Elizabeth “Betty” Ranney Moran, the longtime Radnor Hunt Races chair who enjoyed success in Thoroughbred flat racing and breeding as well as a win in the Grand National at Aintree, passed away peacefully at home on January 23 at age 89.
She was born on Aug. 7, 1930, in Bryn Mawr, Pa., to Claude J. (1971) and Frances Buck Ranney (1937). In 1942, she and her father moved to Brushwood Farm, then a dairy farm, in Willistown Township; holidays and summers were spent in Barryville, N.Y., with her cousin Joan and her extended Ranney family. She spent much of her free time loving farm life and animals of all kinds.
In her early years she lived with the Sisters of Mercy at Mater Misericordiae in Wynnewood (now Merion Mercy) with her beloved nuns, Sister Frances Marie and Sister Stella Marie, and then as a boarder at the Shipley School, where she met some of her closest friends. She loved to share stories of her pals and her athletic prowess. Playing first team in every sport, she was a fierce competitor.
She went on to attend Mary Washington College in Virginia and on a visit home met and fell in love with Max Moran at St Patrick’s Church, Malvern, as he passed the collection plate. Their lives became a whirlwind of children, animals of all kinds, trips to the beach in Avalon, N.J., horse shows, fox hunting, and non-stop activity that she thrived on and Max took in stride with a sense of humor.
Her love of horses took her from fox hunting and pony club at Radnor Hunt Club and weekend horse shows, with all of her kids in tow, to steeplechase racing and then on to a very successful flat racing career under the name Brushwood Stable.
She first attended the Radnor Hunt Races as a teenager while at the Shipley School and served as Radnor’s chair or co-chair for more than 30 years. Her proudest moment at Radnor was when Tostadero won the 1989 National Hunt Cup there. Tostadero was trained by Hall of Fame member W. Burling Cocks and ridden by Sean Clancy.
Her first stakes winner was Tib’s Eve in Delaware Park’s 1978 Tom Roby Steeplechase. Tib’s Eve was trained by Morris Dixon, a revered steeplechase horseman best known for training 1945 Preakness winner Polynesian.
Her period of greatest success in the Thoroughbred industry began when Morning Bob, whose name referred to a son-in-law, won the 1984 Pennsylvania Derby (Gr. 3). The following year, her gelding Creme Fraiche won the Belmont Stakes (Gr. 1) after finishing a close second to Spend a Buck in the Jersey Derby (Gr. 3).
Her top flat horses were trained by Hall of Fame member Woody Stephens, who won an unprecedented five Belmonts; Creme Fraiche was the next-to-last in that streak. Stephens, a noted raconteur, loved to tell the story that another client, Henryk de Kwiatkowski, had a Belmont starter who moved to the lead at the top of Belmont Park’s stretch in 1985. “We’re in front, Woody,” de Kwiatkowski said. “Yeah, but Betty’s gonna beat you,” Stephens replied.
Crème Fraiche also won the Jockey Club Gold Cup twice, in 1986 and 1987, and retired to Brushwood Farm with career earnings of more than $4-million.
She won the 2000 Grand National with Papillion, who was trained by Ted Walsh and ridden by his son Ruby Walsh, then 20 and making his first start in the world’s best-known steeplechase race. She also won the 2004 Arlington Million (Gr. 1) with Kicken Kris, trained by Michael Matz.
She participated as buyer and seller at the top level of the American breeding industry, principally with Reiley McDonald and Eaton Sales.
Her son Michael also was heavily involved in the Thoroughbred industry as an owner and trainer. He purchased and raced Hall of Fame member McDynamo, a three-time Eclipse Award winner as champion steeplechase horse.
Betty Moran had a competitive edge that she shared with her “Pigeons”, a group of fiercely competitive, fun-loving women who spent hours competing at Backgammon, Bridge and Rummykub and any other game they could work up, with or without rules. The collective children of these women watched in awe of friendships that were steadfast. “Pidge”, as her friends called her, had a passion for travel and a thirst for adventure, which took her around the world, but her favorite places to visit were “out west” or Maine with family and good friends.
Betty Moran was passionate about things that moved her, and she was committed to supporting her community in a way that made a direct impact on people and how they lived, particularly in Chester County. She was a longtime supporter of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center in Kennett Square.
Thorncroft, Home of The Sparrow, Chester County Boy Scouts, The Barn at Spring Brook Farm, Community Volunteers in Medicine, The Chester County Food Bank and many other remarkable organizations were beneficiaries of her time and her contributions.
She was predeceased by her husband, James Maxwell Moran (1989), and her son James Maxwell Moran Jr. (2008). In addition to Michael (Anne), she is survived by children Frances Abbott (Franny), Elizabeth Legnini (Bob), Ranney Moran (Terri), and Caroline Moran. “Chummy” will be missed by her 15 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend her life-celebration service on at 2 p.m. on Thursday, January 30, at Saint David’s Episcopal Church, 763 South Valley Forge Road, Wayne, Pa. Interment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a contribution in her name to Community Volunteers in Medicine (cvim.org) 300 Lawrence Dr, Ste B, West Chester, Pa. 19380 or to the Chester County Food Bank (chestercountyfoodbank.org) 650 Pennsylvania Drive, Exton, Pa. 19341.