alan j. leavitt
Alan J. Leavitt, born March 22, 1936 in Baltimore, Maryland, employed his business instincts to become one of the brightest stars in the Standardbred sport. A 1958 graduate of Harvard University, Leavitt entered the Standardbred breeding industry with fervor by establishing Lana Lobell Farms in 1959 at his parents’ Hanover, Pennsylvania property. Leavitt later expanded the enterprise to include locations at Bedminster, New Jersey, established in 1977, and Hamptonburgh, New York, in 1979. Though all the farms operated under the Lana Lobell banner, each farm was a successful operation that catapulted Leavitt to celebrity status within the industry.
Lana Lobell Farms was known for owning some of the top sires in the business. Immortal No Nukes p,3,T1:52.1 ($572,430) boasts $131.8 million in foal earnings. Immortal Speedy Crown 3,1:57.1 ($545,495) claims over $110 million and sired Embassy Lobell 3,1:54.4 ($2.566 million) and Hall of Famer Moni Maker 7,1:52.1 ($5.589 million), the 1998 and 1999 Horse of the Year and one of the Leading Money-Winning Trotters of All-Time. Lana Lobell also stood Immortal Speedy Somolli 3,1:55 ($427,550), 1977’s Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt and 1978’s Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt of the Year, whose offspring have garnered a total of over $39 million. The farm produced 1987 and 1988 Horse of the Year and Living Horse Hall of Fame member Mack Lobell 3,1:52.1 ($2.770 million), who ranks seventh among Leading Money-Winning Trotters of All-Time.
Besides being a leading breeder, Leavitt is also a master at the art of syndication. He is responsible for some of the most well-known syndications in the business, including Speedy Crown, Oil Burner p,4,1:54.2 ($535,451), Nero p,4,T1:55.1 ($528,208), Nansemond p,4,1:56.1f ($448,436), Overtrick p,3,1:57.1h ($407,483) and Noble Victory 4,1:55.3 ($522,391), the first $1 million Standardbred. More recent syndications include Tom Ridge 3,1:50.2 ($886,144), Conway Hall 3,1:53.4 ($818,884) and Like a Prayer 3,1:52.2 ($1.118 million).
Though his involvement with Lana Lobell Farms ended in 1989, Leavitt was by no means finished with the business. Leavitt and future wife Meg Jewett together established Walnut Hall Ltd. in 1993. Serving as president and general manager since its inception, Leavitt has been the driving force which has enabled Walnut Hall Ltd. to become a staple on the USTA list of Leading Breeders, a feat he also accomplished with Lana Lobell Farms.
Leavitt is no stranger to revolutionizing the breeding industry. One of his top accomplishments includes pairing Lana Lobell-bred Garland Lobell 3,1:55.3 ($345,689) and Immortal broodmare Amour Angus 3,2:03.1f ($21,355). The duo produced the popular “Hall” trio of Angus Hall 3,1:54.3 ($830,654) the first sub-1:55 two-year-old trotter, Conway Hall and Andover Hall 3,1:51.3 ($870,510), all three of whom were top stakes winners. The trio’s successes on the track transitioned into their careers at stud, with combined foal earnings of over $84.8 million.
Other stars on Walnut Hall Ltd.’s stud roster include Cambest p,5,T1:46.1 ($1.444 million) the fastest harness horse of all time, Like A Prayer; Tom Ridge and Cash Hall 5,T1:51.1h ($554,298), whose time trial in 2006 broke the world record on a half-mile track by nearly three seconds. Leavitt can also claim the successes of Cameron Hall 4,1:53.4s ($1.816 million), who was not only the champion trotting filly at both two and three years of age but who also fetched a record-setting $1.1 million for racehorses at auction in 2001, and Blissfull Hall p,3,1:49.2 ($1.468 million), 1999 Pacer of the Year and Triple Crown winner. The farm also is the home of Ali’s Cat 5,1:57.1h ($73,007), the 2003 Broodmare of the Year whose offspring, who have grossed $1.4 million, include 2003 Hambletonian winner Amigo Hall 3,1:54s ($928,183). The latest jewel in the Walnut Hall Ltd. crown is 2008 Hambletonian winner and Trotter of the Year Deweycheatumnhowe 3,1:50.4 ($3.15 million). The Muscles Yankee stallion out of the Speedy Somolli mare Trolley Square began his breeding career at the farm in the 2009 season.
Between 1997 and 2003, Walnut Hall Ltd. bred, raised and sold four straight (and five out of seven) champion two-year-old trotting colts in Conway Hall, Banker Hall 3,1:55.2s ($1.026 million), Andover Hall, Broadway Hall 2,1:56.4 ($436,790) and Cantab Hall 3,1:54 ($1.442 million). Breeders Crowns were won by Banker Hall, Broadway Hall, Cantab Hall, Cameron Hall (twice), Cam Swifty 3,1:50 ($1.014 million) who was sold as Shelby Hall, and Fast Photo 3,1:55.4s ($800,271) who was raised and sold as a yearling by Walnut Hall Ltd.
Leavitt has received numerous acknowledgements for his work in the industry. He was the recipient of the USHWA Proximity Award in 1981 and later received the President’s Award in 1983. Leavitt was also honored with back-to-back USHWA Breeder of the Year awards in 1987 and 1988. He currently serves as a director of the USTA, The Hambletonian Society and the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. He is president of the Kentucky Standardbred Breeders Association and a member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.