Bertram and Diana Firestone

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Bertram Robert Firestone (August 18, 1931 – July 12, 2021) and Diana Johnson Firestone (born January 26, 1932) of Newstead Farm in Upperville, Virginia were major owner/breeders of Thoroughbred equestrian and flat racing horses. They were voted the 1980 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Owner[1] and in 1982 were inducted in the Virginia Thoroughbred Association Hall of Fame.[2] They are former owners of Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park in Florida.[3] Their Genuine Risk was known for winning the 1980 Kentucky Derby.

Early life[edit]

Bertram Firestone, ca. 1963.

Bertram Firestone was a highly successful industrial real estate developer.[4] Diana Johnson is the daughter of John Seward Johnson I and Ruth Dill. One of the couple's six children, her paternal grandfather, Robert Wood Johnson I, was the founder of the health-related products manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson.[5] Her maternal grandfather, Colonel Thomas Melville Dill, was a prominent Bermudian soldier, lawyer and politician.[6]

Thoroughbred racing[edit]

The Firestones raced horses in the United States and in Europe. Bertram Firestone bought the thoroughbred Ridin' Easy in 1966 from a Keeneland sale for $15,000 and in 1969 won the Fashion Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack and the Polly Drummond Stakes at the Delaware Park Racetrack.[7][4]

Bertram bought the colt King's Company for 35,000 guineas, that won the Irish 2,000 Guineas Turf Classic in May 1971 at the Curragh Racecourse. The horse went on to win the Cork and Orrery Stakes at the Royal Ascot in 1972.[8][9]

Bertram bought the Catoctin Stud farm in Waterford, Virginia, in 1973. In 1991, he and Diana acquired the Newstead Farm in Upperville, Virginia. For racing in Europe, they operated the 1,200 acre Gilltown Stud farm in Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland near the famous Curragh, which they sold in 1989 to the Aga Khan IV for $14.2 million.[9]

Among their many successes in Thoroughbred racing, in 1980, their Hall of Fame inductee Genuine Risk[10] became only the second filly to ever win the Kentucky Derby.[11]

They also bred and raced Secretariat's son, General Assembly, whose Saratoga track record time in winning the 1979 Travers Stakes stood until 2016. Trained by Dermot Weld, the Firestones' Blue Wind won the 1981 Epsom Oaks and Flash of Steel won the 1986 Irish 2000 Guineas. In November 1982, they won the Japan Cup with 3-year-old colt Half Iced.[12] They were the breeders of Vintage Crop that won Australia's Melbourne Cup in 1993.[9]

In 1983, they were honored by the Keeneland Association with its Mark of Distinction for their contribution to Keeneland and the Thoroughbred industry.[13]

Marriage and children[edit]

Bertram married Diana in 1973. They were each previously divorced with three children by a previous marriage.[14] Firestone had been married twice before his marriage to Diana, to Lynn Belnap in 1955 and to Dariel Henderson in 1962.[15]

Bertram died July 12, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Florida after deterioration of his health.[4]


  1. ^ "Eclipse Awards at the TRA". Archived from the original on 2012-01-22. Retrieved January 22, 2012.
  2. ^ Virginia Thoroughbred Association Archived February 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Bert and Diana Firestone at the NTRA Archived September 26, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c Mitchell, Eric (July 12, 2021). "Prominent Owner/Breeder Bert Firestone Dies at 89". BloodHorse. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  5. ^ Michael Santoli (September 8, 2008). "The Market's Finest". Barron's. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  6. ^ ROYAL GARRISON ARTILLERY: Captain T. M. Dill, Bermuda Militia Artillery, to be temporary Major. Dated 30th March, 1916, The London Gazette, 28 March 1916. Supplement: 29525. Page: 339.
  7. ^ "Owner Firestone Purchase Filly For Bargin $15,000". The Evening Sun. Baltimore, Maryland. June 3, 1969. p. 31. Retrieved July 14, 2021 – via}
  8. ^ "Longshot Deceit Wins; Drumtop Cracks Record". The Miami Herald. Miami, Florida. Hera;d Wire Services. May 16, 1971. p. 82. Retrieved September 29, 2020 – via
  9. ^ a b c "The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone". London/New York: Sotheby's. September 1, 2020. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
  10. ^ National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Archived June 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ The Palm Beach Post. September 4, 1981,2099339&dq=genuine+risk&hl=en. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  12. ^ "Half Iced charges to Japan Cup". News-Press. Fort Myers, Florida. November 29, 1982. p. 30. Retrieved September 29, 2020 – via
  13. ^ "Mark of Distinction" (PDF). Keeneland. March 20, 2013. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  14. ^ "Three Years Ago". The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando, Florida. April 30, 1976. p. 73. Retrieved September 29, 2020 – via
  15. ^ Goldsmith, Barbara (1987). Johnson v. Johnson. Knopf. ISBN 9780394560434. Retrieved July 14, 2021 – via Google Books.
    - "New York, New York City Marriage Licenses Index, 1950-1995". FamilySearch. Retrieved July 14, 2021.}