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Tom Ochiltree

Tom Ochiltree Harper's Weekly..jpg

Tom Ochiltree, from Harper's Weekly (NMR Collection)
Tom Ochiltree
Induction Year: 
Woodburn Stud (A. J. Alexander)
J. F. Chamberlain; George L. Lorillard
R. W. Walden; Anthony Taylor
Career Years: 

Tab Wrapper


Originally purchased for the bargain price of $500 by John F. Chamberlain at the 1873 Woodburn Stud Farm yearling sale, Tom Ochiltree was a massive bay colt who stood 17 hands when fully developed. One of the last great sons of the mighty stallion Lexington, Tom Ochiltree established himself as an elite runner in the 1870s, winning the 1875 Preakness Stakes and later several prestigious distance races for owner George Lorillard’s Westbrook Stable.


Named after the colorful Col. Thomas P. Ochiltree — who joined the Texas Rangers at the age of 14, fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War and later became a newspaper editor and United States Congressman — the equine Tom Ochiltree did not race as a 2-year-old while maturing into his imposing frame.


“For size, bone, and coarseness, Tom Ochiltree surpassed all contemporaries,” said racing historian Walter Vosburgh. “He was always a monster of size.”


When he finally arrived at the races as a 3-year-old in 1875, Tom Ochiltree won his career debut at Pimlico Race Course in a six-furlong maiden event worth $300. Two days later, his trainer, R.W. Walden, sent Tom Ochiltree to the post to contest the third running of the Preakness Stakes. Tom Ochiltree demonstrated he was up for the 1½-mile challenge, taking command in midstretch and winning by two lengths under jockey Lloyd Hughes. Tom Ochiltree’s winning connections collected $1,900 for the victory. Walden went on to win a record seven editions of the Preakness, including five in a row, while Hughes became the first jockey to win the Preakness three times. Both men were eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame.  


Following the Preakness, however, Tom Ochiltree seemed off. He finished behind Calvin and Kentucky Derby winner Aristides in the Belmont Stakes and could not catch Calvin and Chesapeake in the Jersey Derby. After finishing last and appearing disinterested in the Ocean Hotel Stakes in July, Tom Ochiltree was given some time off. When he returned in October, in the care of new trainer Anthony Taylor, Tom Ochiltree was rejuvenated, defeating Chesapeake at 2⅛ miles in the Annual Stakes. He then won the Dixie Stakes at two miles (Aristides finished fourth) before closing out the year by finishing third in the Breckenridge Stakes. Tom Ochiltree won four of nine starts as a 3-year-old and earned $6,150.


Prior to the 1876 racing season, Chamberlain sold Tom Ochiltree for $5,000 (some reports say $7,500) to Lorillard, who put the horse back in the care of conditioner Walden. Tom Ochiltree proceeded to become arguably the best thoroughbred in the East, winning eight of 10 starts as a 4-year-old, including the Baltimore Cup (2¼ miles), Jockey Club Handicap (defeating Chesapeake at two miles), Centennial Stakes (defeating standouts Acrobat and Olitipa at 2¾ miles), Monmouth Cup (defeating Stampede at 2½ miles), Capital Stakes (three miles) and Saratoga Cup.


Tom Ochiltree’s victory in the Saratoga Cup on July 29, 1876 was one of his most impressive, as he defeated the legendary Parole at 2¼ miles even though he carried 21 pounds more than the runner-up. Through July of 1876, Tom Ochiltree’s lone defeat in seven starts in his 4-year-old campaign was to Parole in the All-Ages Sweepstakes at 1¼ miles at Saratoga. Tom Ochiltree carried 19 pounds more than the winner, but four days later he avenged the loss in the Saratoga Cup.


Following the Saratoga Cup, Tom Ochiltree was given a well-deserved rest. He returned Oct. 3 to win the Maturity Stakes (three miles) at Jerome Park and added a victory on the same track in the four-mile Centennial Cup nine days later. Overall, Tom Ochiltree posted a record of 8-1-1 from 10 starts and earned $22,845 (including a $2,500 plate) as a 4-year-old.


Tom Ochiltree maintained his excellence at age 5 in 1877. His wins included the Westchester Cup (2¼ miles), Grand National Handicap (defeating Parole at 2¼ miles), All-Aged Stakes (defeating Parole) and a second Baltimore Cup (2¼ miles). Tom Ochiltree started 14 times that year, posting a record of 9-4-1. At ages 4 and 5, he raced against the future Hall of Famer Parole six times and finished ahead of his rival in four of those contests, carrying higher weight every time.


Unfortunately for Tom Ochiltree, one of those two losses to Parole took place in one of the most famous races of the 19th century. On Oct. 24, 1877, Tom Ochiltree met both Parole and Ten Broeck in an historic sweepstakes at Pimlico. The race was attended by the majority of the United States Congress, which decided to adjourn as a body to witness the event. Parole, carrying 105 pounds, swept by Ten Broeck (114 pounds) and Tom Ochiltree (114 pounds) to win by five lengths. Tom Ochiltree was retired after the race with a career record of 21-5-3 and earnings of $41,445. Tom Ochiltree was considered a disappointment as a stallion. His best son was considered to be Major Domo, winner of the 1892 Brookdale and Parkway handicaps. He also sired Anecdote (winner of the 1900 Fashion Stakes) and Sluggard (winner of the 1888 Sapphire Stakes).


Tom Ochiltree died Dec. 29, 1897 at the age of 25.