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John E. Madden

John Edward Madden
200 px
Born 28, 1856(1856-Template:MONTHNUMBER-28)
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Died 3, 1929
New York City, New York
Occupation Athlete
Racehorse owner/breeder/trainer

John Edward Madden (1856–1929) was an American businessman and was a prominent Thoroughbred and Standardbred owner, breeder and trainer in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He owned Hamburg Place Stud in Lexington, Kentucky and bred five Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winners. He was inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame posthumously in 1983. He was also inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport as a trainer, breeder and owner. He is the only person to be inducted into both the Harness and Thoroughbred Halls of Fame.[1]


Early life

John E. Madden was born on December 28, 1856[2] in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to Patrick and Catherine (McKee) Madden, who were Irish immigrants from Roscommon[3]. Madden's father died in 1860, which resulted in hardship for the family and meant that young Madden often had to rely on his wits and athleticism to survive. He worked for four years in the local steel mills as a teenager and often participated in prizefighting as a young man to earn money. Boasting an athletic build, at nearly six feet tall and weighing 180 pounds, Madden also excelled in baseball, running and broadjumping, and by 16 years old had developed an interest in trotters.[2]

Harness Racing

Champion trotting horse, Siliko in 1906, before winning Kentucky Futurity.

Adept at recognizing subtle differences in gait and performance in Standardbreds, both pacers and trotters, from his time behind the reins, Madden soon amassed a small fortune from buying promising, but unseasoned animals, at a low price, developing them into winners and selling them for a profit. He had made $150,000 through his dealings by the time he was thirty, famously saying, "Better to sell and repent than keep and resent."[1] Madden notably owned Class Leader, who set a track record at the Cleavland Grand Circuit Race in 1887, Robert McGregor and Siliko.[2] By 1890, Madden realized that Thoroughbred racing was attracting higher purse values than harness racing and he gradually shifted his interests, but he still owned and trained a few Standardbreds into the 1900s.

Thoroughbred Racing

Hamburg, the horse

John Madden moved to Lexington, Kentucky in 1889, living at the famous Phoenix Hotel, and immediately applied his business knowledge to Thoroughbreds, gradually building a reputation in Kentucky as an astute horseman. He purchased Hamburg in 1896 for $1,600 from Col. Enright of Elmendorf Farm and set about breaking the unruly colt into an exceptional racehorse, winning the 1897 Great Eastern Handicap at an unprecedented for a juvenile 135 pound weight.[3] Hamburg won 12 of his 16 starts at age two, winning $38,595 for Madden, and was sold to Marcus Daly in 1897 for approximately $40,000 (some estimates place it higher at $60,000).

Hamburg Place

File:Hamburg Place 1911.jpg
Hamburg Place entryway in 1911.

Madden used the proceeds to purchase 235 acres (which eventually was expanded to 2,000 acres) of land east of Lexington on Winchester Pike to establish a breeding farm which he named Hamburg Place in honor of the horse that funded the acquisition.[2] The land had originally belonged to the family of Lucretia Hart, the wife of Henry Clay, and was called Overton Farm. Clay married Hart in 1799 in a small house that used to stand on the property.[4]

Hamburg Place was the center of Madden's breeding operations from 1897 until his death in 1929. He bred 14 champion racehorses, including four Kentucky Derby winners (Old Rosebud, Paul Jones, Zev and Flying Ebony), four Belmont Stakes winners (The Finn, Grey Lag, Zev and Joe Madden) and the first Triple Crown winner Sir Barton. Madden was the leading breeder in the United States from 1917 to 1923 and 1925, mostly due to the success of Plaudit and Madden's imported British stallions Star Shoot and Ogden.[3] Madden also bred Trigger, Princess Doreen, King James, Emotion, Gunfire, Southern Maid, Flora Fina, and Sir Martin.

Equine Cemetery

Starting in 1908, Madden began burying his most prized broodmares, stallions and trotting horses in a small horseshoe shaped cemetery on the grounds of Hamburg Place. Madden's grandson, Preston Madden, buried a few Thoroughbreds in the cemetery during the 1970s. The cemetery is one of the oldest dedicated to racehorses in the United States.[5] The cemetery was moved from its original location in 2005 to make way for development, but has since been reopened to allow public access.[6] Horses buried in the cemetery include:


File:Nancy Hanks (horse).jpg
Nancy Hanks in 1892.
  • Nancy Hanks (1886–1915), set a U.S. harness racing record on September 28, 1892 by trotting a mile in 2 minutes and 4 seconds, ran undefeated and was inducted into Harness Racing Hall of Fame. A small statuette once topped her grave, but it was stolen sometime in the 1950s.[5]
  • Siliko (1903–1926), stallion.
  • Silicon (1890–1913), dam of Siliko.
  • Major Delmar (1897–1912), a gelding.
  • Hamburg Belle (1902-November 10, 1909), trotting mare that set several world records in early 1900s.


  • Star Shoot (1898–1919), imported Irish stallion that was a five time leading sire in the U.S.
  • Ogden (1894–1923), imported British stallion, sire of The Finn and Sir Martin.
  • Miss Kearney (1906–1925), dam of Zev
  • Lady Sterling (1899–1920), dam of Sir Martin and Sir Barton
  • Springtime (d. 1930s), a polo pony
  • T.V. Lark (1957–1975), leading U.S. sire in 1974.
  • Pink Pigeon (1964–1976), a broodmare

Training career

File:SirBarton-Johnny Loftus-1919Preakness.jpg
Sir Barton, pictured in 1919 with jockey Johnny Loftus, was the first Triple Crown winner.

Madden was an active trainer from 1888 to 1912, conditioning a total of eight champion Thoroughbred horses, and was the nation's leading trainer from 1901 to 1903.[1] During his training and breeding career, Madden mentored William Collins Whitney, a former Secretary of the Navy and fellow Thoroughbred enthusiast. Whitney had bought Hamburg in 1900 after Marcus Daly's death at Madden's urging, and Madden also sold many of the horses he bred to Whitney.[3] He also reluctantly trained Whitney's horses after the former had fired Sam Hildreth due to perceived poor performance. The firing of Hildreth is associated with one well-known Madden legend which involved Hildreth, angered and inebriated, beating Madden about the head with a cane until an irate Madden pinned him to the floor and made him apologize for the insult.[3]

Madden most notably trained:

  • Nasturtium, Champion 2-year-old Male (1901)
  • Salvidere, Champion 2-year-old Male (1906)
  • Tangle, Champion 3-year-old Female (1906)

Personal life

File:Edward and Joseph Madden.jpg
Edward (left) and Joseph Madden (right), circa 1911.

Madden married Marie Anna Louise Megrue of Cincinnati in June 1890 and had two sons, J. Edward Madden, Jr. (1894–1943) and Joseph McKee Madden (1899–1932).[2] The couple separated on ill-terms in 1903 and Anna and her relatives were involved in legal entanglements with Madden for years afterward.[7] In 1905, after hearing that his estranged wife would shortly take the children from New York to Europe, and fearing that she would not bring them back, Madden took both children from the convent where they were staying and spirited them away to Lexington, Kentucky.[8] Anna moved to Ohio and filed divorce proceedings in that state in 1906, listing one of the reasons as tiredness at living on a Thoroughbred breeding farm. Since the Maddens were married in Kentucky and John Madden was not formally contacted, the divorce was not valid,[9] yet Anna Madden married wealthy New York broker and turfman Louis Valentine Bell (1853–1925) in 1906. Madden himself filed for divorce from Anna in February 1909, after securing full custody of their two children.[10] Anna Megrue Bell died on May 10, 1963 at the age of 91, outliving both her husbands and both her sons.[11]

Quasi-Retirement and Death

John Madden wanted his sons to follow in his footsteps and continue breeding Thoroughbreds at Hamburg Place. He let them purchase horses at a very young age,[12], but neither developed a lasting interest in the family business, instead opting to develop oil fields in the American west. In 1926, Madden sold most of his breeding stock, selling 139 horses for $446, 200.[3] By that time, he had distanced himself from the horse racing industry, instead investing heavily in the corn refining business, expanding his net worth to over nine million dollars.

In October 1929, Madden, healthy for most of his life, developed pneumonia while saying at the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City. Not taking time to rest, he died of a heart attack early in morning of November 3, 1929 in his room at the Pennsylvania Hotel. His body was returned to Kentucky and was interred in Cavalry Cemetery in Lexington. Incidentally, his death followed the passing of two other great horse trainers, Sam Hildreth and James Rowe, Sr.[3]

Hamburg Place was kept in the Madden family after John E. Madden's death, with his sons inheriting $2 million from his estate. However, both sons committed suicide within 15 years of Madden's death. Joseph Madden died on October 31, 1932 in New York City at an Abercrombie and Fitch store after using a loaded store gun to shoot himself.[13] Edward Madden died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on February 26, 1943 at Hamburg Place, leaving behind two sons, Patrick (1933–1999) and Preston W. Madden (b. 1935).[14] Edward Madden raised mostly polo ponies at Hamburg Place, and Thoroughbred breeding did not resume until the 1950s when Edward Madden's sons took interest. Preston Madden built on the success of his grandfather, notably racing T.V. Lark and breeding 1987 Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba at the farm.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Information on John Madden
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 John E. Kleber, The Kentucky encyclopedia , University Press of Kentucky. 1992. pg. 601.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Edward L. Bowen, Legacies of the Turf: A Century of Great Thoroughbred Breeders, Blood-Horse Publications. 2003.
  4. Edward Madden. "Trotters at Hamburg Place, Lexington, Ky., U.S.A. / property of Edward and Joseph Madden." 1911.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Kent Hollingsworth. "The Wizard of the Turf: John E. Madden of Hamburg Place." self-published. 1965.
  6. USA Today. "Decades-old horse graves moved for shopping center." 7-26-05.
  7. NY Times. January 23, 1915.
  8. NY Times, February 6, 1905.
  9. NY Times. February 11, 1915.
  10. NY Times. February 9, 1909.
  11. New York Times. "Deaths." May 11, 1963. pg. 25
  12. NY Times. November 26, 1909.
  13. New York Times. "Son of J.E. Madden ends life in store." November 1, 1932. pg. 46
  14. New York Times. "J.E. Madden dies by shot in Kentucky." February 27, 1943. pg. 8


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