Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Jr.

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Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Jr.
Vanderbilt c. 1937
Born(1912-09-22)September 22, 1912
DiedNovember 12, 1999(1999-11-12) (aged 87)
Resting placeVanderbilt Family Mausoleum, Staten Island, New York, U.S.
EducationSt. Paul's School
Yale University
OccupationThoroughbred racehorse / racetrack owner
Manuela Mercedes Hudson
(m. 1938; div. 1942)
Jeanne Lourdes Murray
(m. 1945; div. 1956)
Jean Harvey
(m. 1957; div. 1975)
Children6, including Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt III
Parent(s)Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt
Margaret Emerson
FamilyVanderbilt family

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Jr. (September 22, 1912 – November 12, 1999) was a British-born member of the prominent Vanderbilt railroad family, and a noted figure of American thoroughbred horse racing. He was the youngest-ever member of The Jockey Club, president of Belmont Racetrack, New York, and Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, and chairman of the board of the New York Racing Association. In World War II, he was decorated for bravery in the South Pacific.

Noted family; early years[edit]

Vanderbilt was a son of the first Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, who died a hero in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. His mother, Margaret Emerson (daughter of the Bromo-Seltzer inventor Isaac Edward Emerson),[1] was one of America's wealthiest women and most sought-after hostesses, operating at least seven large estates around the country. His grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, had been one of America's most revered businessmen; his great-grandfather, William Henry Vanderbilt had been the richest man in the world. "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt started the family fortune in shipping and railroads as the founder of the New York Central Railroad and builder of Grand Central Depot (built 1869–1871), the precursor to Grand Central Terminal, built on approximately the same location, and completed in 1913. Contemporary newspaper articles covering the 1917 appraisal of his father's estate in the New York Surrogate's Court report that he received $2,553,204 from his father's estate, from which he would receive the income, with 25% of his share to vest on his 21st, 25th, 30th, and 35th birthdays.[2]

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Jr. was born to American parents in London, England. He was educated at St. Paul's School and at Yale, where he entered with the class of 1935, but did not graduate.[3] His mother, Margaret Emerson (1884–1960), gave him a 600-acre (2.4 km²) horse farm in Glyndon, Maryland, called Sagamore Farm, for his 21st birthday, and it was in thoroughbred horse racing that he made his mark. The Vanderbilt family had by then given up control of most of their former railroad interests. Alfred G. Vanderbilt was President of Belmont Racetrack in New York and was the principal owner and president of Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.[4]

When he was called into service for World War II, he captained a PT boat in the South Pacific, earning the Silver Star for bravery. He was promoted to lieutenant, junior grade on March 2, 1944. On his discharge, he returned to racing in a major way.

Thoroughbred racing[edit]

Vanderbilt was one of the original members of the Westchester Racing Association and a driving force behind thoroughbred racing in America for most of the 20th century. His mother, Margaret Emerson, took him to his first race, the Preakness Stakes, in 1922. He often said, "After that, I was hooked." On his 21st birthday, his mother gifted him Sagamore Farm, her racing operation in Reisterstown, Maryland, which had been left to her by her father, Isaac Emerson, who was the inventor of Bromo-Seltzer and founder of the Emerson Drug Company, which later became Warner-Lambert.

Vanderbilt personally oversaw the breeding and training of his stable. He bought Pimlico Race Course and was President of Pimlico twice, the first time when he was 20. As a stable owner, his first major acquisition was Discovery, one of the great handicap horses of the age who became his foundation sire.

Vanderbilt was elected to The Jockey Club as the youngest member in its history in 1935 and eventually campaigned four national champions: Discovery, Next Move, Bed O' Roses and Native Dancer. During the late 1930s and early 1940s, he owned and ran Pimlico Racetrack outside Baltimore and arranged the famous match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral in 1938. He was President of Belmont Park and Pimlico at the same time before joining the Navy. During the Second World War, he captained a PT boat in the South Pacific and was awarded the Silver Star for bravery under fire. He then returned to racing, bringing his greatest champion, Native Dancer, to the track in 1952. Native Dancer won all 9 starts as a 2-year-old and was named Horse of the Year. He won every start as a three-year-old too, except the Kentucky Derby, which he lost by a head to Cain Hoy Stable's Dark Star. However, Native Dancer was named 3-year-old Male Champion and was Horse of the Year again in his 4th year. All told, he won 21 of 22 starts, with the single second-place finish in the 1953 Kentucky Derby his only career loss. Many consider the Grey Ghost of Sagamore to have been the first Thoroughbred television star, and TV Guide ranked him as a top icon of the era".[5][page needed]

Vanderbilt continued racing throughout his life and served as chairman of the board of the New York Racing Association from 1971 to 1975. The New York Turf Writers voted him "The Man Who Did The Most for Racing" a record four times, posthumously renaming the award in his honor.

Personal life[edit]

Vanderbilt was married three times. His first marriage was in 1938 to Manuela Mercedes Hudson (1920–1978), a niece of racehorse owner Charles S. Howard.[6][7] The couple separated and began living apart in December 1940. Before their divorce in 1942, they were the parents of:[8]

His second marriage was on October 13, 1945, to Jeanne Lourdes Murray (1919–2013), a sister of Catherine Murray di Montezemolo and granddaughter of Thomas E. Murray.[11] Before their divorce in 1956,[12] they were the parents of:[13]

In 1957, he married for the third time to Jean Harvey (b. 1937) of the Cudahy meat-packing empire. Before their eventual divorce in 1975,[13] they were the parents of:[17]

He died November 12, 1999, at his home in Mill Neck, New York after attending the morning racehorse workouts, two months after his 87th birthday.[17] He was buried in the Vanderbilt Mausoleum on Staten Island, New York.

In popular culture[edit]

In the early 1950s, he was a regular panelist on the NBC game show Who Said That? along with H. V. Kaltenborn, Boris Karloff, and American actress Dagmar.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mrs. Emerson Dies; Often Visited Isles". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 3 January 1960. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  2. ^ The Tacoma Daily Ledger. (9 August 1917). Alfred G Vanderbilt - Division of Estate. Retrieved 7 April 2024, from
  3. ^ "Obituary Record of Yale Graduates 1941–1942" (PDF). Yale University. August 1, 1926. pp. 72–74. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  4. ^ Archived 2008-02-18 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Racing Through the Century" by Mary Simon
  6. ^ "YOUNG VANDERBILT REPORTED ENGAGED; Friends Say That He Will Marry San Francisco Girl". The New York Times. 8 June 1938. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  7. ^ "VANDERBILT WEDS MANUELA HUDSON; Racing Stable Owner Marries in Long Island Home of His Mother, Mrs. Emersonn BRIDE IS A CALIFORNIAN Ceremony, Arranged Secretly, Witnesses by Few--Couple Fly to Bermuda Escorted by Her Brother Fortune From Grandfather Couple Arrive in Bermuda Building New Maryland Home". The New York Times. 9 June 1938. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  8. ^ "ALFRED G. VANDERBILT IS DIVORCED IN NEVADA; Former Manuela Hudson Obtains Decree From New Yorker". The New York Times. 14 June 1942. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths LEHMAN, WENDY VANDERBILT". The New York Times. May 15, 2016. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  10. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (23 February 2008). "Orin Lehman, 88, Parks Steward, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  11. ^ "Alfred Gwynne Vanderbalt Marries Jeanne Murray in Air Elopement". The New York Times. 13 December 1945. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  12. ^ "VANDERBILTS DIVORCED; Decree Granted in Idaho on Ground of Cruelty". The New York Times. 19 December 1956. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  13. ^ a b Lilly, Doris (April 7, 1975). "Another Vanderbilt Break-up, and a Pretty Robyn Bobs Onto the Scene". People. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  14. ^ "Miss Vanderbilt Becomes Bride Of Jones Harris". The New York Times. 28 October 1971. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  15. ^ "A Vanderbilt Ready For Debut on Stage". The New York Times. 6 September 1965. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  16. ^ Times, Special To the New York (19 August 1971). "Alfred G. Vanderbilt Jr. Marries Alison Platten". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  17. ^ a b Durso, Joseph (November 13, 1999). "Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, 87, Is Dead; Horseman From an Aristocratic Family". The New York Times. Retrieved July 17, 2008.
  18. ^ "Mounties: Saving Vanderbilt heir lost on peak is 'remote'". NY Daily News. 5 September 1984. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  19. ^ "Climber's friends clinging to hope | Austinites delay grief for missing member of Vanderbilt clan". Austin American-Statesman. 9 September 1984. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  20. ^ "Mrs. Alfred Vanderbilt Has Son in Saratoga". The New York Times. 15 August 1967. Retrieved 26 April 2018.

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