“In 1926, the Rosseters put the social set on its ear with a joint birthday party for Disguise and Tod Sloan, the famous jockey who had ridden the stallion’s colts to victory."
“The party was written about in newspapers all over the United States and, for a decade or more, was the standard used for social events in the Bay Area. Sloan, wearing the Rosseter racing colors, burnt orange and white, sat astride the twenty-nine –year-old stallion, who pranced like a two year-old, his mane curled and be-ribboned for the festivity. A giant horseshoe-shaped table was set on the lawn with a “place” for Disguise in the center of the horseshoe. The horse had a birthday cake of grain and mash, decorated with carrot candles. Jockey Sloan had a real cake to share with guests” . . .
Friar Rock was Rosseter’s other lucrative sire. His offspring, Inchcape, garnished Rosseter $115,000.00, a record price for a two-year-old colt.
Rosseter’s contribution to the Thoroughbred industry is highlighted in Mary Fleming’s article from “The Thoroughbred of California” magazine:
“For most of the country the 1920’s was a decade of high prosperity, from the time World War I ended to the beginning of the Depression. It was the “Return to Normalcy” era of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover; an age of relative peace and economic stability that would end suddenly in October, 1929. Headlines were made by men like Charles Lindberg, Mahatma Ghandi, Babe Ruth, Alfred Smith and Jack Dempsey, as the roaring twenties came into being.
“In the East, the sport of horse-racing thrived as never before. Man O’ War, of course, was a household word and brought much-needed publicity to what had been perceived to be a rather unhealthy sport. He was well supported by such great ones as Black Gold, Sir Barton, Grey Lag, Sun Beau, Zev and Blue Larkspur. Purses began a slow upward trend after the war, and favorable legislation was passed.
“For California, however, the twenties was a bleak period for horseracing. No recognized tracks were open except for two experimental non-betting meetings held at the old Tanforan Race Course in 1923. Since the gates had closed in 1909 on “Lucky” Baldwin’s dream track, Santa Anita, the sport of horseracing in this state had dropped back into the dark ages of pre-1860.
“One by one, horsemen began to leave the state, taking with them much of the stock that had once made the California breeding industry a force to be reckoned with. Only a few men believed in the future of their sport in this state and were prepared to see out the bad times. Among them were Neil S. McCarthy, A.K. Macomber, Adolph Spreckels and John Rosseter, director of the U.S. Shipping Board during World War I. The San Francisco shipping magnate did more for the California Thoroughbred industry during the twenties than any other man.”
Rosseter chose the oak-studded Mark West Hills as the site for his 800 acre ranch with the Mark West Creek running alongside. The word “wikiup” means summer camp in Klamath Indian.
Rosseter spared no expense on his ranch. The stable cost over $50,000.00. Twenty-one thousand square feet in size, it was constructed of clear grain Douglas fir wood. Rosseter challenged guests to find a knot anywhere in the building. Silver-plated, hand-wrought and hammered brass hinges decorated the stall doors. A cobblestone walkway around the perimeter adds charm.
John Rosseter lived at Wikiup until his death in 1936.
During World War II, Rancho Wikiup serviced the United States army. It was requisitioned by the army to house field artillery units which still used horse-drawn caissons. The 48th Field Artillery was at first what they later called Camp Wikiup. Also, the Army’s 13th Engineers billeted at Camp Wikiup while they constructed the Santa Rosa Air Field.
Throughout the years, Rancho Wikiup functioned as a world-class horse stable until the late 1900’s, when it was converted to a home, and presently serves as luxury lodge.