By: Sam Lister
One Cool Horse
In the early 1940’s, the Tivoli Theater (Now the Weinberg Center) became the first air-conditioned building in Frederick, thanks to Challedon, a Thoroughbred racehorse from Maryland.
On July 27, 1940, Jack Warner, head of Warner Bros. Studio attended the Hollywood Gold Cup Race at California’s Hollywood Park. Warner was joined that day by Dr. Edward “Eddie” P. Thomas, a well-known surgeon from Frederick, and Mr. W. L. Brann, Challedon’s owner.
Before the race, Warner announced his plans to bet $50,000 (over $900,000 today) on the favorite. Shocked, Dr. Eddie intervened; insisting that Warner bet the money on Challedon. After taking a moment to think, Warner decided to take Dr. Eddie’s advice. Moments later, Challedon claimed victory under Canadian jockey George Woolf.
Grateful for Dr. Eddie’s advice, Warner wanted to repay the surgeon. Initially, Dr. Eddie tried to brush Warner off, but the studio mogul persisted. Then, Dr. Eddie had an idea.
Remembering that Warner Brother’s Studio owned Frederick’s Tivoli Theater, Dr. Eddie asked Warner to provide the theater with the gift of air conditioning. Mr. Warner obliged, and for a fee of $100,000 ($1.8 million today), Frederick had its first air-conditioned building. Now the Tivoli Theater provided the perfect escape from the brutal summer heat.
After his racing days came to an end, Challedon resided in Glade Valley Farm in Walkersville, where grateful Frederick residents would often visit the champion racehorse.
Overall, Challedon had a highly successful career, winning the Preakness Stakes in 1939, upsetting future Hall of Fame colt Johnstown. Challedon was named American Horse of the Year in 1939 and 1940. Only three other horses have claimed the award for more than one year: Kelso (5 times), Native Dancer (2 times), and Whirlaway (2 times). In 1977, Challedon was placed in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.