Dosage: Pedigree &
Abram S. Hewitt
Abe Hewitt was my mentor and father figure. He was among the earliest and most avid supporters of my research into the relationship between pedigree and race track performance. Between 1982 and his death five years later, we spent many days together, first at his home in Midway, Kentucky and then at his home on a mountain top in Port Antonio, Jamaica. I learned more from him (and not only about Thoroughbreds) than from anyone else. He was a boundlessly creative and original thinker, a supreme wit and one of the most intelligent people I've known - a true "Renaissance man".
The photo above was taken on the beach in Port Antonio in 1985.
The following is the text of Abe Hewitt's obituary from The Blood-Horse, June 27, 1987, pp. 3901-3902. It is printed here with permission of the publisher (copyright 1987, The Blood-Horse, Inc). To me, it accurately portrays the character and style of an extraordinary man.
The child Abram S. Hewitt discovered some photographs of English race horses in a book one day, and thus was born a lifelong fascination for the Thoroughbred. This interest was not confined to any one element of the game, for Hewitt grew to be comfortable with everything from breeding theories and history to association with the characters of the game. Hewitt, who died recently in his 80s at his home in Jamaica, was a huge man of impressive mien, a kind of John Houseman in country tweeds. When he drew himself up to his full height—serious countenance vying for precedence with a twinkling eye—and took hold of his lapels to launch into a story or a declaration, the moment seemed to embody all that he was and had been.
Aristocratic grandson and namesake of a mayor of New York; Oxford man in the days of Evelyn Waugh; professor of law at Columbia and Johns Hopkins; member of the OSS (forerunner of the CIA) who tried to convince FDR the Russians would get too much the way the Normandy Invasion was designed; bon vivant and confidant of Prince Aly Khan; formidable international lawyer; master of Montana Hall farm in Virginia; breeder of a classic winner, Phalanx; astute dealer who bought Some Chance from Ben Jones for $7,000 and won over $90,000 with him and who decades later imported Sirlad; economist; proud and bemused father; raconteur; pedigree expert, and author. When Hewitt spoke of Atty Persse, George Lambton, or other mainstays of the British Turf of an earlier day, he did so from the memory of acquaintance, not merely history books. When he spoke of breeding theories, he did so from the perspective of having applied them, not merely thought of them, and until the end—long past the age when many men’s minds have been set on all matters—he was ever ready to examine a new idea, a novel approach.
Hewitt first owned race horses in the 1920s. Then, beginning in 1937, he bred a dozen stakes winners in less than two decades before selling his bloodstock in 1950. The best was Phalanx, son of Pilate, a stallion Hewitt had acquired to stand at stud. Phalanx, raced in partnership with C. V. Whitney, won the Belmont Stakes and was champion 3-year-old in 1947. The others included Royal Governor, earner of $360,920; Cornwall, Prefect, Quiet Step, and The Pimpernel. In 1946, he sold at Saratoga for $35,000 the sale topper in the filly Grey Flight, which later was to foal nine stakes winners.
During the 1930s, Hewitt became a scholarly and sprightly contributor to the pages of The Blood-Horse, and on his many travels occasionally sent a dispatch to the Morning Telegraph. One such communique in 1948 brought American readers up to date on the Arab races in the Sudan, where he “was amused to read that in a race of four furlongs for maiden Arabs, the horse Azim was said to be ‘speedy, but will probably not get the last furlong.
By 1973, Hewitt had not been prominent in racing for some years and had undergone various financial setbacks. That year, he reappeared in these pages as the author of Sire Lines, 86 articles on prominent names in pedigrees which was published as a book under the same name. His energy undaunted, he launched more or less immediately into another series, on breeders, which was completed and published in book form elsewhere.
Hewitt moved to Lexington during that period and served for some years as an advisor on pedigree matters for Nelson Bunker Hunt. Mr. and Mrs. Hewitt imported the Bold Lad horse Sirlad, an Irish-bred which had been racing in Italy. Hewitt raced the horse, which was leased from Mrs. Hewitt, Catesby Clay, and Howard B. Noonan, and his trainer was Charlie Whittingham. In Hewitt’s colors, Sirlad set a course record in winning the 1979 Sunset Handicap (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park and got to within a length of Affirmed the day he won the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) to become racing’s all-time leading earner. Hewitt was not an Englishman, but his life and style somehow befitted the image of the global Englishman as personified by Waugh, Noel Coward, Ian Fleming, and the like. Thus, it seemed fitting when the Hewitts moved to Jamaica—one more place on the earth to inhabit.
A few additional facts: