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We're celebrating the 100th running of the Middleburg Spring Races this week!
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Temple Gwathmey – The name, the legend
You probably know the race,
but do you know the story behind it?
By Betsy Burke Parker
The list is the Who’s Who of American steeplechasing: Neji, Amber Diver, Bon Nouvel, Top Bid, Shadow Brook, Zaccio, Flatterer, Census, Warm Spell, Lonesome Glory, Rawnaq, Scorpiancer.

Names crowding the enormous silver Tiffany’s cup for the historic Temple Gwathmey hurdle handicap are tribute to the importance of the race, started in 1924 in memory of one of steeplechasing’s early 20th century greats.

Today, Temple Gwathmey, the race, jockeys for attention from Temple Gwathmey, the foundation, Temple Gwathmey, the original ballad written by a great-grandson and Temple Gwathmey – senior and junior, steeplechase horsemen whose memorable name is still germane to the sporting conversation some 100 years later.

“I think my great grandfather Temple Gwathmey Sr. would be thrilled, really pleased to know his sport, his race, his foundation, are still going today,” says namesake and great-grandson Temple Grassi when asked what he thought Gwathmey would think of his ongoing “involvement” with American jump racing. “I think he’d be most pleased that the race, eventually, came full circle, from running in New York and Pennsylvania to running here, in his home state of Virginia.”

The Temple Gwathmey hurdle handicap is carded at the 100th anniversary running of the Middleburg Spring Races this Saturday, June 13. Postponed from April due to the coronavirus crisis, the meet is just one of two salvaged from the spring season, joining the rescheduled June 27 Virginia Gold Cup as the “spring” 2020 circuit. “It isn’t 100 years for the Gwathmey, but it’s 100 years for Middleburg Spring, and we’re thrilled it’s going to happen.”

Before the horses go to post in Saturday’s Gwathmey, we wanted to make a scorecard for everything Gwathmey to keep the players straight.
Start at the beginning. James Temple Gwathmey Sr.’s unusual middle and last names have rich history of their own, stretching back to 16th century England and Wales.

Gwathmey is a Welsh name said to be derived from, and Anglicized from “Gwalchmai.” In native Welsh, “Gwalch” means hawk, “mai” means field. Gwathmai is also a village on the northwest coast of Wales.

Temple, which is what most people called Temple Gwathmey, was the surname of 18th century ancestor Hannah Temple. Temple was born in 1726 in King William County, Virginia, but the Temple name traces back to Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire, England.

Hannah Temple made the famous link when she married Owen Gwathmey, also a King William resident but with family lineage tracing to Wales. Hannah Temple Gwathmey mothered five children, including the first Temple Gwathmey in the mid-1700s.
E.M. Weld went on to build a tremendous thoroughbred breeding operation at historic North Wales just west of Warrenton, Virginia. Weld purchased the expansive estate in 1914, adding a carriage house, stable complex, tenant houses, wings to the Colonial Revival-style mansion and English-style terraced lawns.

North Wales, which has belonged to Robert Winmill, Walter Chrysler, Michael Prentiss and, today, preservationist David Ford, was placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Gwathmey moved back to Virginia after his time in New York, developing a breeding program at a historic property a mile west of North Wales. He named it “ Canterbury” after the Gwathmey family estate in King and Queen County.

In a 1917 issue of “The Southern Planter,” a breathless report: “J.Temple Gwathmey’s Canterbury Stud Farm at Warrenton, Va., than whom there are few better informed breeders of thoroughbred horses in this country, reports five foals, all by his own stallion, imp(orted) Seahorse II.

“This New Zealand-bred son of Nelson and Moonga was a great racehorse in his native land, and later in England, where he was purchased by Mr. Gwathmey and brought to the U.S

“Winners from the chestnut stallion’s loins include the splendid fencer Wildship, now 8 years old and a victor for the third time consecutively of the North American Steeplechase at Saratoga.
When Gwathmey died after a long illness at age 57 in 1924, Weld and other friends swiftly joined to fund a memorial steeplechase, the Temple Gwathmey handicap at Belmont Park. Weld commissioned a silver Tiffany trophy for the race; it’s still awarded today.

The seed money provided by Gwathmey’s well-heeled friends carries his legacy into the 21st century.

“The memorial foundation has done a lot of good in jump racing,” says Gwathmey great-grandson Ned Grassi. “It’s amazing that it’s still going, but … what a tribute to the endeavors of that great man who loved jump racing.”
If little is known about James Temple Gwathmey, Sr., even less is known about his son, Temple Gwathmey, Jr. Born March 5, 1909, it’s for certain that the junior Gwathmey inherited his father’s passion for horses and horse racing.

He attended the historic Lawrenceville School in west-central New Jersey because of their established equestrian program. Gwathmey didn’t go to college, instead jumping right into the steeplechase world in the late 1920s, just a few years after his father’s 1924 death.
“The first time I went to the race, there at Glenwood Park, I hung around the stand and was watching and listening to everything as they were parading to the start in the Gwathmey. My heart started to pound, and the hair on my neck raised up.

“It was weird. Really exciting.”

Temple Gwathmey, Sr.’s namesake Temple Grassi says his family’s involvement with steeplechasing had been tangential, but now his brother Ned is on the Middleburg Spring Races board, and both brothers share winner’s circle duties to hand out the valuable Gwathmey cup. ( Tod Marks photo from the 2019 Temple Gwathmey Handicap of Temple Grassi and winning jockey Michael Mitchel)

“All I got was the name,” he says. “But, hell, it’s fun to be a celebrity one day a year. I don’t really have a middle name, but in late April, my name is Temple Gwathmey Grassi.”

Temple Grassi, 73, splits time between Chevy Chase, Maryland, and Northeast Harbor, Maine.
Surprising Soul. 2012 b. g., Perfect Soul (Ire)—Elusive Surprise, by Elusive Quality. Owner: Wendy W. Hendriks. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Charles Fipke (Ont.) 2019 record: 4-1-1-0, $133,000. 2018 record: 3-2-1-0, $97,500. 2017 record: 7-3-0-1, $106,500. Won Belmont Park’s 2019 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) by 3¾ lengths, then was sixth in the Grand National (Gr. 1). Finished second in 2019 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr 1) after fourth in Carolina Cup Handicap, his 2019 debut. Won Saratoga’s 2018 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes, then was second in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle division. Opened 2018 with dominant victory in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). (152)
Scorpiancer (Ire). 2009 b. g., Scorpion (Ire)—Janebailey, By Silver Patriarch. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Mary O’Connor (Ire). 2019 record: 4-1-1-0, $177,000. 2018 record: No starts. 2017 record: 2-2-0-0, $150,000. Finished second in 2019 Grand National (Gr. 1). Won Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) for a second time in 2019 before fifth in Belmont’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Missed 2018 season and was pulled up in his first 2019 start, the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Claimed 2017 Eclipse Award with victories in Calvin Houghland Iroquois and Temple Gwathmey. Won Belmont Park’s 2016 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). (158)
Iranistan. 2014 dk. b. or br. g., Einstein (Brz)—Miss Vindictive, by Stephen Got Even. Owner: Hudson River Stables. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Crossed Sabres Farm (Ky.) 2019 record: 2-0-0-0, $3,750. 2018 NSA record: 5-3-1-1, $145,000. Champion novice 2018. In first 2019 start, pulled up in Grand National (Gr. 1) after leading early, then was fourth in Aflac Supreme Hurdle for novices. Finished game second in Saratoga’s 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), then was third in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1), while favored in both. Won 2018 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices by six lengths. Skipped maiden ranks and won allowance hurdles at Carolina Cup and Middleburg Spring to begin 2018 season. Scored maiden flat victory at Delaware Park in July 2018. (140)
New Member (Ire). 2011 b. g., Alhaarth (Ire)—Sincere, by Buhhare. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Golden Garden Stud. 2019 record: No starts. 2018 NSA record: 4-1-0-2, $94,500. 2017 NSA record: 4-0-1-2, $28,500. Won Saratoga’s 2018 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths, then was second in New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1). Began 2018 with thirds in Carolina Cup and Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase, then was sixth in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle. Finished second in Belmont Park’s 2017 William Entenmann Novice Stakes after well-beaten third in Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes. Finished third in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Had allowance and handicap wins in England in 2016. (140)
Belisarius (Ire). 2011 b. g., Montjeu—Lasting Chance, by American Chance. Owner: Gary Barber, Brous Stable, and Wachtel Racing Stable. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeders: Lynch Bages Ltd. And Camas Park Stud (Ire). 2019 NSA record: 6-0-1-1, $28,500. 2018 NSA record: 6-2-1-2, $106,200. Finished third in Saratoga’s 2019 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) after 10th in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), then was seventh in Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) and pulled up in Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. In 2019 debut, finished second in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2), then was ninth in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices. Won 2018 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle by 6¼ lengths. (140)
Rashaan (Ire). 2012 ch. g., Manduro (Ger)—Red Halo (Ire), by Rainbow Quest. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Thomas Garner. Breeder: The Aga Khan’s Studs (Ire). 2019 NSA record: 2-0-0-0, $3,000. No starts. Pulled up in 2019 Grand National (Gr. 1), then was fifth in David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial Handicap (Gr. 2). Won the Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle in April and then was last of 18 in Galway’s Mervue Hurdle. (146)
Amschel (GB). 2014 b. g., Nathaniel (Ire)—Darinza (Fr), by Dalakhani (Ire). Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Graham Watters. Breeder: Newsells Park Stud (GB). 2019 record: 2-1-0-0, $25,500. 2018 NSA record: 1-0-0-1, $12,500. Won 2019 Noel Laing Handicap after sixth-place finish in Far Hills’ Appleton Ratings Handicap. In only other U.S. start, finished third in division of Far Hills’ 2018 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Won three straight races in Ireland in 2018 before export. (142)
Zanjabeel (GB). 2013 b. g., Aussie Rules—Grain Only, by Machiavellian. Owners: Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: Kirsten Rausing (GB). 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $3,750. 2018 record: 4-2-2-0, $265,500. 2017 NSA record: 2-2-0-0, $120,000. In comeback race, finished fourth in 2019 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial Handicap (Gr. 2). Won 2018 Eclipse Award with victories in Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) and Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Finished second in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Won Far Hills’ 2017 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, his U.S. debut for former owners and trainer Gordon Elliott. For new owners, won Steeplechase at Callaway’s 2017 Aflac Supreme Hurdle. (154)
Moscato (GB). 2011 gr. or ro. g., Hernando (Fr)—Alba Stella, by Nashwan. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Michael Mitchell. Breeder: Miss K. Rausing (GB). 2019 record: 4-1-0-2, $105,000. 2018 record: No starts. Novice champion of 2017 returned from a year on the sidelines and won the 2019 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2), then was third in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), eighth in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), and third in Grand National (Gr. 1). Won Belmont’s 2017 William Entenmann Novice Stakes and Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes impressively after strong closing second in Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. (152)
Steeplechase photographer Douglas Lees has a tangential link to the Gwathmey legend.

“One of my grandmother’s sisters, Lucy, married Lee Evans, Warrenton (Virginia) Hunt joint-master and trainer of steeplechase horses,” Lees says. One of his clients was Temple Gwathmey, Sr., who raced under the name Mr. Cotton in partnership with friend Edward M. Weld since he was president of the Cotton Exchange in New York.

Lucy, who also operated the Blue Parrot restaurant on what’s now the Warrenton bypass, and Lee Evans had no children, Lees says, so his grandmother inherited all the trophies.

“When I moved into (the family) house, I noticed a bunch of trophies, two of which had been made into lamps.” One of the inscriptions, Lees says, was for a win by Mr. Cotton’s horse Game Cock, trained and ridden by Lee Evans to win the 1906 Southern Steeplechase at the Washington Jockey Club.

Lees knew about the Mr. Cotton-Temple Gwathmey connection, and mentioned it to Gwathmey’s great grandson Ned Grassi at the Middleburg Spring Races about five years ago. Grassi found a jeweler to restore the silver cup from lamp to trophy, and it has been used in the Gwathmey presentation since 2016.

The other trophy-lamp was from the Meadow Brook Steeplechase at Belmont Park, Oct. 9, 1905. Lee Evans won that on Thomas Hitchcock’s Tom Cogon.
The Southern Steeplechase trophy-lamp at Douglas Lees' house.
The restored Southern Steeplechase trophy. The inscription reads "Washington Jockey Club; Spring Meeting 1906; Southern Steeplechase; Won by Lee Evans and Game Cock owned by Mr. Cotton
©Douglas Lees
The National Steeplechase Foundation was created in 1995 with the objective of “preserving American jump racing.”

In 2018, NSF merged with the Temple Gwathmey Fund to form the Temple Gwathmey Steeplechase Foundation.

The combined mission is to “preserve and advance the sport through programs that promote education, health and safety along with the spirit of amateurism.”

The foundation has given grants to the Maryland, Virginia and Delaware Valley point-to-point associations, to the Land Preservation Trust to run the Maryland Junior Hunt Cup, to the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center to run the steeplechase injury database, to the Jockeys Guild for helmet research and to Carolina Covers to produce tarps with ground lines and knee lines for the sets of national fences.

In support of amateur riders – the essence of the original Temple Gwathmey Fund formed in memory of amateur rider Temple Gwathmey, Sr., the Foundation pays a $500 bonus to the owner and trainer of a horse winning an NSA flat race ridden by an amateur apprentice.

In support of junior riders, the foundation has paid for domestic and international training camps, and had planned a series of developing rider flat races this spring.

A 501c3 non-profit, TGSF donations are tax deductible.

Among its charitable endeavors, the Temple Gwathmey Steeplechase Foundation provides support to race meets in staging their programs, improving race courses to enhance safety for horses and jockeys, and generating funds for the race meets’ charitable beneficiaries.

Jack Fisher is president of the executive committee, Emily Day, vice-president. Blair Wyatt serves as secretary, with Michael Hoffman treasurer.
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