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John W. Galbreath

John W. Galbreath
Induction Year: 
Aug. 10, 1897, Derby, Ohio
July 20, 1988, Galloway, Ohio

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The elements of sportsmanship and vast industrial prowess coalesced uniquely for John W. Galbreath on the June day in 1963 when Chateaugay won the Belmont Stakes. The race took place at Aqueduct that year because its home, Belmont Park, was closed for extensive renovation. Galbreath was the owner and breeder of Chateaugay, and his firm had already built the new and handsome Aqueduct, which opened four years earlier; in due course, the Galbreath firm would complete the renovation of Belmont Park in time for the 100th running of the Belmont Stakes in 1968.


If the phrase “American Success Story” were ever to be subjected to a ratings system, John W. Galbreath’s would surely have a handsome ranking. Its stages included: Selling horseradish at age 10; photographing fellow students and then selling the photos to their parents while attending Ohio University; World War I service as a lieutenant in the field artillery; artful response to the Great Depression by convincing owners of free and clear land in Columbus, Ohio, to invest in foreclosure property resulting in $7 million in real estate sales in a single year.


Born in Derby, Ohio, on Aug 10, 1897, Galbreath was at the helm or partner in an array of construction projects, including the 42-story Mobil Building in New York City, the 64-story U.S. Steel Building in Pittsburgh, the 40-story National Bank Building in Louisville, Ky., and 100 buildings of 15 stories each on reclaimed land in Hong Kong.


Sports became a passion and from time to time came together with other enterprises. In addition to racetrack projects, Galbreath for years owned the Pittsburgh Pirates and won the Epsom Derby with a homebred named in honor of the great player Roberto Clemente. Then, too, an entire residential community in Canada was named Bramalea, a nice name which was carried to major victories by Roberto’s dam.


Galbreath for years had a minor connection to thoroughbred racing, such as breeding at his Darby Dan property in Ohio. When he decided to upgrade, he did it in a serious manner. He purchased a large portion of Col. E. R. Bradley’s famous and productive Idle Hour Farm in Kentucky and re-hired Col. Bradley’s famed farm manager, Olin Gentry. When Ribot was regarded as perhaps the greatest horse in the world, Galbreath leased him to stand at his new Kentucky farm, renamed Darby Day. In the next decade, he did a similar deal to stand Sea-Bird II after his victories in the Epsom Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.


Galbreath paid $2 million to acquire Swaps, the 1956 American Horse of the Year, to stand at Darby Dan. The stallion sired his 1963 Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Chateaugay and a champion full sister, Primonetta. After being a widower for nine years, Galbreath married the former Mrs. Russell Firestone, whose high-class colt Summer Tan joined the Darby Dan stallion roster. After Mrs. Isabel Dodge Sloane passed away, Galbreath purchased a large draft of her Brookmeade Stable bloodstock. He already had been standing Brookmeade’s Sailor and Sword Dancer.


Galbreath bred 91 winners and raced such homebreds as champion Little Current, a Preakness and Belmont winner; a second Kentucky Derby winner in Proud Clarion; champions Sunshine Forever and Tempest Queen; Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Proud Truth; and the full-brother stallion stars Graustark and His Majesty, The aforementioned Roberto completed Galbreath’s emergence as the first American breeder to win a Kentucky Derby and an Epsom Derby. Before his own international influence as a Darby Dan stallion, Roberto also defeated the formerly unbeaten Brigadier Gerard in the forerunner of today’s Juddmonte International in England.


In the 30 years since Galbreath’s death at the age of 90 on July 20, 1988, Darby Dan’s ongoing successes have been directed, in succession, by his late son and daughter and currently by grandson John W. Phillips.

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