozen years, the stable of Frank Stronach has been a dominant player in racing - heading the money-won list in five seasons. Stronach Stable has a way to go to break the record.

In the 1900s, the Whitney Stable (William Collins Whitney, then his son Harry P. Whitney, and then Harry's son Cornelius V. Whitney) captured the annual money-won title a record 12 times between 1903 and 1961. Whitney shares this record with one other stable. Name it.

4. In the late 1930s, her trade name was reported to be one of the three most well known in the world, along with Coca-Cola and Singer sewing machines.

Her Maine Chance Farm was one of the biggest buyers of Thoroughbreds at auction in the 1940s. She appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1946, in front of a starting gate full of horses. The following year, she won the Kentucky Derby. Name her.

5. If one were to search for the beginning of the current era where breeding and owning Thoroughbreds has moved in large part from a sport to a commercial enterprise, it might trace to this Arizona cowboy.

Two years the nation's leading owner (1962-63), this Westerner was almost a complete opposite in every way from the Eastern bluebloods who preceded him. Name this breeder/owner.

Answers

1. James R. Keene was born in London in 1838 and came to America when he was 14. He amassed a fortune and became president of the San Francisco Stock Exchange during the Gold Rush before moving to New York, where he had similar success on Wall Street.

He acquired the magnificent 3-year-old Spendthrift in 1879 and won his first of six Belmont Stakes. He was then hooked on horse racing.

In 1894, Keene was a founding member of The Jockey Club and served as vice-chairman at the time of his death in 1913.

Keene bred Hall of Famer Kingston in 1884. At his Castleton Stud, he and son Foxhall bred and owned undefeated Colin, Commando, Peter Pan, Maskette, and Sysonby - all today members of the Hall of Fame.

Until Man o' War came along in 1919, horsemen often argued whether Colin or Sysonby was Horse of the Century.

Keene also purchased Domino, who became a magnificent runner, member of the Hall of Fame, and one of the most influential sires in Thoroughbred racing history.

2. Harry F. Sinclair bought the famous Rancocas Stud in late 1920 and almost overnight became as successful in racing as he was in oil.

While he operated the farm from 1921 to 1930, Rancocas Stable won 662 races and earned more than $2omillion in purses.

He campaigned two future Hall of Fame members - Grey Lag (Belmont Stakes) and Zev (Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes).

In 1922, the Wall Street Journal reported that the government had sold federal land leases to Sinclair Oil without competitive bidding.

The affair became known as the Teapot Dome scandal and Sinclair's reputation as a businessman and sportsman was eventually ruined. He sold Rancocas in 1932, keeping only the pensioner Zev.

Sinclair remained wealthy but out of the public limelight. He died in 1956.

3. Following the death of his father in 1932, Warren Wright converted Calumet Farm from harness horses to Thoroughbreds. It was soon the most dominant stable in the country.

In the 1940s, Calumet was the leading stable in money won seven seasons. It added five more titles between 1952 and 1961.

Calumet bred a record nine and owned a record eight winners of the Kentucky Derby. It also bred and owned a record seven winners of the Preakness.

Most astounding, a record 11 horses bred and owned by Calumet are today enshrined in the Hall of Fame: Triple Crown winners Citation and Whirlaway, along with Alydar, Armed, Bewitch, Coaltown, Davona Dale, Real Delight, Tim Tam, Twilight Tear, and Two Lea.

4. Florence Nightingale Graham operated hundreds of Elizabeth Arden (a name she often chose to use as her own) cosmetic salons in every corner of the globe by 1940.

She was also heavily involved in Thoroughbred racing - taking an active, daily role in buying and running her horses.

In 1945, Graham's Maine Chance Farm owned Star Pilot and Beaugay, champion juvenile colt and filly, respectively.

In 1946, Maine Chance lost nearly two dozen of its 2-year-olds in a tragic fire at Arlington Park. One 2-year-old survived because he had been shipped to Churchill Downs for his first race on Derby Day. He won.

Exactly one year later, this same colt - Jet Pilot - gave Maine Chance its only victory in the Kentucky Derby.

5. Rex C. Ellsworth first came to national prominence when he brought his California colt Swaps to Kentucky to upset the mighty Nashua in the 1955 Kentucky Derby. The two colts met that summer in a nationally televised match race where Nashua turned the tables.

By the early 1960s, Ellsworth had moved to the top of the national standings with such stars as Olden Times, Prove It, Candy Spots, and The Scoundrel. Unbeaten and favored in the 1963 Kentucky Derby, Candy Spots lost, but returned to capture the Preakness.

In the years that followed, Ellsworth undertook some risky and questionable financial ventures in the sport that led to his downfall and financial ruin by the early 1970s.He died in 1996.