August 28, 1999
Dreyfus leads in Beau Purple after defeating Kelso in the 1962 Man o’ War
were a racing fan in North America, particularly in New York, in the 1960s and
1970s, you probably recall the heyday of Jack J. Dreyfus Jr.’s Hobeau Farm.
You probably remember the green-and-leafy advertising campaign undertaken when
Dreyfus was chairman of the New York Racing Association, with television spots
and posters on buses urging fans to spend a day in the park at Belmont and cheer
on the fastest animal in the world.
years, the soft-spoken Wall Street financier, founder of the Dreyfus Fund, world-class
bridge and gin rummy player, club champion in golf and tennis, and professed
admirer of the common man, would wander the grandstands at Aqueduct, Belmont,
and Saratoga, hang out with his trainer friends, and watch such Hobeau runners
as Beau Purple, Blessing Angelica, Group Plan, Hand-some Boy, Never Bow, Onion,
and Prove Out compete against, and more than occasionally defeat, the best of
the breed. Of course, Hobeau’s orange and blue colors are still seen atop a
string of New York-based runners, now as then saddled by Dreyfus’ longtime friend,
Hall of Fame conditioner H. Allen Jerkens. Currently, Hobeau owns about seventy
thoroughbreds, including twenty broodmares on its Ocala, Fla., farm and seventeen
runners at the track with Jerkens. Among those competing at the moment are standout
sprinter Kelly Kip, recently returned to Jerkens after recovering from a hock
infection, and 1998 Withers Stakes (gr. 11) winner Dice Dancer.
Hobeau’s inventory of thoroughbreds is down from an early 1970s peak of 300,
when the farm annually ranked among the continent’s leading breeders and the
racing stable occupied a similar position among leading owners. Dreyfus, who
celebrates his 86th birthday Aug. 28, has put 2,100-acre Hobeau Farm on the
market (at an asking price of $15 million) in order to concentrate his resources
on his principal life pursuit of the past thirty years.
would be his all-out promotion, some would call it proselytizing, for the drug
Dilantin (generic name phenytoin), which helped Dreyfus recover overnight in
1963, at the age of fifty, from a five-year bout with a debilitating depression.
The drug is used in other parts of the world to treat numerous disorders but
is approved in the U.S. only as an anticonvulsant.
the original patent on the drug has expired, there is little economic incentive
for pharmaceutical companies to promote its use, which Dreyfus long ago concluded
is a gross disservice to the American people. In an attempt to rectify the situation,
the Dreyfus Medical Foundation, funded entirely with its founder’s personal
fortune, has for more than three decades underwritten research and disseminated
bibliographies, books, and other information to every physician (now more than
600,000) and every public library in the U.S.
effort has absorbed much of Dreyfus’ time and thoughts and substantially depleted
his personal fortune.
spent $90-to-$100 million on this, and so much more needs to be done,” Dreyfus
said recently in his Manhattan office, which overlooks Plaza Square from windows
on 58th Street near Fifth Avenue. “I hate to sell the farm and I won’t say I’m
broke, but I need the money for the most important thing in the world to me.”
friends have long since become accustomed to such statements from him, as did
Presidents Nixon and Reagan and numerous cabinet secretaries, senators, and
congressmen to whom he personally pled his case in the past thirty years. Needless
to say, this circumstance has given him a bit of a reputation.
than a few people who have known Dreyfus during his crusade concede to having
two firm impressions of him. One is that he is a genuinely nice man. The other
is that he has become a bit of an eccentric.
a very, very good guy,” said Hall of Fame trainer Phil Johnson. “You never would
know he was a man of means, except that his chauffeur used to carry his betting
money around the track in a satchel.
Hobeau Farm Upsets
o’ War Stakes
Purple (20.65-1) defeated Kelso (1.05-1)
Boy (5.30-1) defeated Buckpasser (.70-1)
(5.60-1) defeated Secretariat (.10-1)
Out (16.20-1) defeated Secretariat (.30-1)
ago, he would hang out with us trainers around the paddock when they led the
horses out to the track. He had all of us—Woody (Stephens), Allen (Jerkens),
me, and several others—on that drug for a while. Even now when I see him, he
asks me if I`m still using Dilantin. I’ve learned to tell him, ‘Yes,’ and he
says, ‘Good, you’ll live a long life.’ ”
retired from the NYRA board, Dreyfus has requested on occasion to appear before
current trustees with an appeal, which usually has three elements. One is to
argue the case for elimination of exotic wagers, which Dreyfus believes perpetually
reduce pari-mutuel churn to the detriment of all of racing. Another is to give
bettors a break by reducing pari-mutuel takeout. And the third is to inquire
if anyone needs any Dilantin.
Mills (Dinny) Phipps, also a former NYRA chairman and longtime friend of Dreyfus’,
welcomes his continued participation.
Hobeau Farm Runners
a great guy,” Phipps said. “He always calls me ‘Dinsmore.’ ”
Dreyfus is a sincerely sincere man,” wrote Sports Illustrated in an affectionate
1964 profile that appeared soon after Beau Purple, the first horse ever bred
by Hobeau Farm, began advancing Dreyfus to racing prominence. He remains a quiet,
polite, likable man to this day, by acclamation.
still calls Beau Purple’s upset of Kelso in the 1962 Man o’War Stakes his greatest
moment in racing. He still recalls with pride his decision to stand Beau Purple
and Handsome Boy’s sire Beau Gar, perhaps the only decent stallion son of Count
Fleet, at Hobeau Farm.
admits to a personal fondness for Blessing Angelica, a daughter of Beau Gar
and winner of consecutive Delaware Handicaps in 1971-72. “What was that mare
with the religious name?” he has asked visitors over the years, testing to see
whether they remember her as well as he does.
dear to Dreyfus’ heart are Jerkens (“Allen’s a nut and I’m a nut, and we’ve
shared many good things in our lives,” he said); the works of Mark Twain, which
he has delighted in discussing with all manner of writers who have visited him
over the years; and his own book, six years in the writing, entitled A Remarkable
Medicine Has Been Overlooked, available in public libraries for anyone interested
in understanding his consuming passion.
it all, Dreyfus remains a purist about racing and breeding.
racing should be a sport, without so much emphasis on gambling,” he said. `You
breed and train these wonderful animals, and it`s a beautiful game to watch.”
words to a visitor, he adds: “Thanks for coming to see me. Keep on with your
love of racing. And take Dilantin—you’ll live a long life.”