Oil on canvas, 25” x 30”
Signed, dated 1907
Essex Gallery of Sport
The Estate of Elizabeth “Binnie” Houghton
The Saratoga Derby was once the top 3-year-old race of the meet at the Spa and the 1906 event was, unsurprisingly, a highlight. James “Diamond Jim” Brady’s Accountant, R. T. Wilson Jr.’s Gallavant, and H. B. Duryea’s McKittredge constituted the three-horse field. Accountant and Gallavant were favored over McKittredge, who never seemed to finish particularly well.
Brady had privately purchased Accountant as a 3 year-old in 1906 for $45,000, which many at the time considered to be excessive. But Brady, ever the shrewd businessman, made his money back and then some. Accountant was the top-earning horse of 1906, having won the Saratoga Derby, Brighton Derby, Lawrence Realization, Tidal Stakes, and other races, winning $81,925 in total purse money. One can only imagine that Brady made additional earnings in wagers. After Accountant won the Annual Champion Stakes at Sheepshead Bay, Brady reportedly said to those original naysayers, “I didn’t know a thing, eh?”
Brady was a successful businessman as well as a successful horse owner. The embodiment of the American Dream, he was born to Irish immigrant parents and started his career as a bellhop. He made most of his $12 million fortune in railroads and the stock market and was the first person in New York City to own an automobile. His “Diamond” moniker was rooted in his penchant for collecting fine jewels, principally diamonds, though he also collected rubies and other precious gems. He wore diamonds on his tie, vest, watch chain, and cufflinks and had them embedded in the handle of his walking cane.
Brady initially entered horse racing when he purchased Major Daingerfield and Gold Heels from Phillip Dwyer for $10,000. Not wanting to be seen as unacceptable to do business with by clients who might object to horse racing and gambling, he originally placed his racing venture in the name of his friend F. C. McLewe, in exchange for 20 percent of the winnings. However, his success as an owner and the lavish celebratory parties he threw quickly unmasked Brady as the stable’s true owner.
In 1902, faced with the decision of admitting to his ownership or facing the ire and loss of business from some of his less open-minded clients, he auctioned off his racing stable. To celebrate, Brady held an “intimate” party for 50 of his closest friends. By the time the party was over, the guests had consumed more than 500 bottles of champagne and every guest was given either a diamond brooch or a diamond- studded stopwatch.
After selling his stable, Brady was unable to resist the thrill of owning racehorses for very long and started his stable anew several years later. He is remembered as a frequenter of Saratoga, where he was considered a celebrity. “Goin’ up to Saratoga,” he once said, “is a hell of a great way to spend a month in the summer.” Brady owned at least nine paintings of his horses by Henry Stull; the present lot is one of them.