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J. H. Ryan Story / Northridge Farms
THE J. H. Ryan Family Story
Ryana, Northridge Farms and Lindley Ridge Ranches
Originally Marwyck Ranch
Excerpts and quotes have been taken from articles provided by Lexington, Kentucky’s Keeneland Library, the Blood Horse and California Thoroughbred Breeders Association’s digests and reference materials: The Thoroughbred (July ’41-July ’45), The Thoroughbred of California (August ’45 - December ’96) and California Thoroughbred (January ’97 – present).
1937 – 1943 Marwyck Ranch operates in Northridge California, 120 acres, “cost of land and improvements, aside from Marx and Stanwyck homes, is $185,000.” (November)
1941 The Barbara Stanwyck residence, 18650 Devonshire, on 9.5 acres was sold to actor Jack Oakie. Stanwyck’s portions of the Marwyck Ranch ownership shares were sold to Zeppo Marx.
1930-1953/4 Mr. John H. Ryan, J.H. as he preferred to be called, was a successful Seattle businessman who loved Thoroughbred horses. This is their story.
1938 J.H. Ryan, a Mississippi native, purchases 40 acres for his private Thoroughbred breeding stock, plus citrus trees, and poultry. He names it Ryana Ranch. The ranch was located in Northridge on Balboa Blvd. between the existing Lassen and Plummer Streets. Douglas Pregent was the farm manager who resided on the property.
“It’s ladies day every day at Ryana Ranch. There isn’t a male on the grounds.” (Dec. 1950 Thoroughbred of California)
1941 (Stanwyck sells house to Jack Oakie and her shares of Marwyck to Zeppo)
1940 & 50’s Sunday Bar B Q gatherings were often held at Ryana Ranch that was shady and rustic with large picnic tables. Because there were no kitchen facilities all food and coolers were brought in to the ranch. A wide variety of Thoroughbred racing enthusiasts, owners and breeders frequently socialized at the ranch. Sunday was a day to socialize because the southern California racetracks were closed on Sundays.
1941-1945 Thoroughbred racing on the West Coast goes dark due to WW II after the program at Tanforan on December 6, 1941, until the Santa Anita program on May 14, 1945. The best of Thoroughbreds are transported by train to race in Chicago and the East coast.
“Ten horses of various
owners are now training at Marwyck Ranch under the supervision of
Harry S. Hart with an additional 13 in training at Caliente.”
Marwyck Ranch becomes Northridge Farms
J.H. Ryan, Annette Ryan and Mary Strnad are principals in the
purchase of the 120 acre Marwyck Ranch from Zeppo Marx.
They rename it Northridge Farms. The Ryan’s
first ranch, Ryana is located on the NE corner of Plummer Street and
Balboa Blvd only a short distance from the newly acquired Northridge
Farms. Lindley Ridge farm
is leased from orchestra leader Ted Fio Rito.
All three ranches are located within three miles of each other.
1944 Harry S. Hart continues as barn manager at Northridge Farms until Ray Wilgus assumes that position. Hart, Wilgus and Pollock are credited for development of the stallion War Knight winner of the Arlington Handicap in 1945.
1945 “J. H. Ryan ranked fifth in the standings for California breeders. A remarkable progress.” (May1956)
1945/6 Harry S. Hart joins the Louis B. Mayer Stock Farm operation in Perris, California.
1946 Jacques Cartier becomes Northridge Farms manager – ranch housed 107 Thoroughbreds. Northridge Farms advertised as the “Cradle of Champions.”
War Knight is foaled, broken and trained at Northridge Farms. (March)
1948 Northridge Farms hosts the Parade of Stallions: “200 or more horse enthusiasts, including many of the most important breeders and racing stable owners gathered for a breeding center inauguration and planned annual event. A circus tent outfitted for refreshments, like a field canteen with a bar, hors d’ oeuvres and piano. Dinner buffet followed after eight stallions of the 1948 season at Northridge were led out and paraded up and down the crowd while announcer Ted Williams gave a running description of each horses feats, blood lines, breeding record or potential. The studs, bedecked in ribbons and groomed to the n-th degree alternately posed and pirouetted for the audience.” (January)
1949 “The most fortunate possessor of Alibhai blood in California, or anywhere, other than Louis B. Mayer – who is selling out - is J.H. Ryan.” (May)
Ryan has forty broodmares in his breeding paddocks.
1950 Apple Valley a homebred by Eiffel Tower out of Blue Alibi was foaled February 19, 1950. He made his debut in Annette Ryan’s silks at Tranforan on May 6, 1953 with Billy Shoemaker aboard and “Red” Mc Daniel trainer. Apple Valley won the Santa Anita Maturity on Jan. 30, 1954. He was retired to stud at Northridge Farms where he stood for two seasons. (Jan. 2014)
1951 Call Bell joins Northridge Farms studs. Ryan has 45 horses training at Northridge Farms with 35 yearlings.
1952 The original Zeppo Marx residence, a Connecticut Country style home on 11 acres, at 18600 Devonshire Street, is purchased by the Ryan’s from Adrian and Janet Gaynor as their ranch home. The 7200 sq. ft. main house and the guesthouse are remodeled. A window filled kitchen is added allowing the Ryan’s to view the farms broodmares and foals while in their paddocks and pastures. The purchase of the 11acre property extended Northridge Farms to the SW corner of Reseda Blvd. and Devonshire Street.
1953 Flavio Lomax assumes position of Northridge Farms manager with eleven stallions standing: The “boss man”- Reading II also Call Bell, Mafosta, Pedigree, Karimkhan, Biscailuz, High Jip, Phar Rong, Esprit de France, Master Gunner, and Bullfighter. Bullfighter was owned my Mrs. Annette Ryan. (Aug. p. 153)
1954 The Ryan family and Mary Strnad move from Beverly Hills into Northridge Farms ranch residence on Devonshire Street.
1955 Fred Johnston takes over Lindley Ridge Farm from Mrs. Ted Fio Rito.
“The water bill at Northridge is about $1,000 a month,” said J.H. Ryan. (October)
1956 J.H. Ryan’s Northridge Farms Dispersal Sale Announced
“The philosophy, the policies and the operations of Ryan in the horse business may be traced and understood by any stranger able to look at the record. He built up a model breeding and boarding establishment that was able successfully to cater to and satisfy some remarkable temperaments through the years. His operation was always first class in every respect.”
“This is an impressive testimonial to the contribution John Ryan has made to the sport of his choosing. He has added prestige and dignity and qualities not easily defined in racing and breeding. There is something else, however, that needs to be mentioned, John Ryan was the absolute leader in a phase of our sporting industries that seldom receives adequate attention. That is in the field of public relations. I would be impossible to estimate the good he has done in this direction.”
“Northridge Farms is always open to the public. Uncounted numbers of people received their first impressions of our sport from early visits to the San Fernando farm where they were always welcomed with courtesy and consideration.” (May)
1957 J.H. Ryan announces a “face lift” of Northridge Farms barns and fences – extensive repairs and several thousand gallons of paint were added to generate an attractive appearance. Ryan states, “Lack of proper help has been the major contributor to the delay.” (April)
“We are proud of the fact that we hold the record in the West for having foaled, bred, broken and trained more winners than any other ranch operated for public patronage”, said J.H. Ryan.
1959 “The Blood Horse” Digest Interview of Miss Mary Strnad
Jan. 1960 Mr. J.H. Ryan dies of a lengthy heart illness at age 68. Survived by wife Annette, daughter Rosemary Jordan, grand children Cheryl, Maryann and John Jordan.
1960 “It has truthfully been said that more winners of more races have been bred, raised, trained and sent to the races from Northridge Farms than from any other public boarding and breeding farm in the West. We have not heard anyone refute the statement. The fact is that these are such nice people with whom to do business. The farm has always been noted for the friendly attitude to everyone on the place from the owners down to the last stable boy.” (April)
1961 “The breakup of Northridge Farms is announced by Mrs. Annette Ryan and Miss Mary Strnad.” (March)
1964 Harry S. Hart races Royal Eiffel in Del Mar Handicap after winning The La Jolla Mile Handicap and finished second in the Will Rogers Stakes at Hollywood Park. (LA Times Sports)
1966 Northridge Farms, approximately100 acres, is subdivided according to LA City zoning regulations. New homes were constructed from Le Marsh street south to Lassen Street in a subdivision named Peppertree. On Reseda Blvd. a commercial strip mall, with retail stores and a movie theatre, was built from Devonshire Street south to Le Marsh Street.
1966 Harry S. Hart passes away at age 71 after a long colorful career in all branches of Thoroughbred racing. (April 1966 LA Daily Racing Forum)
2013 In August, Mrs. Rosemary Ryan Montrose, age 85, was interviewed at The Oakridge Estate, the former home of Barbara Stanwyck then Jack Oakie, which was directly adjacent to her parent’s Northridge Farms ranch home from 1952 - 1961.
April 2014 Special thanks to Rudi Groothedde, Managing Editor, of the California Thoroughbred Digest, who has continued to provide information and contacts allowing us to prepare this historic Northridge Farms information. Our research is ongoing and updates will occur.
Contact the Friends of Oakridge at firstname.lastname@example.org
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