A legend buried beneath us

In the 1920s, prominent Elkridge businessman Howard Bruce bought Billy Barton, a thoroughbred racehorse known for being unruly. At the time, Bruce owned the Belmont estate -- a vast historic property off Belmont Woods Road. According to the Save Belmont Coalition, Bruce and his wife, Mary, ran a working farm on the estate. Bruce also bred and trained thoroughbred hunters, which would chase the hounds that chased foxes during hunts. But Bruce quickly realized Billy Barton was more than a hunter horse. He entered Billy Barton in steeplechase races -- horse races over closed courses with obstacles like hedges and walls. In 1926, Billy Barton won the coveted Maryland Hunt Cup and the Virginia Gold Cup. In 1928, he lost the Grand National Steeplechase crown in England by only inches because his jockey fell off over the last jump, the coalition says. Still, he had gained international fame. He even graced the March 18, 1929, cover of Time magazine. Four years later, when Billy Barton died, he was buried a few yards from his old paddock at Belmont.
illustration by Violet Lemay
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