Double H Ranch Blog
April 13, 2023 / Robert Glick
Double H Ranch and Thoroughbred Excellence
Stonepine’s Double H Ranch’s illustrious past dates back to the early 1930s. It was considered the foremost thoroughbred breeding farm west of the Mississippi. The ranch was established by Stonepine’s original owner, Henry Potter Russell. He was a founder and the first president of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association in 1937. The ranch became a whistle-stop to some of the world’s finest horses.
The best known of these was Majestic Prince. One of the leading North American horses of his generation, he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 1969. Attempting to win that year’s Belmont Stakes and become one of the few Triple Crown Winners in history, he came in second. It was Majestic Prince’s first defeat in ten starts, and he never raced again. After the horse passed in 1981, he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1988.
A brief re-cap of the highlights of Majestic Prince’s amazing history includes his early years, the big three races, and his post-racing time. Some of that time was spent at Double H Ranch.
In September 1967, Majestic Prince was purchased by Calgary, Alberta, oilman Frank McMahon for a then-record price of $250,000 ($2 million inflation adjusted). The California-based colt was trained by Johnny Longden, a longtime friend of Frank McMahon, who had retired in 1966 as the winning-est jockey of all time. Raced lightly as a two-year-old, Majestic Prince won both of his starts in his 1968 fall campaign. Ridden by Bill Hartack, he quickly became the dominant three-year-old in West Coast racing, capping it off with an eight-length victory in the Santa Anita Derby. Unbeaten, Majestic Prince headed for Louisville and the Kentucky Derby.
The 1969 Kentucky Derby had a very strong field that deterred entries, and as such, only eight horses went to the starting gate. Majestic Prince was the betting favorite. Arts and Letters was his main competitor. Majestic Prince ran the entire race on the outside, but pulled up alongside Arts and Letters into second place as they came down the homestretch, then moved ahead to win by a neck. The victory made Majestic Prince the first unbeaten Kentucky Derby champion in 47 years. Johnny Longden became the only person in history to ever win the Derby both as a jockey and as a trainer, a feat that still has not been matched.
The heavy favorite going into the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the U.S. Triple Crown, Majestic Prince again met Arts and Letters, and the two dueled to the finish, with “The Prince”, as the media dubbed him, winning his 9th consecutive race by a head. However, the morning after his victory, Longden advised the media that Majestic Prince came out of the race with a problem in his right front tendon. Longden stated the horse would not be able to run his best in the upcoming Belmont Stakes, so he was being shipped back to California to be rested until the fall.
That the horse with the best chance in 21 years to win the Triple Crown was pulling out brought a frenzy of publicity and questions, particularly because Longden had said the injury was a developing problem, but Majestic Prince could still run, although not at his best. The idea that someone in those circumstances would pass up the chance to achieve American racing immortality seemed incomprehensible.
To this day, speculation abounds as to why McMahon changed his mind and raced Majestic Prince in the Belmont, but the pressure from the press was intense. Majestic Prince was still sent out to compete in the Belmont Stakes. He was the first horse in history to enter the race undefeated, having won the Derby and the Preakness, but he finished second, beaten by Arts and Letters by 5½ lengths. .
Longden said that he tried to bring Majestic Prince back to racing later in 1969 and then again the following year, but could not, and the horse was sold to a racing syndication for $1.8 million. Majestic Prince spent time at Double H Ranch in those years and was also at Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. Majestic Prince sired 33 stakes winners before he died of a heart attack in 1981.
About The U.S. Triple Crown
The series that includes three races represents the pinnacle of achievement in horse racing. The Kentucky Derby is on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The Preakness Stakes, is on the third Saturday in May at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The Belmont Stakes, is on the first or second Saturday in June, at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
The Triple Crown Trophy is awarded to a horse who wins all three races and is thereafter designated as a Triple Crown winner.
For more information, go to stonepineestate.com and hh-ranch.com
(Thanks to Wikipedia and Bob Ehalt at America’s Best Racing)
Majestic Prince in 1969 (photo by Nick Costa)
Double H Ranch (photo by Robert Glick)
January 17, 2023
Story and photos by Robert Glick
Olivia’s Olive Grove Produces Bountiful Harvest at Double H Ranch / Stonepine Estate
Like its namesake, Olivia’s Olive Grove, is a natural beauty. The site is nestled among the picturesque, oak-studded hills of the 400-acre Stonepine Estate in Carmel Valley, California. The estate’s owners, Gordon and Noel Hentschel named the grove in honor of their good friend, the late singer, actress and activist, Olivia Newton-John.
Recently, a harvest of a Tuscan blend of the grove’s Maurino, Moraiolo, Frantoio, Leccino, and Pendolino olives, was processed and bottled. This premium extra virgin olive oil was crafted primarily from 450 olive trees that are Tuscan varieties. They were planted in 2012 and 2020.
These olive cultivars create a blend that is consistent with exceptional old-world Italian olive oils. The delicious oil is great for use in salads, dipping infusions and marinades.
Stonepine Estate, formerly known as the Double H Ranch, was built in 1929 by the Crocker banking family of San Francisco. It was the oldest thoroughbred racing farm west of the Mississippi.
The Hentschels have been owners of Stonepine Estate since 1983, and they are hoping to continue the tradition of harvesting quality olives from their grove. They plan to further expand plantings with more olive trees and to increase extra virgin olive oil production.
June 6, 2022
Jane Smiley loves riding at Double H Ranch / Stonepine
“When I first came to Carmel Valley in 1997, I brought an ex-racehorse that I had bought in Northern Wisconsin and was much in love with. Sometimes I kept him at my house, but when I was traveling or on a booktour, I kept him at Stonepine. Because he had run in fifty-two races, one thing that drew me, and maybe him, was the old training track in the lower field. One day, I thought, Why Not? and I bridged my reins and leaned forward. He knew exactly what to do, which was to take off. We went all the way around the track. It was thrilling and smooth and the only problem was that we were going so fast that my eyes watered and I couldn’t see a thing. Because he was a sweetheart, as soon as I sat upright, he came down to a walk, and I felt that I now knew a little something about his long racing career. The next thing I thought, looking at his ears and his mane as I rode him at a walk around the track, was that maybe I could write a novel about an interesting and problematic subject—horse racing—and I did, Horse Heaven, where I tried to explore what racing meant, and felt like, to owners, trainers, jockeys, and horses. It was a lot of fun to write.
I now have three horses at Stonepine, two Thoroughbreds that I bred and a French Warmblood that I got from a friend. One of the Thoroughbreds is retired, the other one is still being trained, and the French Warmblood is a smartypants and a sweetheart who I ride three times a week (depending on the weather). As much as I like to ride at Stonepine, I also like to take walks there, because it is a beautiful estate, both cultivated and wild. If you begin where the horses live, you can walk down the hill to the track, around the track to Spring Valley, which goes along the Carmel River ( and which I think of as “Lupine Paradise”) then back up the hill to the main barn, and then up another hill to a large open space surrounded by trees and mountains. It is a privilege and a pleasure to have access to these beautiful spots, either on horseback or on foot. There are deer, hawks, sometimes turkeys, turkey buzzards, and plenty of other birds. It is a lovely mix of wild and domesticated, of open fields and shady meadows. Every tree is fascinating.
There was a time when I fantasized about having a small ranch and keeping my horses in my own barn and run-outs, but I stopped having that fantasy years ago, because one of the things I love about Stonepine is seeing other riders and other horses, and the people who run the stable and muck the stalls, chatting and laughing about this and that, and learning from everyone how to get along with your horses (they all have idiosyncrasies). Every day, when I drive through the gate, I am grateful to be there, and to have access to such a beautiful place. “
(Jane won the Pultizer Prize for Fiction in 1992 for her novel A Thousand Acres).
Stonepine Estate, the Historic Carmel Valley, California Resort, Showcased in Wall Street Journal
Carmel Valley Resort, Stonepine Estate was featured on the cover of the Wall Street Journal Mansion section.