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HISTORY

Harry S. Hart
1894-1966

The Harry S. Hart Story
October 15, 1894 – April 19, 1966

The following information and excerpts taken from The Blood-Horse 1936 – 1941 and the LA Times 1964 clearly depict the horse training skills and Marwyck Ranch design brilliance of Harry S. Hart.

Harry S. Hart was born in Brooklyn New York. In his early teens he traveled to Canada with his brother Ernie trying to become jockeys. Ernie became a top rider but Harry considered himself one of the worlds’ worst. He turned to training horses in his late teens enjoying marked success during World War I and during the early 1920’s. Hart then trained horses in Kentucky in the mid1920’s and 30’s. Like many of his time, Harry was a regular at the old Tijuana Mexico track racing his own stable and training for prominent owners throughout the United States. Could this possibly have been how he met some California thoroughbred breeders and “Hollywood Stars”?

In 1936 he resigned his position as trainer and manager of Le Mar Stock Farm Stable near Lexington Kentucky to become a principal in an organization which was setting up a Thoroughbred breeding farm near Van Nuys (actually Northridge), California, about 20 miles from Hollywood. Zeppo Marx, Barbara Stanwyck, of the Hollywood movie colony, and Harry were the three principals in the what would be named Marwyck Ranch. Harry was to be the managing director of the organization. Therefore in late October 1936 he was in Lexington purchasing horses, which would constitute the nucleus of the stud.

According to Mr. Hart, 130 acres had been purchased and would be developed as a ranch for breeding, training and sale of Thoroughbreds. The completed plant would contain a training barn, a six-furlong training track, barns for broodmares, stallions, and yearlings as well as an isolation barn. Sufficient money had been allocated to make the stud one of the most complete in California.

In mid l936, as a stallion for the new stud Hart, purchased The Nut – young son of Mad Hatter. He also bought, either at sale or privately, four mares, three weanlings and 14 yearlings. These horses were to be shipped to California immediately. The stallion Saxon, sire of King Saxon, and nine mares were also purchases and scheduled to be transferred to the new organization

Mr. and Mrs. Hart were expected to depart Lexington near the end of October, travel to California and take over the management of the farm.

The Blood-Horse October 31, 1936

 

Marwyck Ranch, 130 acres, owned by Barbara Stanwyck and Zeppo Marx, managed by Harry S. Hart is nearing completion according to reports from California. Situated near North Los Angeles, the ranch will have a six-furlong track, new barns and modern equipment. The farm will be a breeding establishment only. The Nut is now in service there.
The Blood-Horse February 1937

Harry Hart went to work at Marwyck Ranch on November 28, 1936. Natives recalled the appearance of the property, a more or less desolate looking 130 acres which had nearly been “farmed out” by truck gardeners. By the spring of 1938, Marwyck Ranch had been transformed by manager Harry Hart into a refreshing looking thoroughbred nursery with practical barns, green paddocks, freshly painted white fences, good roadways, and beautiful residences. It was a real beehive of activity evidenced by the fact that it had become necessary to lock the front entrance gate (located on Reseda Blvd.) on Sundays and holidays. Visitors became so numerous the roadways on the property became blocked with traffic and overrun with sightseers.

Some breeders frowned at the location of Marwyck for raising thoroughbreds because of the summertime heat. Manager Hart, however, selected the location because of the air currents, which circulated over the farm, offering a variation of climate. He also found the horses did exceptionally well throughout the year.

The annual water bill was $2,500 or approximately $150 every time the irrigation system was turned on which was once every three weeks. The cost of water saves a considerable sum which otherwise would have to be spent for feeds and straw that can be raised with such irrigation. Installation of the watering system cost was approximately $5000.

There are 10 miles of three and four panel wood fencing enclosing the different paddocks and fields. On the property are four barns, six sun sheds (closed at one end) in the paddocks, a breeding shed, tool house, office including a medicine room,
Superintendent’s cottage and a bunk house which included a game room for employees.

The layout also includes a ¾ mile track with one chute for teaching horses in training to “stand” and another chute from which they “break”. The track is 55 feet wide in the stretches, and 60 feet on the turns. Although it already is a fine training oval, Manager Hart plans to improve it further by taking sandy soil from the banks of the creek that flows through Marwyck Ranch and putting in on the training strip. (Wilbur Wash)

All paddocks at the ranch are in good stand. The crops include, alfalfa, beardless barley, ladino clover, burr clover, Dallas grass, wheat and kanota oats. This combination worked out by Manager Hart serves a triple purpose; providing excellent grazing for the horses, makes a splendid cover crop while it rebuilds the soil ravaged by severe usage as a truck garden. Crop rotation occurred in every field annually.

Of particular interest at the ranch was a paddock under construction where crippled racehorses will be treated. Hart is hauling soil from the ocean to furnish the flooring for this enclosure. A curbing will surround this soil then seawater will be hauled to it. Horses with bad fetlocks/ankles will be turned in there to receive the benefits of ocean water. Instead of taking Harry’s horses to the sea, the sea is being brought to the horses.

The Blood-Horse April 2, 1938

 

Harry Hart was known in Kentucky as a very thoroughgoing horseman, and has done a thoroughly good job in building and operating Marwyk for Stanwyck and her agent Zeppo Marx. During my rainy day visit and between the showers Harry led me around the Marwyck plant, which has about everything a horse could wish for except automatic tail-swishers.

When Marwyck started out it was going to be a breeding farm but Stanwyck and Marx have changed their minds and no longer are breeding horses. The ranch is now turned over exclusively to boarders, except for the stallion, The Nut, which they still own.

The Blood-Horse April 5, 1941

 

Harry S. Hart came to stay in California in the mid 1930’s, never to return to the Kentucky Bluegrass Country. When Zeppo Marx sold Marwyck Ranch to J. H. Ryan in 1943 for a rumored $185,000 where did Harry S Hart go? We do know that J.H. Ryan hired a new manager who further developed the Hart Marwyck Ranch footprint. Did he continue training racehorses in southern California? Did he to go work for another thoroughbred breeder or trainer? A LA Times horse racing article, August 1964, gave us a glimpse into Harry Hart’s next position:

Harry started the Marwyck Ranch in Northridge for Zeppo Marx and Barbara Stanwyck. Together with Ernie Shaw, an Australian horseman, and others, he built the famous farm near Perris, Riverside County, for the movie magnate, Louis B. Mayer, and managed it for years.*

Illness has kept him from the farm and racetrack in recent years. Now Royal Eiffel has brought Harry back to the forefront again. Another victory at Del Mar Race Track for the 3-year-old Saturday would be further proof that Harry’s hunch was right when he bought the horse in Pomona nine months ago. (Harry S. Hart was 69 years old at the time of the race.

LA Times August 8, 1964

 

The Louis B. Mayer Stock Farm is renown in the thoroughbred breeding business. Louis Mayer was the leading breeder of stakes winners in the U.S. from 1947 to 1949 and he was California’s leading breeder for 10 consecutive years from 1943 – 1952. From 1947 to 1951, he was the runner-up in the U.S. to the famed Calumet Farm on the basis of money won by horses bred by them. Mayer was called the California Breeder of the Century. In 1976 he sold 248 horses for 4.4 million dollars.

More history on Harry S. Hart from the American Racing Manual just for the years listed below:

Year
Wins
$ Won
1933
14
12,275
1934
37
35,745
1936
36
34,553

Photos of the Louis B. Mayer Stock Farm, Ernie Shaw and Royal Eiffel can be seen below courtesy of California Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

L) Harry S. Hart's Royal Eiffel wins the Del Mar Mile in 1964. Jerry Lambert up. R) Photo notation: Ernie Shaw

L) Entrance to the Louis B. Mayer Thoroughbred Stock Farm in Perris, CA. R) The owner's cottage and guest cottage at the Louis B. Mayer Thoroughbred Stock Farm in Perris, CA, undated.

L) Training barn at Louis B. Mayer Stock Farm, undated. R) Louis B. Mayer receiving award, undated

Click on chart for a larger view.

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