Empire State: An Intriguing History Of The New York Thoroughbred

by | 06.30.2015 | 3:15pm
Hurricana Stud, run by the Sanford family in Amsterdam, N.Y., was a prominent breeder for decades

The Paulick Report is headed to New York this summer, as we launch a new series about the Thoroughbred industry in the Empire State. We'll be delving into recent developments that have triggered significant changes in New York's breeding and sales business, but as a way to kick off the series, we're going way back through time.

People have been breeding racehorses in New York for more than 200 years, and some of them have recorded significant milestones and achievements in horse racing history. Historians can have their work cut out identifying the origins of racehorses from long ago, but Scott Jagow, with help from historian Allan Carter, has pieced together this brief history of the New York Thoroughbred.

  • Joe

    Great Article! I will enjoy reading the series. We are standing a stallion there Encaustic in New York. Full brother to Include. First foals are 2 years of 2016 #NYBreeder.

  • Marlaine Meeker

    Can’t wait for the rest of the series. Thanks so much.

  • Blankcheck

    Great job. I got one for you Fio Rito a big grey back in the 1970’s what Grade 1 did he win up at the SPA.

    • jackmw


    • Brian Taylor

      He won the 1981 Whitney.Amazingly,he broke through the gate before the start.The assistant starter never let go of the bridle and consequently came shooting out of the gate with him.Thanks to his courageous dedication,Fio Rito didn’t run off and was immediately reloaded .And the rest,as they say,is history.

  • David Worley

    Scott you are quite good on video, which is tougher to do than people think.

    • Thanks, David. It doesn’t hurt to have my background in radio and TV. And I heartily agree with your last comment.

  • Kris

    For those who enjoy reading, I highly recommend the two volume set, “Racing In America, 1665-1865.” This set was written by John Hervey and published by the Jockey Club in 1944. There aren’t many of them out there but it may well be in the public domain and thus available to read for free from World Cat or the like.

    • Figless

      Thanks will check it out.

      • Bill O’Gorman

        This series actually expanded into 6 [or more?] 1865-1921 by Vosburgh, 1921-36 Hervey again, 37-59 Kelley and 60-79 Rudy.

        • Figless

          Thanks there were thoroughbred breeding farms all over the NY metro area pre 1900 and then the legislature outlawed gambling on racing and most of them moved to Kentucky. I am interested in the Bronx farms of Morris hopefully will find some nuggets in these books.

          • Figless

            Anyone know where American Eclipse stood his first two years at stud prior to returning to the races? And where Ruthless was foaled?

          • Figless

            Guess I will find it in the book but Wikipedia claims Ruthless was sired by the imported stallion Eclipse (1854). Clearly this is not THE Eclipse nor American Eclipse as they were not alive in 1854 so is Wikipedia incorrect?

          • Figless, there were many horses named Eclipse back in those days, and very few of them were related to the famous English-bred Eclipse. American Eclipse was an example of that. He was named for the English champion but sired by Duroc. That can’t happen these days, with rules against giving Thoroughbreds the same names as famous horses like Secretariat.

          • Figless

            Thanks all.

          • Kris

            As Scott points out below there were a lot of horses sharing the same name, not just Eclipse. There was also the habit in those days regarding the naming of female horses; many simply did not name their mares and instead referred to them by the name of their sire. The Cub mare is a famous example of this. As Hervey points out in this book, that was a very annoying and confusing custom.

          • Kris

            I will try to find out for you, Figless. The book is on my lap as we speak.

          • Figless

            Thanks Kris, Wiki indicates Ruthless was sired by “imported sire Eclipse”, but cant be the original and AE was born in NY I believe. Suppose there could have been more than one Eclipse.
            Wiki indicates AE was sold at auction to William Livingstone for $8500 and retired to NY, where he sired his best son Medoc, then moved to Virginia.

          • Kris

            Interesting. From what I can tell no farm name is mentioned, however, he may well have stood at his owner’s farm. AE was purchased by Cornelius W. Van Ranst in March of 1819 for $3,000. Hervey then relates that AE first stood at stud in 1820 (for $12.50), Hervey doesn’t state how many mares he bred but he does state that AE was bred to 87 mare the following year for the same fee. AE was put back into training when the anti-racing legislation was “eased” and the Union Course was built. Later he was purchased by William R. Johnson and was “taken to Virginia.” Hope that helps.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            When racing was banned in NY, someone in England said to a visiting American ” I suppose that you have a good few villains on the American Turf?”. “none at all” came the response – “they’re all over here now”.

        • Kris

          You have them all, Bill. I emailed the Jockey Club a few years ago asking if they would publish any more in this series, alas, the answer was negative.

  • Content Generating Machine.

    Good old Funny Cide, of Sackett’s Harbour. Ray, if you ever get a chance, come up and see Sackett’s Harbour, and Alexander Bay. It is gorgeous. You can tour Boldt’s Castle, and check out the Thousand Islands.

  • Soxbills

    I made sales calls in Amsterdam, NY. One of my customers knew the grounds keeper of the Sanford farm(Hurricana Stud) long after it was closed. There were several buildings on the property, most in sever disrepair. I was taken into the larger building on the farm, and it was filled with papers of the farm’s operation. Would have luved to look at some of that. At the front of the farms were the graves, and I am talking about large tall monuments to some off their horses, wish I recorded some of that info. Sanford ran a carpet mill, with thousands of employee’s. When he took his horses to Saratoga, they walked them there, some 22 miles. He built a large barn across the street from the track, to stable his horses. Big 2 year old race, Sanford Stakes named after him. Property was up for sale for several years. Now it is a shopping mall, with a few minor buildings still standing. In fact he Stanford died on Saratoga Springs.

  • Soxbills

    And Stanford did have one Kentucky Derby winner I think he was called George Smith, he was a Kent bred, after his racing career retired to Sanford’s farm, then donated to US govt for horse duties

    • Correct, George Smith won the Derby in 1916. Sanford purchased him a year earlier, I believe, and he bought horses from elsewhere to beef up his breeding operation.

  • Mike

    Mr. Right, trained by Evan Jackson.Great New York Bred.

  • Michael Castellano

    Very cool video. Hope we get another Funny Cide soon.

  • Figless

    Thunder Rumble

  • Mark C.

    For the last eight years, the remaining barns of Hurricana Farm are being preserved led by a group named Friends of Sanford Farm. Just went to a benefit evening at the Farm. The group really would appreciate the support of the Saratoga racing community to spur the rehabilitation along. The site recently secured a historical designation which should help in securing funding.

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