May 13, 2013 - 3 Responses

Great article; some of the comments take my breath away…

How awe-inspiring would it be to interview someone who saw Man O’ War – and who remembers the farm the way it used to be?

Just as amazing would be to talk to Tom Harbut. I wonder if his children are interested in their father and grandfather’s rich history?

I am so envious of some of these people. *sighs wistfully*

THE VAULT: Horse racing past and present

The names and stories of the men and women who were primary caregivers to thoroughbreds, whether great champions or hard-working horses who ran on local racetracks, are largely unknown. Since many of these people were perceived as menial workers employed in the stables of the wealthy, they were overlooked by turf writers and the general public. However, even though fragmentary, a few stories of thoroughbreds and the men who loved them have come down to us from the past.

One such narrative fragment concerns Will Harbut and the legendary Man O’ War. 

The Latin “texere” from which the word “text” derives means texture and was first used to describe the process of weaving textiles. There is a kind of lovely rapport between the concept of storytelling and weaving. Both involve the choice of a pattern, colour and intricate stitchery that produces a design. And both are human endeavours that seek…

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This is how you breed a horse, folks.

May 4, 2013 - Leave a Response

A Big Red powerhouse right here. Check out all the Man O’ War affiliations, plus a few other cool characters from Racing’s glory days:

American Flag, Speed Boat, Galleon Gold, Judy O’ Grady, Coquelicot, Baton Rouge, Hostility, Free America (Columbiana & Firetop), Warrior Lass, War Woman, Mad Hatter, Friar Rock, Display, Oval, Mlle. Dazie, Striking, Busher, Misplay, Hour Glass, Iron Maiden, In Reality, Busanda, Bee Mac, Admiral’s Lady, Upset, Wildair, John P. Grier (more than once).

Honorable mentions to Colin and Shenanigans.

Kentucky Derby 2013 and the Big Red connection

May 4, 2013 - Leave a Response

Interesting little facts on today’s runners, especially regarding links back to Man O’ War. Some sentimental choices and hunch bets as well.

Normandy Invasion: Love the name (powerful), love the story, love the fact that he has 4 D-Day veterans cheering him on, love that he has interesting Man O’ War connections in his pedigree. Not even so far back: 5th generation, there is Fairy Manhurst right there. Red’s last stakes winning progeny, or so I have read. You don’t see him too often these days.

Sadly, Normandy Invasion has only a maiden win, and has not won a race this year. This is also his trainer’s first Derby starter. A few strikes against him there. But…what a great sentimental pick he is!!

Orb: Shug McGaughey, Easy Goer’s trainer. Can’t go wrong with Orb’s trainer! Orb is also a Big Red powerhouse. Hostility is in his pedigree. So is Free America, Galleon Gold,  Mata Hari, Judy O’ Grady, and Coquelicot. It doesn’t stop there. Complete list to follow. Ruffian connections; beloved Shenanigans is in here too, via her daughter Laughter. Pretty damn impressive!

Oxbow: Good, powerful name. Calumet Farms! Seeing Gary Stevens win would be pretty nice. Oxbow has a strong name. Oxbow is trained by Lukas: Not a huge fan of his, but could be worse. Dam is full sister to Tiznow, which means a few In Reality connections there! Olden Times on the top.

Revolutionary: Powerful name.  A SUPERB looking individual. He looks like a champ.

Lines of Battle: Powerful name. Haskin says he will handle the off track. Irish horse, very nice.

Verrazano: Powerful name

Palace Malice: Nellie Flag.

Mylute: Lousy name, I’d rather he won some big stakes later on instead of the Derby. However, he will handle the slop most likely, and he does have two interesting characters in his pedigree: Valid Appeal and Believe it.  Very nice, for obvious reasons.

Goldencents: Battlefield and Seaplane. Love his sire, Into Mischief. Into Mischief has an interesting pedigree too. However, I do not like Goldencents’ trainer. Sorry. But Goldencents will hopefully go on to do great things later on, just not today.

Tracking Down a Ghost

April 28, 2013 - Leave a Response

I have spent many hours trying to find out some details of Big Red’s latter days, and now I am doing it again. I stumbled upon another blog with a wonderful post on Big Red, and some of the comments sent me onto another one of my Big Red excursions, desperately seeking info on Red’s final days and his old home and barn.

His old home, Faraway Farm, is now called Man O’ War Farm LLC, I believe. Or Mt. Brilliant. But I think Mt. Brilliant is adjacent to Red’s old home. Both are on Huffman Mill Pike in Lexington. Supposedly the grave of the great Domino is nearby, however I can’t find that either. Not on Google (blame Google)!

I’m using Google, Google maps, and Google Earth, along with info from the blog, it’s comments, and some photos by Barbara Livingston.

Still can’t find it! Can’t find his old barn – or barns. Seems he had more than one at Faraway. Can’t find his old paddock or his old grave site (prior to its move to the Kentucky Horse Park).

I’m missing a lot of information and am probably more than a little confused.

Seems the only way to find out for sure is to head a couple thousand miles out there and snoop around myself!

It is the weirdest, Ray Kinsella – type feeling I have. “Something’s gonna happen there, I don’t know what, but we’ll find out when it does!”

I think his ghost may be waiting for me.

Happy Birthday to a “fiery phantom”.

March 29, 2013 - Leave a Response



Born just after midnight, March 29th 1917…The Flame lives on…

The modern rail line and Tunnel #27

March 18, 2013 - Leave a Response

On the anniversary of Chatsworth’s 125th Birthday, I and about 35 other people hiked up the old Stagecoach Trail. The trail was in use from the mid-1800’s until 1895 when a new road was built. The old trail also played a part in the civil war. For more info, please read: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=25209

And: http://www.historicalsocieties.net/history.shtml

Now, onto the caves and railroad portion of our trek:Image



Hikers, up near what WAS the “Manson Cave” area. Now, thankfully, all negativity associated with these caves is GONE.





Ah, the 118 freeway and Topanga Canyon.


One of Manson’s victims. Manson and his little shits used to steal cars, strip them of their parts, and shove ’em down various canyons around here. Sadly, the entire Santa Susana Pass Canyon is cluttered with these god-awful burned out, rusted out vehicles, some dating back to the late ’60’s and ’70’s and victims of Charles Manson. Today, lots of people use these canyons for illegal dumping, and no one does a damn thing about it.


Another tragedy of this State Park: not all of it is State Park. Sadly, the Park could not or would not buy all of the available land when the old movie ranches went out of business. The result is that some church bought a lot of the land. They plopped down a mega-church, parking lots, and then went and bought some land which they really do not use, but instead, put up a bunch of ugly signs warning people to keep off. Then their members patrol the area on ATVs, which damage the land. They nearly run over hikers – who are NOT on their property but instead on adjacent property, and demand to know what they are doing. They eyeball everyone, assuming that anyone on PUBLIC, state park land must be up to no good and thus must be watched at all times. Because, you know, that’s what JESUS WOULD DO: Put up ugly signs warning people to KEEP OUT. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight…..


Train tracks looking south.




The tracks are the City’s property. Thus, the graffiti is allowed to proliferate. Still, these tracks have a rich history. The 3 tunnels were started on in the late 1800’s, and completed in 1904. They created a new “Coast Line”, which linked Los Angeles with San Francisco. This helped end the need for the old Stagecoach Road.


I do love railroad tracks.



The tunnels in these photos belong to Tunnel #27, one of a historic series of 3 tunnels and often used in classic movies, especially westerns. You can learn more about Chatsworth’s film history here: http://a-drifting-cowboy.blogspot.com/2012/02/homage-to-six-gun-heroes-and-their.html


The graffiti that the City of LA is known for, on the top of tunnel 27.


There used to be a second track here. Supposedly it ran to a rock quarry called the Southern Pacific Railroad rock quarry, used to build this portion of the railroad and tunnels.


For historic reference, check out these two photos, pictured below, of this same rail line and tunnel, tunnel #27: http://www.railroadforums.com/photos/showphoto.php/photo/20450/title/surfliner-through-santa-susana-pass-tunnel/cat/605


The one above fairly recent.

And look at this one, below!!!! Taken in 1904 right after completion of the tunnels!! See the second line? It no longer exists. I suspect it was just used for a rock quarry and to build the tunnels.



The photo above is from a movie, Rio Grande, shot in 1940.Image

This is a photo from a movie called “Ma & Pa Kettle On The Farm”, circa 1951 showing the tunnel and tracks. For more info and to learn about some really cool film history, go here: http://a-drifting-cowboy.blogspot.com/2012/07/chatsworth-filming-location-railroad_03.html


Ah, see the white paint at the top of this hill? At least I think it’s paint. Anyway, this hill is known as Stoner’s Jump, or Stoner’s Point, depending on your source. YAY!!!


See what happens when the City takes over?? The State Park has control of most of Santa Susan State Historical Park, but this portion near the railroad is sadly owned by the City. The State Park takes care of its rocks – when graffiti appears, it is promptly erased. But the City could not care less, and this graffiti has proliferated for years. This huge rocky overhang, something of a cave really, USED to have Native American pictographs on it. Now, nothing but gang tags.


Walking away from the rails and toward Chatsworth Park South.



Chatsworth Park South. the park with some of the richest history in So Cal, and unlimited potential, is now closed exclusively due to the utter incompetence of the City of LA, and their politics. They shut the park several years ago, due to, they CLAIM, the presence of lead in the soil. While it is true that there is lead in the soil (due to Roy Rogers’ old skeet shooting range), the lead is only in one tiny portion of the park that could easily be fenced off, and NO ONE, in the 60+ years the park has been open to the public, ha complained that this park has made them sick. Plus, you’d have to actually EAT the dirt to get sick. Yet, the whole park remains closed and fenced off. That ain’t horse shit you smell. It’s BULL SHIT.


Wonder what these posts used to be used for? Pony rides and LOTS of equestrian trails used to exist in this park.


We end where we began, at the entrance to Chatsworth Park South and the old dynamite shed.


Just for fun: This driveway leads to an old red barn and large horse property. It is located just a few blocks from Chatsworth Park South.


Yes, this old barn does have some significance. It is the barn where Mr. Ed lived. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2457&dat=19970124&id=ugxbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Qk4NAAAAIBAJ&pg=3598,2346778


Looks like a little donkey lives here now! Sorry I couldn’t get a better photo with all of this awful chain-link around.

Chatsworth’s 125th Birthday Celebration, continued

March 17, 2013 - Leave a Response

An old foundation. I’m guessing from the early part of the 20th century, however, we were told it does not date back quite to the stagecoach days. But close enoughImageImage

This is likely where the stagecoach road continued. Past this point, it crossed over Santa Susana Pass Road, and down into Simi Valley. These homes are filled with angry homeowners who don’t like people hiking ear their property, despite the fact they bought homes adjacent to a  STATE PARK!!!!!


This is possibly where a horse corral used to be located. Fresh horses were kept here, so the tired horses that pulled the stagecoach could be traded for and given a rest.


Over the rise, there is a pond that was once used to water the horses.


Train tracks. Still in use, they were built in 1904. Amtrack, Metrolink, and freight use this line. Runs pretty much all the way up the coast.


The homes along Lilac Lane (original path the stagecoaches took, on their way to San Francisoc from Los Angeles). Homeowners watch us, I assume to see if they can catch us doing anything wrong….


Powerhouse Road. It’s hard to discern, but the water tower the train once ran to is in the middle, to the left.


A view of a concrete ceiling. This is modern day Chatsworth.

Chatsworth’s 125th Birthday Hike

March 13, 2013 - 3 Responses

Chatsworth, CA is rich in horse history. Many of the old movie cowboys lived here or else worked in the studio ranches high up in the hills here. There is also a trail called the Stagecoach Trail, which really was used by stagecoaches in the mid-late 1800’s and early part of the 1900’s. There are many horse farms in Chatsworth, and Mr. Ed once lived here in a barn that still stands. Thoroughbred farms used to exist not far from here.

To commemorate Chatsworth’s birthday, 35 hikers trekked up the trail, including the dangerous portion of the old stage road known as The Devil’s Slide. Originally created by various wildlife traveling from one valley to another, the path was also used by Native Americans for literally thousands of years. In 1859 it became a stage route – an alternative to the famous El Camino Real to the south. An alternative to the Devil’s Slide was built just to the north in 1895. Running almost parallel to the Santa Susana Pass (which was built in 1917), this new road was known as El Camino Nuevo, AKA the Chatsworth Grade Road. This road still exists too, although is currently not accessible by automobile. One can still hike it, thankfully.

For more info on Chatsworth’s Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park and the history of the area, please read (info on the Devil’s Slide starts on page 16): https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:GEw5aEEP7MUJ:www.parks.ca.gov/pages/21299/files/chapter%25202%2520existing%2520conditions%281%29.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgaZbVsHWq6azmVzkaCB3G4GTB8WOx2VSJAbfD_BNJP70EBIuwKN3mLS-52qX_VWya9Y7ACTJJFtChU9fuCTpGw8pEwohnJPMLjkiYExUiAVn7aQU6kUA-vJ3DbUX_vfQxldGxp&sig=AHIEtbSpPhPKGRcQgFbH-xxY5_pM8jkq5w


The map at the Larwin entrance to SSPSHP.


The entrance to Chatsworth Park south, with the old dynamite shed in the background.


The old sandstone dynamite shed. Was reportedly used to store dynamite used in the rock quarry/quarries, and assist in building the railroad.




You can see tunnel #28 of the active railroad here in the left hand side.


Part of the old Bannon quarry operation.


Bannon quarry


This old sandstone quarry is a LOT more than just a pile of rocks, discarded after the quarry went out of business. It has a history. From 1898-1915 these rocks were used to build a few buildings (I believe one or two of them are still in existence), and to create the San Pedro breakwater. A spur line of the Southern Pacific Railroad assisted in bringing the sandstone out to San Pedro. It once led from the main line at Topanga Canyon, along where Marilla street is now, past Andora and up to the quarry.


Look! Shadow People!!! And they wouldn’t get out of my way!! Anyway, notice the groove in the rocks. The quarrymen bore grooves into the rock; something to do with helping them move or blast open the rock. I don’t quite remember the details.


Guess what this is? A Toilet! Well, that is what the experts think. They think there used to be an outhouse above this site; it was used by the quarrymen.


Another toilet photo.


And here it is. The old rail bed. A train once ran through here and, most likely, up to the old water tower you see in the distance here. This road is now known as Power House Road, and it does actually lead to a small powerhouse. View looking north-west.


Old rail bed, now called Powerhouse Road, looking south.


Hiking up toward the Devil’s Slide. You can see the bed of the active railroad in the upper left.


View of Chatsworth Park


The active railroad. And hikers.


Another part of the Bannon quarry.




Amazing! An old cistern used by Native Americans. They also used this to grind up acorns into a mash. Chumash, Tongva, and Tataviam people once lived  in and around Chatsworth Park.

Incredibly, at least 20 Native American archaeological sites have been recorded within the park.


Next to the old cistern, this hole in the rock was used by Native Americans too. I forget the details now, unfortunately, but this area is in fact, an important archaeological site.


The little cave and the cistern. I was standing on a large outcropping.


Native Americans used this rock too, I think to dry out acorns and maybe other foods, but I’m not sure. Looks sort of like a dinosaur, doesn’t it?


Active railroad and Powerhouse Road.



And here we are. Ascending the infamous Devil’s Slide. This trek is almost as evil as the name suggests. Don’t believe me? YOU try walking it. And imagine traveling via stagecoach or mud wagon!!


Beautiful day for a hike.


Appears to be an old cistern in the Devil’s Slide rock.


Close up of the terrain on the Slide. See what I mean?


The modern day “Coast line”.


Holes drilled into the rock by the stage crew in order to assist them in surviving traveling up and down the Slide.


We have almost reached the peak. You can see the historic plaque in the distance.


This marker was placed here in 1939 to commemorate the history of the famous stagecoach route.

More photos to follow!!

Big Red

January 10, 2013 - 2 Responses

The days are long at Belmont.

Speed they never learn.

And it’s many a day since Man o’ War

Has looped the upper turn.

The guineas stopped their rubbing,

The rider dropped his tack

When the word went round that Man o’ War

Was coming on the track.

The crowd was hoarse with cheering

At ancient Pimlico

The day he won the Preakness-

But that was long ago.

The dust is deep at Windsor,

The good old days are gone.

And many a horse is forgotten,

But they still remember one.

For he was a fiery phantom

To that multitudinous throng-

Would you wait for another one like him?

Be patient: years are long.

For here was a horse among horses,

Cast in a Titan’s mold,

And the slant October sunlight

Gilded the living gold.

He was marked with the god’s own giving

And winged in every part;

The look of eagles was in his eye

And Hastings’ wrath in his heart.

Young Equipoise had power

To rouse the crowded stand,

And there was magic in the name

Of Greentree’s Twenty Grand.

And Sarazen has sprinted,

And Gallant Fox has stayed,

And Discovery has glittered

In the wake of Cavalcade.

We watch the heroes parading,

We wait, and our eyes are dim,

But we never discover another

Like him.

A foal is born at midnight

And in the frosty morn

The horseman eyes him fondly

And a secret hope is born.

But breathe it not, nor whisper,

For fear of a neighbor’s scorn:

He’s a chestnut colt, and he’s got a star-

He may be another Man o’ War.

Nay, say it aloud–be shameless.

Dream and hope and yearn,

For there’s never a man among you

But waits for his return.

-Joseph Alvie Estes, Blood Horse, October 23, 1937


Herding at Pierce College

January 9, 2013 - Leave a Response

Goat herding demonstrations. This dog, possibly a Gordon setter mix, was inexperienced.

He/she mostly chased the goats around.

This border collie (or Aussie Shepherd mix?) was well trained and was brought in to help teach the black & tan dog.

This border collie pup got a lot of attention.