Carlyle ``Jiggs'' Lancaster, 76, horse breeder and lawyer

June 02, 1996|By Jim Haner | Jim Haner,SUN STAFF

Jiggs Lancaster had gotten used to disappointment as a horse breeder by 1975. And there was no sign on the day that Star De Naskra was born that the little bay foal with the white star on his forehead would be any different.

"He grew into a big, lazy kind of guy," said George Lancaster, 44, recalling the way his father's colt plodded the pecan-cobbled pastures at the family's Horsepen Hill Farm in Bowie. "But four years later, he just took off. Dad went everywhere with that horse, loving every minute of it."

Yesterday, as Lancaster family members prepared to lay their patriarch to rest, they reminisced about the man and the horse who made him famous.

Carlyle J. "Jiggs" Lancaster, 76, -- a fixture in Maryland racing circles from Laurel to Pimlico for more than 30 years -- died Thursday of a cerebral hemorrhage at Doctor's Hospital in Lanham. But his name will live on, family members said, in the horse lore of his home state.

"The nation's number one sprinter," proclaimed The Evening Sun in November 1979, after Star De Naskra had won seven straight races, including a valiant run in the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct, in which he held off the redoubtable Alydar.

A graduate of Baltimore's Mount St. Joseph's College high school and Loyola College Class of 1942, Mr. Lancaster enlisted in the Navy during World War II and survived invasion operations as a young officer in the Mediterranean and Pacific theaters, receiving four battle citations. He came home to get a law degree from Catholic University in 1948.

In a move that would define his character, he ran for state's attorney as a Republican in the Democratic hotbed of Prince George's County when he was barely out of law school. Campaigning as a reformer who would clean up the county's notorious gambling rackets, he won his improbable bid and became the top prosecutor in 1950.

"Jiggs never knew when to quit," said his second wife, Jean Minton Lancaster, 60, with a laugh. "It wasn't the first time he beat long odds. He was a lucky man who led a remarkable life."

Mr. Lancaster decided not to run for re-election four years later, entering into private practice only to re-emerge as a candidate for the House of Representatives in 1960 against the incumbent Democrat Richard E. Lankford. This time, the stalwart Republican was trounced.

By then, his private practice was thriving in Hyattsville. Formed in 1957 with T. Hammond Welsh Jr., the firm grew by the 1970s into the four-attorney office of Lancaster, Bland, Eisele & Herring.

Meanwhile, the Lancaster family had grown to include four children, and the young lawyer had increasingly become consumed by home life.

In 1955, shortly after he stepped aside as county prosecutor, he purchased a piece of a sprawling farm with his then-wife, Loretta "Bonnie" Hitz Lancaster, near his hometown of Bowie. It was bisected by the Horsepen Branch creek and adorned by a grove of pecan trees amid rolling green fields, perfect for raising kids -- and ponies.

All his life, Jiggs Lancaster had loved horses. In his youth, he would cut classes at Bowie Elementary School and steal away to Bowie Race Track, where his father was the official track physician, to watch the horses run. Later, he spent winter weekends at the Laurel Race Track stables. Now, he had a farm of his own.

"He never had much luck as a horse breeder," said his son George of LaPlata. "But he really only did it for his own enjoyment, at least at first. I guess you could say it was his personal dream come true."

In 1975, Bonnie Lancaster was diagnosed with cancer and died. And horses came to fill the void in a middle-aged widower's life.

That year, Mr. Lancaster bought a relatively unknown mare named Candle Star from his friend Ben Cohen, the late owner of Pimlico Race Track, and bred her to an equally uncelebrated Kentucky stud named Naskra. Thus was Star De Naskra born under an inauspicious sign.

Four years later, the dark bay exploded on the racing scene. After a string of stunning victories capped by the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga, he was named 1979 Eclipse Award Sprint Champion by the Jockey Club of New York.

The honor lofted Mr. Lancaster into an unexpected role as an ambassador for Maryland horse breeders as he campaigned nationwide syndicating his famous sprinter as a stud. His peers returned the honor by naming a Laurel race after the pride of Horsepen Hill, the Star De Naskra Stakes, and dubbing him "Maryland Bred Horse of The Year" for 1979.

A Mass of Christian burial is scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow at Ascension Catholic Church in Bowie, 12700 Lanham-Severn Road, followed by burial at the Saint Ignatius Church Cemetery in Port Tobacco, Charles County.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Lancaster is survived by two daughters, Cheryl L. Bowie of Annapolis and Joan L. Carr of Owings; another son, Carlyle J. Lancaster Jr. of LaPlata; nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Pub date: 6/02/96

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