Isabel Dodge Sloane: Horse Racing's First Female Leading Owner
“She attained no importance until two years ago, since when she has achieved a record unequalled by any horse owning sports woman In the history of the United States.” - Townsville Daily Bulletin, June 7th, 1934
Isabel Dodge Sloan was often called “The Queen of the Turf". She was one of the most successful women to ever be involved in horse racing.
Early Life (1896-1921)
In 1892, John F. Dodge of Dodge Motor Company married Ivy Hawkins. The two had three children together, one of those being Isabel Dodge (1896). Ivy passed away from tuberculosis in 1901, leaving Isabel and her siblings motherless.
John F. Dodge died in 1920, leaving Isabel parentless but with a motor company fortune. She married stockbroker George Sloan in 1921. Three years later, she would get her start in horse racing.
Introduction to Racing
Isabel’s friend helped her pick out her very first horse: Skyscraper II. The steeplechaser turned out to be a good purchase. Shortly after his purchase, he won the Manly Memorial Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
The feeling of winning had Isabel Dodge Sloane addicted to horse racing. She quickly became a huge fan of pedigrees and conformation. She was soon attending the auctions, picking out horses to add to her stable. In 1928, she separated from her husband and divorced him in 1929. The newly divorced Isabel expanded her reach in horse racing with a purchase a 850-acre farm in Upperville, VA. She quickly began developing her very own Brookmeade Farm.
Expansion & Success
Isabel hired many knowledgeable professionals to help her run her farm, but she was a part of it all in every way. She learned everything she could about both the sport and the Thoroughbred horse. This dedication to horse racing paid off handsomely for Isabel.
In 1932, Flag Pole became her first homebred stakes winner when he won the Swift Stakes. The following year she owned Inlander, the winner of the Travers and Arlington Classic. Inlander was the leading-money earner of his crop and Isabel herself was the third highest money-earning owner.
Isabel’s first huge success came in 1934 in the form of a horse named Cavalcade. Isabel had purchased the horse for $1,200 as a yearling. Two years later he won the Kentucky Derby, one of the greatest accomplishments in American Thoroughbred Horse Racing. One of her other horses, High Quest, beat Cavalcade in that year’s Preakness by a nose.
Sloane had two of that year’s Classic winners and she did not look to be slowing down. She continued to breed and buy the very best she could. In 1950, her Brookmeade Stable topped the list of money-earning owners. It didn’t end there either - 1959 Horse of the Year Sword Dancer carried her blue and white silks. Isabel’s horse Bowl of Flowers won Champion Filly honors in 1960 and 1961.
Isabel Dodge Sloane entered Good Samaritan Hospital in West Palm Beach Florida in January of 1962. She died on March 16th, 1962 at the age of 64.
At the time of Isabel’s death, Brookmeade Stable had 76 stakes winners. Her stable had a total of 1,144 wins and earnings of more than $8.9 million. She had bred 21 horses that earned over $100,000.
After her passing, Brookmeade Stable was sold and her runners were dispersed. However, Isabel’s contributions to the sport of horse racing are long from forgotten. She was a pioneer and an inspiration for all women that would come after her.
“The sport of kings has become, with a vengeance, the Sport of Queens. One queen in particular, a society queen Mrs. Isabel Dodge Sloane, proud possessor of a collection of horses known to the racing programs as the Brookmeade stables. Race followers no longer ask which entry won in an important stake race. It's now which horse from the Brookmeade stable won. A fact. The chic, smiling Mrs. Sloane's peppery three-year-olds have just about run the rest of the horses off the tracks. And Mrs. Sloane, herself, must begin feeling like a movie star she's been photographed so often, smilingly accepting silver cups almost in wholesale lots.” - San Bernardino Sun, 31 May 1934
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