The Mackle Brothers interest in thoroughbreds came from their dad who was an avid race-goer. but never a horse owner.
They named their horse operation "Elkcam Stables"
The story was told that the reason for the name was to "hide" it from their mother, Theresa, who was said to hold and express the opinion that horse owners were either "kings or bums" and - since her sons were neither - that racing was not for them.
The story may have been true or may have been made up to "tease" their mother. In any even by the mid 50's Theresa was a frequent visitor to the racetrack with her sons and a number of their horses were named in her honor.
Nevertheless the Elkcam name stood the test of time - in their racing endeavors - on their farms - on their boats - and on main roads within each Mackle community.
The first thoroughbreds owned by the Mackles were Beach Boy and Blue Kay, purchased as a yearlings in late 1948 as a Christmas present to themselves. It was natural then to select red and green as the colors for their silks. The red and green would be a part of many thrilling scenes over the next twenty five years or more. As with everything else, racing was a passions that they shared together - but as in other things it was Dad who led the way with his special enthusiasm for the sport.
Beach Boy was a winner but Blue Kay was a good race mare, winning stake races during her career. The Mackles were "hooked". The brothers raced together continuously for the next 25 to 30 years.
In the late 1940s or early 1950s they decided to get in to the breeding and raising of horses as well and purchased a 100 acre farm on the Houston-Antioch Pike outside of Lexington, Kentucky. This venture lasted only a short time and there is really very little that I know about it.
Soon they decided to setup breeding operations in Florida and in January 1951 purchased 110 acres of land in Highlands county for that purpose. This was long before Ocala emerged as the center of thoroughbred breeding in the state. The fact that the property was on beautiful Lake Huntley and was just a three hour drive from Miami were - of course - important reasons for the purchase - and the move from Kentucky.
Soon two lakefront cabins, several barns, a half mile track for galloping horses, a managers residence and several miles of fencing were built.
Naturally, it was named Elkcam Farm.
The farm immediately became a favorite weekend vacation spot for all three Mackle families and it was occupied nearly every weekend for years. In the 1950s it was necessary to reserve the farm months in advance.
In those days one of the favorite pastimes was bass fishing. At one point Frank and Elliott spent months building a wooden bass boat in Elliotts garage that was used at the farm for years.
Every trip would include frequent visits to the barns to see the mares in foal, the yearlings being raised who, of course, were sure future stake winners. The children would look forward to swimming, canoeing and horseback riding. Adults would played poker well in to the night.
Several of the Mackles better race mares were retired to the farm to be bred. The stallions Boodle and Eternal City stood at stud.
Throughout the 1950s the Mackles raced from six to twelve horses at a time.
The Mackle Brothers had may winners from 1949 to 1954 including stakes winner Blue Kay.
Around 1954 they hired Ray Metcalf to train for them and the association with Ray brought them not only considerable success but a long and enjoyable friendship as well.
Some of the better horses trained by Ray in his first few years included Blue Eternal, Ifabody and Hubcap.
Hubcap was a special favorite as he was bred and raised by the Mackles. He was foaled at Elkcam Farm in Lake Placid in 1955. Hubcap was sired by their own stallion - Boodle from their mare, Rubadubdub. Hubcap was a small horse with a big heart and amazing speed - for a short distance. Hubcap won races for six years years finally retiring after two wins at the age of seven. He was the first horse bred by the Mackles to win over $100,000 in his career - an accomplishment that was recorded as a definition of better horses in those days.
The Mackle's racing success reached its peak in 1957, 1958 and 1959 when the horses Open View and Atoll - along with Hubcap - were the stars of the stable.
Atoll had been one of the top two year olds of 1958 racing for Four Way Ranch. He was highly ranked in the year end polls of best two year olds. He had won five of twelve starts including two stakes races. He was purchased between his two and three year old year by the Mackles in partnership with Lou Chesler, a major stockholder in General Development and - at the time - a good friend.
Atoll had been thought unsound but Ray worked his magic and in March of 1959 Atoll won his first race under Elkcam Stable colors - the Swift Stakes at Jamaica - then one of the major tracks in New York. He then defeated future Sprinter of the Year Intentionally in the - one mile - Gothom Stakes a major New York prep race for the Derby. The Gotham was a remarkable race in that Intentionally and Atoll ridden by Willie Shoemaker and Eddie Arcaro respectively raced neck and neck all the way around with Atoll pulling away to win in the last sixteenth of a mile. The victory in the Gotham placed Atoll among the favorites for the Kentucky Derby.
The last race for Atoll before the Derby, the Wood Memorial, was a disappointment as Atoll finished out of the money. Nevertheless, as usual, excuses were made and - while he would not be one of the favorites - Atoll was still headed for the Derby.
Open View was claimed by Ray Metcalf for $7,500 in 1958 as a two year old. Ray, a master at getting the most out of bad-legged horses brought him along.
In 1959 Open View developed in to a top three year old.
For years horses would prep for the Derby either in Florida, New York or California. In Florida the prime winter racing was at Hialeah Race Track which featured a series of Derby preps which included the Bahamas Stakes and culminated with the Flamingo Stakes. The winner of the Flamingo would be a favorite for the Derby.
Open View finished second in the Bahamas Stakes and also finished second in the Flamingo to Troilus beating the two year old champion of 1958 - First Landing - who finished third. In both races he was closing ground at the finish - a good omen for the longer Derby.
In Open View's next start he finished third in Atoll's Gotham Stakes but then - with Atoll - was unplaced in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct . He was then was shipped to Louisville where he was entered the Kentucky Derby Trial at Churchill Downs.
He won it impressively!
The Mackles would have a two horse entry in the biggest race of the year - The 1959 Kentucky Derby!
It was a very exciting time - and my introduction to racing. As a result, I would forever share their enjoyment and enthusiasm for the sport and Dad's dream of winning the big one!
The trip to the Derby was one to remember for a lifetime.
The Mackles went first class!
A private railroad car - The Marsh Run - was hired for the trip north to Louisville from Miami!
It was an old but elegant car half private "Pullman" bedrooms and half sitting parlor with a kitchen in between. A chef - a jovial Black man and a maid made up the "staff". Food was served continuously! I learned how to play "liars dice" on that trip.
The three Mackle families traveled together. Jim and Eileen McCaughan went along as well.
When we arrived in Louisville we checked in to the Brown Hotel which for years had been - and still is - the prime "Derby" hotel where all of the racing VIPs stay.
On Derby Day The Morning Telegraph - the official Racing Form of its time - featured a cartoon on its cover characterizing all of the participants in the Derby. There, in the foreground - around what we were certain was the Derby trophy - were the Mackle Brothers!
Derby day found us in a private box near the finish line.
The crowd was massive as always.
Eileen McCaughan arranged my first alcoholic drink - a Mint Julep - an action she and I would hear about for many years from my dismayed mother!
Seventeen horses were entered.
Ray Metcalf had instructed the jockeys to be laying just behind the leaders forth going in to the first turn. Atoll was a front runner and Ray wanted to "rate" him. Open View was a "come from behind" horse but Ray didn't want him too far back in the big field.
Going by the stands the first time Atoll was third and Open View was fifth!
As they went down the backstretch Atoll moved up to be within a length of the leaders!
And Open View was making his move!
At Churchill Downs on Derby Day - before today's video cameras - because of the huge infield crowds - there was no way anyone could see what was happening going around the far turn.
We held our breaths!
As the horses reappeared at the head of the stretch we expected them to be competing for the lead.
Atoll was no where in site and Open View was out in the middle of the track running erratically.
Later film replays of the race showed that Atoll had simply not been able to go the mile and a quarter distance and had tired, finishing 9th.
Open View had continued to make a big run but going around the turn was hit hard by the filly in the race - Silver Spoon - ridden by Eddie Arcaro. When he was hit he lost all momentum and ended up 8th.
The dream would have to wait for another day.
But it was one heck of an experience!
Atoll and Open View went on to win more stake races over the next couple of years and were retired to stud duty. Later in life Atoll was retired from stud duty and turned out to pasture in Lake Placid.
The success of Atoll, Open View and Hubcap encouraged the Mackle Brothers to expand their racing and breeding operations.
Soon a second parcel was purchased in Highlands County just east of the original farm property. On that property were constructed a trainers home, two training barns and a one mile state-of-the-art training track where young or recovering horses could be seriously exercised and prepped for the "real thing".
Each year yearlings - bred or purchased by the Mackles - were brought to the new training facility to be "broken" and schooled for the races.
For at least two years in the early sixties the Mackles hosted a public "county race fair" at the new training track. Our horses would be "matched" with each other and compete in a quarter or three eighths mile sprint for the public to enjoy.
In the 1960s Ocala emerged as a prime center for the breeding an raising of thoroughbreds. More veterinary, blacksmith and other required skills were now available in that area.
So in early sixties the Mackle Brothers acquired and developed a much bigger property a few miles west of Ocala and moved all of the breeding stock from Lake Placid.
While the brothers owned and operated the Elkcam farm and Elkcam Stables together - as with many things - it was Dad that brought the real enthusiasm and direction to the undertaking. And while - overall - there was a lot more disappointment than achievement in horse racing - it was a passion of his life.
Summers were planned around the Monmouth Park racing dates. Dad's summer vacation consisted of early morning visits to the track (often with is son) to watch horses work out, a round of golf (frequently with one race-tracker or another) at Spring Lake Country Club and an afternoon at the track. Dad began sneaking me in to the races in 1959. Once in awhile Mom would get him to play badminton or go to the beach but those activities were a distant second to the track.
Fall and Winter were highlighted by the opening of Tropical Park around Thanksgiving followed by the great racing at Hialeah.
Dad was named President of the Horsemans Benevolent and Protective Association (H.B.P.A.) in 1966.
In the late sixties the interests of the Mackle Brothers regarding horses began to diverge and soon Dad and Elliott had each purchased their own land and developed individual farms in the Ocala area.
Dad named his operation Still Lake Farm. There was a tranquil little pond on the property near the entrance. But the name came from of a story that locals told. There had once been a thriving liquor still in operation near the pond - thus Still Lake!
Dad began to run horses under his own name. Elkcam Stable was operated simultaneously for a while. Elliott raised horses - with his son Elliott Jr. - for the sales ring.
After many years with Ray Metcalf events occurred which caused them to part company.
Later trainers included Ivan Parke, Buster Lily, Bennie Perkins, Reed Combest and - at the very end of Dad's life, Cam Gambolati.
In the break-up with Robert in 1976 Dad acquired sole ownership of the Elkcam Stable name and returned to racing under it. The Elkcam and later the Still Lake Farm in Ocala were sold and Dad discontinued his breeding operations in the early eighties.
Through the 1950s, 60s 70s and 80s Dad or Dad and his brothers together raced the stake winners Blue Kay, Blue Eternal, Ifabody, Hubcap, Atoll, Open View, I'm Willing, Sailor Beware, Keenation, Royal Malabar, Champagne Ginny and Silver Valley.