Fences were even and had just been repaired and painted. All the barns were in sparkling order with their blend of burnished oak and polished brass finery. Outdoor paddocks had equal shares of yearlings and weanlings.
Brookmeade Stable in Upperville, Va. had been brightened and spruced up in the time following owner Isabel Dodge Sloane’s becoming the first women to ever lead the nation in race earnings in 1934. Brookmeade thoroughbreds had winnings of $251,138 that year.
After divorcing her husband (John Dodge of the Dodge automobile fortune) in 1929, Ms. Sloane added 850 acres to her estate in Upperville. She was interested in maintaining her status as one of the country’s most important thoroughbred owners.
In 1934, much of her thoroughbred earnings came when Cavalcade won the Kentucky Derby and another of her precocious three-year-olds, High Quest, came along just weeks later to win the Preakness Stakes. That meant two-thirds of the Triple Crown was won by Brookmeade horses living near Jefferson County in the tranquility of Upperville in Loudoun County.
Mrs. Sloane had been born in 1896, and by 1958 when her filly Bowl of Flowers was foaled she had accomplished most of her lofty goals concerning both flat and steeplechase racing.
Bowl of Flowers was an eager to learn little chestnut whose genealogy was a full-flowered one that included her sire, Sailor, a winner of the 1955 Pimlico Special (a race once won by Seabiscuit) and her mother was Flower Bowl, so successful on the track that the Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park was named for her.
Bowl of Flowers herself was a half-sister to well-knowns Graustark and His Majesty.
As was the case with many of Brookmeade’s most highly regarded yearlings, Bowl of Flowers was given over to trainer Elliott Burch, who would be responsible for teaching her the proper lessons to be used in winning important races for the blue and white sashes on the silks of Mrs. Sloane.
Elliott Burch would later be selected to the United States Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Saratoga. The many accomplishments and honors heaped at the feet of Bowl of Flowers helped Burch reach Hall of Fame status.
After unproblemed months of schooling at the farm’s starting gate and with training/workout riders helping Burch to show her the nuances of pace and patience, Bowl of Flowers seemed ready for an actual first race.
As had been the case with her unhurried training, there were no mishaps to hamper or mar her entire two-year-old season.
In eight races, Bowl of Flowers was first no fewer than six times. She won the 5 1/2 furlong National Stallion Stakes. That important milestone was followed by wins in the lengthy Gardenia Stakes and the well-chronicled Frizette Stakes.
Six out of eight was impressive enough to earn Bowl of Flowers the Eclipse Award as 1960’s United States Champion Two-Year-Old Filly.
In 1961, she was set on a path that could have brought Brookmeade and Mrs. Sloane the female equivalent of the Triple Crown.
The three-race path of rose petals was called the Triple Tiara of Thoroughbred Races and consisted of the Acorn Stakes, Mother Goose Stakes, and Coaching Club American Oaks.
Her 1961 campaign included a win in the late-summer Spinster Stakes, but was made more important when she won the first leg of the Triple Tiara, the Acorn Stakes.
However, Funloving defeated her by a head in the Mother Goose. When again faced by Funloving in the Coaching Club American Oaks, Bowl of Flowers left no doubt as to her brilliance by romping to a five-length win in the final leg of the Triple Tiara series.
After turning away both Primonetta and Airmans Guide in the Spinster Stakes, she was sent against males in the Roamer Handicap. In the Roamer, colts Sherluck and Ambiopoise both defeated her by a nose.
In her eight starts at age three, Bowl of Flowers had won four times, been second once, and been third in the others.
There had been 16 races in her two campaigns. Never worse than third in any of her 16 races, she recorded 10 wins and had $398,504 in winnings.
Her four wins in eight starts at age three were impressive enough to get her a second straight Eclipse Award — this time as United States Champion Three-year-Old Filly.
The Roamer was her final test as a three-year-old.
After a time away in Florida, she had resumed workouts that were to bring her fit and ready to a four-year-old season in 1962.
But in January during what had been planned as a routine training session at Hialeah Park near Miami, she suffered a broken bone in her left foreleg. Burch and Mrs. Sloane decided on sending her to retirement.
Long after Mrs. Sloane passed away in 1962, Bowl of Flowers was inducted into the racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga where she joined trainer Burch as a member.
Brookmeade had been a thoroughbred industry standard bearer with the leadership provided by Mrs. Sloane. With Bowl of Flowers, and later the stakes successes provided by Sword Dancer, Brookmeade was a contender for national honors and to win important stakes and handicap races.
And it was just down the road in Loudoun County, not hundreds of miles away in the bluegrass hills of Kentucky.