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John J. Mooney - Owner of Peninsular Farms

John J. Mooney

Born in St. Mary's, Ohio, in 1869, John J. Mooney located in Toledo, Ohio, in 1907 where he became the city safety director under Mayor Brand Whitlock. Mooney managed the Toledo offices of Michigan Mutual Life Insurance Company while serving as the mayor's "right hand man." In 1920, Mooney became president of the company and subsequently moved to Detroit. After a company merger in 1927, Mooney retired.

Mooney soon purchased and consolidated several farms north of Fremont along the Sandusky River, creating a 483-acre estate known as Peninsular Farms. A harness racing enthusiast from childhood, Mooney owned, bred, and trained some of the country's finest trotters and pacers. During the 1930s, more than 150 horses grazed in the farm's paddocks.

Mooney was instrumental in establishing the Hambletonian, the most prestigious United States harness racing event. The race is held annually for three-year-old trotting American Standardbreds. Established in 1926, the Hambletonian floundered in its early years. It was Mooney who committed the race to Goshen, New York, where the Hambletonian successfully established its identity over the next twenty-five years. John J. Mooney served as chairman of the Hambletonian Society and president of the Grand Circuit Association. Mooney was named posthumously to the United States Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1976.

At Peninsular Farms, Mooney fulfilled his dream of owning and training some of the nation's champion trotters and pacers including Billy Direct, Abbot, Friscoway, Dell Frisco, Real Frisco, Paul McPherson, Petrella, Kashmary, and Dillon Vollo. Mooney actively participated in developing the Sandusky County Fair into one of the finest in the state. He frequently loaned his champion speedsters to fair officials for racing events, donating their winnings to the fair association. Mooney died at his Detroit home in 1950.

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