Sportsman and capitalist

Sportsman and capitalist

By Susan van Dyke

This is the final installment of the nine individuals and three horses that were inducted into the inaugural Washington Racing Hall of Fame in September 2003. Also in this issue you will find the first in-depth study among the three men and two horses from the class of 2004, as Jon White retells the tale of the great Turbulator. Each of these Hall of Famers has played an important role in the growth of our industry. Each has or had a very special story. We hope these extended articles have expanded your appreciation of Washington’s great racing heritage. As we honor these inductees, we can count our many blessings, both past and present, as we continue to enjoy the thrills and beauty of Thoroughbred racing.

Twenty-eight days. A mile racetrack built in 28 days – and in the middle of the Depression. To complete a project of this magnitude took a determined and passionate man. That man was Joseph Gottstein.

Seattle Native
Vinson Joseph Gottstein was born in Seattle on July 14, 1891, to Myer “Mike” and Rosa Gottstein. Joe’s father had emigrated from Russia and made a living as a wholesale liquor dealer in Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota, before settling in Seattle in 1879 and founding the M. Gottstein Investment Company. His mother’s parents hailed from Poland, and Joe was told they were the first Jewish couple married in the Oregon Territory. Joe had a younger sister Gertrude, who later married Seattle businessman Arthur Cohen.

Years later, Joe still considered his father the most unforgettable person he had known. “His philosophical teachings to me were very important in my life. He taught me tolerance and not to expect everything to be beautiful. As he told me, ‘They put salt on the table to let you know sugar is sweet.’ ”

The young Gottstein began his education at the Pacific Grammar School and later attended prep school in New Hampshire at the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy. He was both an outstanding student and athlete.

He briefly attended both Princeton University and Lafayette University before transferring to Brown University in Rhode Island. While attending Brown he played right guard during the Brown-Bears 1912 football season of 6 – 4 – 0 (his sophomore season) and later became the line coach at his alma mater. Gottstein was recorded as standing 5’9” and weighing 200 pounds during his football days. In 1915, he scouted Washington State College in anticipation of the 1916 Rose Bowl – it was only the second playing of the now famous New Year’s Pasadena tradition. The Cougars handily defeated the Bears by 14-to-zero. It was quite an upset, as Brown had entered the game as a two-to-one favorite after a three-to-zero victory over Yale. Gottstein also won the New England heavyweight wrestling championship during his collegiate career. Always an avid sports fan, he later in life would own a hockey team and become an accomplished golfer. He also became a great Husky football fan.

Joe was only 23 when his mother died of cancer at age 48. Upon her death in 1914, he returned home to join his father in business. By the following year, in addition to working for his father in what had grown to be the largest whiskey wholesale dealership in the Pacific northwest, he and George Schilmiller had become business partners.

When Prohibition was enacted shortly thereafter, Gottstein turned from liquor to real estate, from whence he became financially successful. “We once owned six corners between Yesler Way and Madison with saloons on each of them,” he remarked. Three years later his father, at age 70, also died. At the time of the elder Gottstein’s death, Joe was vice president of his father’s firm. The sizable estate which had been left to him by his father was later nearly “tapped,” but rebounded from the same investments which had first depleted it.

Soon came “the war to end all wars” as Europe, and later America, became embroiled in World War I. The young American served his country as an enlisted man in the U.S. Navy and was assigned to naval intelligence. He spent two years in the service a “shallow water” sailor, as the only “overseas” port he saw was in Victoria, British Columbia.
By 1919 Gottstein was the president of Gottstein’s Inc. Company, which dealt in mortgage loans, real estate and insurance rentals, and was the secretary/treasurer of the Greater Motors Corporation.

A few years later, Gottstein belonged to a group that built downtown Seattle’s Coliseum Theater, which at the time was considered the finest theater in the world. Vaudeville was a popular venue then and the motion picture industry was growing by leaps and bounds. Ownership of the Coliseum, Liberty and Alaska theaters was merged into the Greatest Theaters, Inc. Gottstein sold his interest in the theater group in 1926, but in 1968, he nostalgically bought the Coliseum back.

The North Pacific Finance Corporation listed Gottstein as president in 1928.
In July 1930, Gottstein and his friend and theater operator William Edris closed a complicated $10 million real estate deal. The front page of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer headlined the transaction: “Realty Worth $10,000,000 in City’s Biggest Merger.” Their bold move, in which several Seattle business landmarks were exchanged, produced a deal that stood as a record-breaker for many years. Gottstein proved again and again his knack for correctly reading the Seattle marketplace.
He was known to be tough and shrewd in his business dealings, possessing a single-mindedness that begged no one interrupt. One rule that influenced him greatly, spoken in Gottstein’s words, and a key to his success, was: “Don’t think the fellow you are dealing with is a damn fool. Give your business adversary credit for having brains.”

The Only Game in Town
The compulsive drive that Joe Gottstein had from the very beginning to build a plant and an industry in which HIS city could take pride.—Pete Pederson, Longacres track official, author and future Eclipse Award winning California steward, 1967.
To paraphrase a famous quote, “Tenaciousness, thy name be racetrack builder (and operator).”

Ever since I was a small boy I have been active in athletics and all sorts of sports, but the Thoroughbred has always been closest to my heart.—Joe Gottstein, 1958.

The future racetrack entrepreneur had become involved in horse racing while still in “short pants.” Gottstein’s father had been a shareholder in the Meadows racetrack (1902-1908), now the south end of Boeing Field. The youngster would often accompany Scotty Fergason, a horse owner and business partner of his father’s, to the popular track. When he was eight, the young city-raised Joe received his first racehorse (Prince Liege) as a gift from his father – that attachment to horses would last a lifetime. Later, in college, he would take advantage of his east coast circumstances to attend race meets in New York. It was during his eastern sojourn that he saw the horse he would consider the “best horse he ever saw run” – the mighty, unbeaten Colin.

By 1922, racing (except for amateur races at county fairs) had lain dormant for 14 years in the Evergreen State. Gottstein and Roscoe Drumheller got together in the hopes of legalizing racing again. With the help of a young Seattle lawyer named Edwin J. Brown, whose father was then mayor of Seattle, a racing bill was submitted to the legislature. The vote in the Senate resulted in a tie, with the Lieutenant Governor Wee Coyle casting the tiebreaker in racing’s favor. Unfortunately, the bill failed to reach the floor in the House of Representatives. Both Brown, as a famous steward, and Coyle, as a placing judge, later became involved in horseracing.

Gottstein never gave up the battle and his tenaciousness finally paid off in 1933 when, on March 20, Governor Clarence D. Martin signed House Bill 59. (Just two days before, Oregon had legalized pari-mutuel racing and California passed racing legislation in 1934.) Pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing once again became legal in the state as of June 8, but the battle for who would hold the keys to Washington’s racing future was far from over. A referendum bill was being circulated calling for a recall of the racing law; and there were two other groups, including one headed by “Blackjack” Jerome from California, also vying for the license.

Longacres, as well as several other tracks of that era, came into being after racing was banned for many years, not because of any moral laxity, but because after the crash on Wall Street in 1929, the country was in the depth of the Great Depression. Jobs were needed; and more than that, state coffers were on the lean side.

Gottstein and Edris (for whom the famous Washington-bred runner Sirde would be named) originally hoped to interest three California men (Baron Long, James W. Crofton and William Kyne – who later was involved with the establishment of both Bay Meadows and Portland Meadows) in helping them build the track. The deal fell through when the state upped its takeout from three to five percent, making profits slim for a number of years. Joe then asked local banker Perry Truex for a personal loan of $85,000, but even with that sum, Gottstein and Edris had to mortgage properties in order to go forward.
Finally on June 20, 1933, a permit was given to the Washington Jockey Club to own and operate a mile track and the race was on to get the track and grounds built. Besides Gottstein and Edris, sponsors of the Jockey Club included Gottstein’s longtime friend, the noted theater architect Benjamin Marcus Priteca, who would design and oversee the building of the new race facility, Dr. Richard O’Shea, Howard Lang and M. Ross Downs. The newly formed Washington Horse Racing Commission awarded a 40-day meet (August 3 – September 17) to the new racing partnership.

In an interesting side note, Longacres was not the first Washington track to race after the racing ban was lifted. That honor went to the Silver Lake Race Course, south of Everett, which held a short, and by all accounts, a disastrous meeting. Dog racing was also being held north of Seattle.

Approximately 100 acres near the Renton Junction was purchased by the Washington Jockey Club from dairyman James Nelsen, whose two daughters were still living in the farm houses across from the track, off East Valley Highway, into the 1980s. (In a century, the land went from being wilderness to hops and then potato fields, to pastureland for cows, to a racetrack for horses, to its current tenure as property of aerospace giant The Boeing Company.)

This location was picked for three reasons. The fine alluvial soil was well scoured by glaciers in past ages; no danger of rocks. This made a safe running track with much less work than in many locations. It was close to railroad siding, which was important in the beginning. It was removed from the city and easily accessible, both from East and West Valley Highways.—Morris J. Alhadeff, Longacres chairman and president, 1973.

Future leading trainer Glen Williams – who was born and raised not a mile from the oval – literally saw the land transformed from pastureland to a racetrack, barns and grandstands. “The main reason they could build as quickly as they did was that the land was relatively level,” said Williams. Teams of horses and slips were used to slice, level and then carry the dirt. Men were lined up everywhere, as any and all wanted to work in these dark economic days.

Gottstein worked right along side the many carpenters, gardeners and tradesmen to make the targeted date. He was known to be a hands-on kind of guy.

It took them only 28 frantic days to plow the track, construct the grandstand and clubhouse and build the first allotment of stalls. Midway through the meet, a large, circus-type tent was put up to house another 100 horses.

Western Washington’s gift to the turf empire, artistically set on the glorious greenery fringing the White River, blossomed forth with the first of its forty-day sessions of Thoroughbred racing . . .”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1933.

The Thursday, August 3, 1933, opening was held under clear skies and over a fast track. It had been 25 years since the Meadows had closed. A crowd of about 11,000 people paid the $1.10 admission to watch the first race, a 5 1/2 furlong $1,200 claiming race, go off at 2:08 p.m. John W. Marchbank’s Vetsera, with Herbert Simmons aboard, won the $400 purse. The first day’s mutuel handle was around $13,000.

The Laird of Longacres
After the passage of the Washington horse race bill in 1935, Gottstein became the guiding force in the development of Thoroughbred racing in the state. Possessing a sound background in racetrack lore born of strict application to racing’s problems, Gottstein has mastered the intricate phases of management and operation. Through the lean years he maintained a policy of presenting the highest possible caliber of racing; the wisdom of such a policy is evidenced today by public opinion of Longacres as one of America’s finest racing plants.—The Washington Horse, 1958.

Gottstein was a horseman who owned a racetrack, not just a racetrack owner who owned horses. Then, as now, this was a departure from the norm. He was a man of great charm and influence, which he used to woo Seattle society to not only come to his track, but to become racehorse owners. In the early days, his stature and connections helped to create credibility and helped his track to grow in popularity. Later he would command respect throughout the Thorough- bred industry nationwide. (In 1944, Gottstein was asked to run Belmont Park.)

Joe Gottstein was a very theatrically minded person. He wanted to get headlines and he came up with the idea for the Mile and its $10,000, even though the country was in the middle of a depression and Longacres had not yet turned a profit.—Glen Williams, leading trainer and Longacres race secretary.

In 1935, Gottstein inaugurated the Longacres Mile. With its $10,000 purse, it was the richest race at eight furlongs in the country. From Coldwater’s initial victory to the Mile’s continued rivalry at Emerald Downs, the race is the high-water mark of each racing season.

It was tough in the early years. Edris bowed out, but Gottstein hung tough. One year when the track couldn’t afford to make their purse payments, Gottstein secured mortgages on some of his real estate investments to pay horsemen. In 1938, a new tote board was needed, but there was no money for this major expense. In stepped William Boeing, Sr., who helped raise the needed $50,000. Many of Gottstein’s real estate friends bought stock in the track to help through the financial rough spots.

Another well-remembered moment on the local racing scene occurred in the 1946 Seattle Handicap when Canadian invader *Mafosta set a new world record.

During WWII, the Longacres’ infield was used as an artillery stockade and the Gottstein’s original summer cottage housed troops. Troop tents were scattered everywhere. After the war, Gottstein purchased a barracks from the government and had it moved behind the tote board. He turned it into a five-room house, complete with swimming pool and patio.

No doubt about it – this Longacres track is certainly the fastest strip I’ve rode on – must be the fastest in the country and probably the world.—Johnny Longden, National Racing Hall of Famer and leading rider, 1946.

The 1948 season saw five new track records set during the 58-day meeting. Longacres always had a reputation as being a “fast” track.

Racing’s survival has never been an easy go in Washington State. World War II brought racing blackouts and limitations. The always looming availability of other forms of entertainment, and then other forms of betting, also impacted the mutuel handle. There was always the impending threat of severe floods, as the Cedar, Black and Duwamish Rivers took their winter toll on several occasions – including the floods just four months after their inaugural season, in December of 1933, and the doozy that befelled Renton on Friday, December 13, 1946, when barns were literally washed off their moorings and only rooftops could be seen. Through the years, 12 major winter floods would raise havoc at the track. Conflicting race dates throughout the state also added to the muddle.

Longacres, and racing in this country, was in its hey day in the decades after World War II. It was the only legalized gambling around; it was glamorous; and it was long before national baseball, football, hockey, and a bit of everything else, was there for the asking. Also, television, or the basic lack thereof, wasn’t the factor in people’s lives that it has now become. If you wanted to see something, you had to go where the action was. And racing was action.

He was a brilliant man. Being around him was like going to college every day. He was so knowledgeable about racing and other things, too.—Morrie Alhadeff, 1978.

Gottstein’s son-in-law Maurice “Morrie” Alhadeff came to work at the track in 1947. A member of another prominent longtime Seattle family, Alhadeff had begun his career at Longacres in public relations, after 15 years spent as a well-respected news editor and reporter in broadcasting (KJR, KVI and KOL) and a stint in the Coast Guard during World War II.

It was no cakewalk, since Joe, a zealous and controversial guy, who had dreams of turning Longacres into the nation’s best racetrack, was a difficult taskmaster.—Emmett Watson, Seattle Times columnist, 1985.

In 1963, Gottstein passed the reins of the day-to-day operation to the capable hands of Alhadeff, who had been serving as vice-president of the racetrack. During his tenure Alhadeff created and developed the first weekly television show devoted to horse racing. He “stressed the importance of horse racing making an effort to become part of the community.” Alhadeff’s sons Michael and Ken each began working at the race oval while in their early teens. Michael, who later became president of Longacres when his father retired in 1987, began his long sojourn at the track in 1959. His younger brother, Ken, later the senior vice president of the operation, joined him three years later.

In December 1966, plans were announced for a 9/10ths of a mile turf course to be installed within the circumference of the main track. It had long been a dream of the track’s founder, but unfortunately, those plans never came to fruition.

A man of strong opinions, Gottstein was adamant about the dangers of exotic wagering. He felt that exotic wagering would toll the end of horseracing. Instead of handicapping horses, exotics wagering would change the game to a matter of picking numbers, with the horse and its beauty and excitement, basically left out of the equation.

Among the trademarks of his grandfather, Ken Alhadeff remembers that he always wore Durkee’s talcum powder, chewed Cloret’s gum and carried Stimadent’s toothpicks. “Every car he had had to be black, with a red leather interior. And any automobile maker’s insignia the car bore had to come off.” He also added, “My grandfather was absolutely passionate about paying people on time. Also, one of his favorite phrases was ‘never skimp on tires or shoes.’ ”

California Winters
At the end of each race meet, the Gottsteins would head south to California where they held a box at Santa Anita ever since the track opened in 1934. During that very first card at Santa Anita, Gottstein had a horse in the final race of the day. He later recalled that runner, Zevar, had proven to be a bit of a problem for the starters when he refused to leave the open stall starting gate. Among the many friendships he developed in southern California were those with Hollywood producers Mervyn LeRoy and David Butler.

In 1954, rumors were circulating in the Bay Area that Gottstein and Webb Everett were set to buy Tanforan for a reported $3.5 million, but the deal never went through.

A few of the well-remembered racing moments beheld during his winter hiatus were . . . “Seeing a Washington-bred, Sir William, win the Santa Anita Derby” and “Silky Sullivan gave me some wonderful thrills.”

Another “big” moment occurred in Kentucky at Churchill Downs in the spring of 1958 when Gottstein was asked to present the winner’s trophy for the Kentucky Oaks – the winner Bug Brush.

Washington Horse Breeders Association
The breeders must be encouraged to improve their stock continually so that the caliber of the Thoroughbreds and of racing will continue to move ahead. If it is to be accomplished, it must be remembered that the dam is the all-important factor.—Joe Gottstein, 1955.

Gottstein realized that there would not be enough horses to go around and that the best way to assure full fields at his new track was to encourage the breeding of Thoroughbreds in Washington. In 1940, 15 men and one progressive woman got together for “the purpose of instituting and incorporating an association which would embody all the principles needed to bolster a weak and floundering [horse] industry.” Led by Joe Gottstein, whose Washington Jockey Club “must be given a great deal of credit by both breeders and horsemen in the State of Washington for their unstinting cooperation in fostering the financial incentive for the local breeding organization,” the Washington Horse (Thoroughbred) Breeders was born.

Joe realized Longacres was isolated geographically, and could never be part of a year-round circuit . . . He knew he had to build his own game. He encouraged the breeding and owning of horses in the area, and was remarkably successful. When Longacres opened in 1933, there were eight breeding farms in the state. There are now over 325 farms and it is significant.—Morris J. Alhadeff, 1973.

Not only had Gottstein provided the impetus for the WHBA’s founding, but he generously provided funding for the first years until he felt the organization had become financially independent by designating a percentage of the mutuel handle to the fledgling organization. (In 1952 he wrote a letter, later published in The Washington Horse, in which he rescinded that payment, stating “We declared that we were convinced that your organization presented such a strong financial picture, in fact the strongest in the United States, that it was no longer in need of any subsidy from our company.” The letter was met with great consternation.)

Gottstein later supported the association’s sales and felt that Washington-breds “are the best to own around here because they give you more value and I think a buyer gets more for his dollar when he buys a yearling at the WHBA sale.” In 1968 he purchased future champion Bouncing Kim at the second annual WHBA Summer Yearling Sale, which was held in the Longacres’ winner’s circle.

The welfare of racing in Washington is dependent on tight cooperation between the breeders and the racing associations. There is much room for discussion and debate on issues. There is no room for bickering and personal animosities.—Joe Gottstein, 1955.

A Man Ahead of His Time
But then Joe was years ahead of his time in many directions. He was one of the great figures in racetrack management . . .—Joe Hirsch, award winning turf columnist for the Daily Racing Form, 1973.

At the time of Longacres’ opening, Seattle was mainly a “blue collar” town. The midweek post time of 4:30 p.m. was established to accommodate those who wanted to “play the ponies” during the week.

Under Gottstein’s guidance, Longacres became the first track of its size to install the totalizer and the photo-chart camera. Longacres was also the first track to carry an insurance program for jockeys and exercise boys. The first licensed woman trainer in the entire country was Ruth Parton, at Longacres. Sunday racing at Longacres was another national first. Longacres was also the site of the initial mounts for the first Japanese rider licensed in the United States.

In 1940, Clay Puett’s new invention—the electric starting gate—was introduced at Longacres. Puett, another longtime friend of Gottstein’s, had served as a former starter at the Renton oval.

It was Longacres’ policy to put a major share of the profits back into the track in the form of improvements. Gottstein, and then Alhadeff, and later Alhadeff’s sons Michael and Ken, continued to upgrade, beautify and modernize the track.

Gottstein voluntarily established breeders’ awards for Washington-bred runners. No other racing state at the time had a voluntary awards program.

Gottstein was also among 14 original charter members of the Thoroughbred Racing Association, serving on its board for 13 years. Among his goals was to make “racing the cleanest, most supervised sport in the country.”

He dedicated much of his “boundless energy and enthusiasm” to the advancement of the Washington-bred runner. At the time of his death, seven of the 25 stakes offered at Longacres were restricted to Washington-foaled horses.

Washington’s First Turfman of the Year
Thus, there can be no error in saying that what has taken place in racing here since its inception is due in good part to the guiding hand of Joe Gottstein. And during this period Joe never concerned himself with a stupidly selfish program for Longacres alone. He had the foresight and intelligence to pursue a program for the best interests of racing in general.—Marshall Cassidy, NYRA director of racing and The Jockey Club executive secretary, 1958.

In 1958, Gottstein was unanimously selected as the WHBA’s inaugural turfman of the year. Internationally respected sports writer and broadcaster Bill Corum, who was also the president of Churchill Downs, served as master of ceremonies. Marshall Cassidy was the evening’s keynote speaker. The many prominent guests there to honor Gottstein were a strong mix of leading politicians and horsemen.

Two Sides to the Man
A study of the man himself is a study in contrasts. On the one hand he can be the most gracious and charming host you would want to meet, and many have found him to be just that, while on the other hand he can be a veritable bearcat. Gottstein is not a difficult man to get along with so long as you don’t tell him how to run his track.—Russell L. Brown, associate editor The Washington Horse, 1964.

Joe Gottstein was a man who took his responsibility seriously to the city that had given him birth. Involved in many charitable and civic organizations, he was an active supporter of the University of Washington’s athletic programs (much like current Emerald Downs president Ron Crockett is today).

Washington-breds are now an integral part of our racing program and I believe the raising of the breeders’ awards is both a means of showing our appreciation and of further encouraging the Thoroughbred breeders in the state.—Joe Gottstein, 1953.

In 1953, The Washington Jockey Club voluntarily increased the breeders’ awards at the Longacres meeting from five to 10 percent.

Two years later, Gottstein gifted a blanket, then valued at $5,000, that had been presented to 1889 Kentucky Derby winner Spokane, to the City of Spokane to be displayed at the Spokane Public Museum.

Each year at meet end the track gave their beautiful hanging flower baskets to a worthy charity.

Time and again, Gottstein has helped out countless persons in all walks of life. Those who really know him, regard him as a fine and generous person.—Russell Brown, 1964.

Cast-iron on the outside, Gottstein was a man of “unadvertised generosity” and had an “an abiding concern for his fellow horsemen.” Many a needy horseman was helped financially through the deep pockets of Joe Gottstein.

When racing resumed after World War II, the economy in Washington was in bad shape. Though the mutuel handle plummeted during the post war years, the Washington Jockey Club held to their specific daily purse distribution and did not cut purses, instead distributing “something like six percent of their take in purses.”

In 1948, when the Columbia River threatened to swallow up Portland Meadows and its horsemen, Gottstein invited horsemen to Longacres where he housed them and helped replace much of their horse equipment.

Several Thoroughbred farm owners in our state owed their new found property ownership to the generosity of Gottstein’s help with the down payment.

In 1969, Gottstein, at the urging of his longtime friend Senator Warren Magnuson, spearheaded a drive at the University of Washington which raised over $1 million towards the purchase of a radiation cobalt machine for cancer research. Ironically, that same machine would be used in Gottstein’s final battle less than two years later.

But it was the other side of Joe Gottstein that made for more interesting copy and gossip. In October of 1942, two major controversies concerning the racetrack entrepreneur were spread throughout the local newspapers. One had to do with the wartime rationing of an automobile and the other concerned bookmaking, when after a Washington State Patrol raid, a number of canceled checks made out to Gottstein and Edris were found among a large number of checks seized. A month later, when asked to comment on the two scandals, Gottstein told the press “I’ve got nothing to say about all that. Not a single comment. I’m just grinning and bearing it.”

Gottstein’s personal connections to many of the Washington Horse Racing Commission members were also sometimes questioned.

The Laird of Longacres . . . ruled Washington’s racing with an iron fist – and a soft heart. Joe Gottstein would thunder. And roar. He scowled, cursed (but never obscene), threatened. Then, after assuming an unalterable position, he would ask for advice, listen, and as many times as not, do exactly what he had said 15 minutes ago he would not do.—Bob Schwarzmann, Seattle Times, 1971.

He was known as a tough negotiator and was equally famous for his temper, but he was a thinking man, a caring man. Devil-be-damned was his well-known and demanding attitude. There was never a feeling of indifference about Joe Gottstein. While he was always respected, he inspired love, fear, awe, envy and hatred.

Tough, positive, threatening, hurling a series of ultimatums over the bargaining table, and giving a convincing appearance of assuming an unalterable position, one would feel all was lost whether the matter pertained to purse increases, racing dates, backstretch improvements, or racing conditions. Suddenly, questions would be posed to horsemen’s representatives, racing com-missioners, or whoever was present. He would ask for advice from those in attendance and like as not within a few minutes the matters under consideration would be resolved either by a compromise – OR in many instances the requests of horsemen would be more than fulfilled.—Ed Heinemann, executive vice president WHBA, 1971.

Elttaes Farm
I built this track so I would have a place to run my horses. Is there anything wrong with a man eating in his own restaurant?—Joe Gottstein.

Gottstein with longtime friend B.N. Hutchinson (and later with Hutchinson’s son Robert) formed Elttaes (Seattle spelled backward) Farm.

There was nothing Joe loved better than to watch his horses run. “He loved action,” remembered grandson Ken Alhadeff. “There was nothing he loved more than winning a horse race. He also loved to gamble.”

It became a tradition to boo Gottstein’s horses anytime they raced at Longacres and especially in stakes races. Fans loved to boo if they won, or cheer if they lost. This was in spite of the fact that the Elttaes runners would often be bet down as the heavy favorites. When asked if it bothered him, Gottstein, who obviously loved watching his horses in action, said, “I wish they would boo eight times a day if I could win eight races. I run my horses to win.” In fact, he was known to boo along with the crowd!

Through the years, he and the Hutchinsons raced five Longacres Mile winners. Their first Mile starter, Mr. Grundy, had finished third in the 1940 running. In 1941, Campus Fusser, who was trained and bred by fellow Hall of Fame member Allen Drumheller, became the first Washington-bred to win the Mile, drawing off by 3 1/2 lengths under Farrell Zufelt. The following year, the Gottstein/Hutchinson partnership watched their top runner Lavengro, also a Washington-bred handled by Drumheller, take the eighth running of the Mile. Due to World War II, a government edict went out that racing cease and desist. The 1943 Longacres meet was canceled, but the black gelding Lavengro came back in 1944 to finish fifth in the Mile. Lavengro, a son of Diavolo, also won the 1940 Burlingame Handicap. Finishing second in that ’44 Mile was Elttaes runner Prince Ernest, another Washington-bred, who went on to squeak a neck victory over Sir Jeffrey in the 1945 edition of Longacres premier race. Twenty-two years would go by before another Elttaes star would appear in the Mile winner’s circle.

The year 1967 saw the emergence of the horse which was arguably Elttaes Farm’s best runner. A California-bred son of Royal Orbit, Kings Favor won five of his six starts at the Renton oval as a three-year-old. He broke the nine furlong mark in the Washington (Longacres) Derby with a time of 1:47 1/5. After running seventh in the Mile, the Darrell Cannon trainee rebounded with a two-length win in the Seattle Handicap where he bettered his mark for 1 1/8 miles by two ticks.

Back in town for the 32nd Mile, Kings Favor returned after a sub-par season to romp home by four-lengths. He finished his season with a victory in his second Seattle Handicap. Although he would only finish seventh in the 1969 Mile, he would later in his career add back-to-back triumphs in the San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita before retiring to stud in Washington with $209,705 in earnings. It was the most ever earned by any Washington sire prospect. Kings Favor also ran third to Buckpasser in the Strub Stakes. He turned out to be a good sire, before a farm accident took his life in 1975 at age 12.

In 1968, Elttaes Farm’s Steel Blade recorded a 4 1/2 length win in the Mile, over a sloppy track, which he loved. A son of My Host, Steel Blade, though not as popular at stud as Kings Favor, did sire the champion race mare Silky Steel (bred in the name of Elttaes Farm), whose presence is still felt through her descendants, including 2005 graded stakes star Elusive Diva.

The year 1969, despite losing the two stable stars to the breeding shed, turned out to be a banner one for Elttaes. Prior to 1969, Gottstein had considered Campus Fusser the best horse he ever raced. After the 1969 racing season was over, that honor went to a gelding named after the family dog. The year before, Gottstein had paid $5,400 for a strapping colt by Six Fifteen at the WHBA summer yearling sale. Bred by S. J. Agnew’s T9O Farm, the now two-year-old had almost a perfect season five wins in six races (and one second), including a victory in the 32nd Washington Futurity. He earned the title of not only champion juvenile male, but Washington horse of the year. In addition, Gottstein’s Glittering Affair won the 1969 Washington Championship. The earnings of the two stakes runners helped make Elttaes Farm the leading money-winning owner of the meet with $80,977. It was Gottstein’s only victory in the Washington Futurity; a race that would later be renamed to honor Longacres’ founding father.

Other stakes winners which raced in Gottstein’s lime and chartreuse silks included Care for You, Sky Country, *Great Discretion, Speed War, Quotable and Oppo.

Family Ties
Gottstein’s first marriage to Hazel Elaine Holland in 1916 produced his only child, daughter Joan, who was born 1919.

After his divorce, Joe married in 1935 for a second time. Seattle native, Luella Venino, whose father, Professor A.F. Venino, was on the faculty of the University of Washington Music School and whose mother was a concert pianist, had taught piano prior to their marriage. Mrs. Gottstein, who had a Longacres stakes (the Luella G. Handicap) named in her honor in 1979, died in 1989 at age 81.

Joan married prominent Seattle radio personality Morris J. Alhadeff. She and Morrie had two sons, Michael, who races with his wife Margie under the Once Stable nom de plume; and his younger brother Ken, who races under his grandfather’s Elttaes Stable banner with wife Marleen. Joe would have been proud of the fifth generation horsemen in his family, his great-grandchildren Aaron, Alison, Andrea, Matthew and Maggie.

A Lasting Legacy
I shall always treasure the memories of a dedicated horseman, his wit, and wisdom – his charm and his fiery moments – his love for the outdoors and the Thoroughbred – his sincerity and absolute loyalty.—Ed Heinemann, 1971.

At the time of his death from lung cancer in 1971, appropriately on January 1 – the universal birth date of all Thoroughbreds – he was running 13 businesses, but it was well-known that he loved racing the best.

An enigmatic character, at once blustery and brooding, cantankerous, conciliatory and colorful . . . Joe Gottstein, in the final analysis [was] an amazing human being.Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1970.

Honors and Positions

Racing/Sports:

  • President of the Washington Jockey Club (1933-1963)
  • Among the original 16 founders of the Washington Horse Breeders Association (1940)
  • Washington’s first Turfman of the Year (1958)
  • State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame (administrators)
  • Executive board of The Jockeys’ Guild Foundation (1959)
  • Member of the board of the Thoroughbred Racing Association (TRA) (1948-1960)
  • Founder of Glendale Country Club, club champion golfer (1926, 1927)

Civic:

  • Distinguished Citizenship Medal of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (1945)
  • Honored for his coordination of a drive which earned $241,000 in improvements at the University of Washington School of Medicine (1970)
  • Special plaque at the National Shriners convention “for his great contributions to humanity and to shrinedom made so unselfishly” (1969)
  • Laureate of Junior Achievement Puget Sound Business Hall of Fame (1999)

In 1976, the Joseph Gottstein Memorial Cancer Research Laboratory was officially opened at the University of Washington. His family and friends contributed greatly to its funding. A plaque bears this inscription: “In memory of Joe Gottstein – whose life, like this legacy, was a commitment to excellence.”

Sources: The Washington Horse/Washington Thoroughbred; The Blood- Horse; Daily Racing Form; Seattle Times; Seattle Post-Intelligencer; The Games of Joe Gottstein, by Patrick L. Dawson; interview with Kenneth Alhadeff; Renton Historical Museum.