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History Challenge: Sanford Stakes
Following his death Feb. 13, 1913, Stephen Sanford was called by The Thoroughbred Record “one of the main pillars of New York racing and particular patron to Saratoga.”
Less than two months later, the Saratoga Racing Association voted to change the name of its Hurricana Stakes (run for the first and only time in 1910) to the Sanford Memorial Stakes, to be run Aug. 23 that year, following the shuttering of all racing in the Empire State the previous two seasons.
The Hurricana had been named for the 1,000-acre farm in nearby Amsterdam, N.Y., founded by Sanford in 1880. Sanford named his farm for the strong winds that regularly cascade down the Mohawk Valley.
In 1884, Sanford took over Sanford Carpet Mills in Amsterdam from his father and built the business into the largest employer in the region. At its peak, the mill had as many as 2,500 employees.
Sanford entered the business of breeding and racing horses on the advice of his doctor, who said he needed an outdoor hobby to relieve stress that was causing ulcers.
For Sanford, the racing season began each year with the opening of Saratoga. His horses were walked the 28 miles from the farm to the track.
From 1903-07, Sanford held training races at his farm’s six-furlong course just prior to the opening of Saratoga. Employees at the mill were given the day off, and along with townspeople, as many as 15,000 attended the annual event.
With the 100th running of the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes (the “Memorial” was dropped in 1927) set for Saturday, July 19, test your knowledge of this historic event.
1. While the list of winners of the Sanford Stakes contains many horses who are enshrined at the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame – including the brilliant Secretariat – the race is most remembered for another chestnut colt – one who finished second. The immortal Man o’ War suffered his only defeat in the 1919 Sanford Memorial, where – after a troubled trip – he failed to run down the aptly named Upset by a diminishing half-length.
Rumors and theories about the 1919 Sanford continue to this day. No conspiracy or fix has ever been proved. But what is known is that the riders of the two horses were denied licenses by The Jockey Club the following season and never rode again. Name the two future Hall of Fame jockeys.
2. While the defeat of Man o’ War in the seventh running will always top any list of stories related to the Sanford Stakes, the winner of the second running in 1914 was a future member of the Hall of Fame whose name is well known today to followers of the sport.
Coming off a debut victory in the Saratoga Special one week earlier, this chestnut was odds-on in the Sanford, took the lead as soon as the web barrier sprung up, and led all the way “under restraint,” according to the official chart. The margin of victory was 1 1/2 lengths.
A week later, this horse wrapped up a championship by toting 127 pounds to victory in the $10,000 Hopeful Stakes, run over a track labeled “heavy.”
The champion was ridden in all three starts by future Hall of Fame inductee Joe Notter. Name the horse.
3. The winner of the 1953 Sanford Stakes was slow to develop, and when he finally found his best racing legs at age 5, it was 1956, the second season in a row that featured two of racing’s greatest stars – Swaps and Nashua. A championship was out of the question.
At age 3, this dark bay placed only once in a stakes race, finishing second in the Louisiana Derby.
His connections felt the horse was best sprinting, and in 1955, he captured the six-furlong Paumonok Handicap and the seven-furlong Carter Handicap before being sold in July to Travis M. Kerr for $150,000.
Kerr and trainer William Molter (inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1960) felt the colt had potential for longer races and began training him for stamina.
They were right. When the horse was through racing, he had captured 13 stakes, including the Santa Anita Handicap and the about-1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano Handicap on turf. Name the horse.
4. The winner of the 1960 Sanford Stakes made 18 starts as a 2-year-old and was voted national champion juvenile male. The colt he beat out for the title was Carry Back, who made 21 starts that same year and would go on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and be voted champion at age 3.
The 1960 Sanford winner, a son of the imported Turn-to, fractured both sesamoids in his left foreleg in September that year and was life-and-death for months.
He survived to become a sensation in the breeding shed. He sired a winner of the Epsom Derby and different winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. Interestingly, none of these offspring raced in the name of his owner who, herself, won all three Triple Crown races.
Name the 1960 Sanford winner and his owner.
5. In 2005, facing financial difficulties, the New York Racing Association removed the historic Sanford Stakes from the Saratoga stakes calendar. A year later, the race was revived, but NYRA filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2006.
The 2004 Sanford Stakes winner was the first horse in 27 years to capture the Sanford and go on to win a classic the following season. This fact was apparently overlooked by NYRA officials in 2005, when they made the decision not to run the historic event.
Name the colt who won the 2004 Sanford.
1. In March 1920, jockeys John Loftus, who rode Man o’ War in all 10 of his juvenile starts, and Willie Knapp, who rode Upset to his stunning win in the Sanford Memorial Stakes, both learned that The Jockey Club had denied their requests for license renewal – an annual ritual for all owners, trainers, and jockeys.
In addition to riding Man o’ War, Loftus guided Sir Barton in 1919 to victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. The rider finished what was to be his final season in the saddle winning with 37 percent of his mounts that year.
Knapp, a successful rider for almost 20 years, was nearing the end of his career and had even told those close to him that he might turn to training in 1920. He changed his mind and applied for a jockey’s license.
Both Loftus and Knapp eventually received licenses as trainers but had only moderate success.
The Jockey Club – as was customary for a half-century after its founding in 1894 – never gave any reason for its decisions. Licenses were always denied with one phrase: “for the best interests of racing.”
Whether the rumors and controversy that swirled around the Sanford Memorial Stakes were too much for The Jockey Club to ignore will never be known. But racing was just coming back from being banned nearly everywhere, and the nation in 1919 was transfixed on the infamous “Chicago Black Sox” baseball scandal. Racing could ill afford any appearance of chicanery.
Loftus was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1959; Knapp in 1969.
2. The filly Regret won all three of her starts in 1914, each time against males, and twice defeated Pebbles, who was acclaimed champion 2-year-old male.
Making her first start of 1915 in the 41st Kentucky Derby, Regret rewrote racing history by becoming the first of her sex to win what was becoming America’s most famous race. Going off as the 5-2 favorite, Regret was on top the entire trip, finishing two lengths in front of Pebbles.
Matt Winn, writing in his 1945 autobiography, “Down the Stretch,” credited Regret with cementing the Kentucky Derby as America’s premier racing event.
Certainly adding to this was the widely circulated post-race comment by Regret’s famous Eastern owner, Harry Payne Whitney: “I do not care if she never wins another race, nor if she never starts in another race. She has won the greatest race in America, and I am satisfied.”
It would be 65 years before another filly won the Louisville classic.
3. The Sanford Stakes was the only stakes win for Bobby Brocato at ages 2 and 3. After being sold to Travis Kerr (who would later campaign Hall of Fame member Round Table), Bobby Brocato began to blossom as a router.
Despite the presence on the West Coast of Swaps in 1956, Bobby Brocato shined in his seven starts during the Santa Anita season. He captured the San Pasqual, San Marcos, Santa Anita, and San Juan Capistrano handicaps and was named horse of the meeting.
In two starts at the Tanforan spring meeting, Bobby Brocato carried 130 pounds each time, winning the San Francisco Handicap, equaling the track record (1:42 1/5) for 1 1/16 miles, and the Tanforan Handicap, breaking the track record by a full second (1:47 4/5).
Unfortunately, the Hollywood Park meeting followed, and Bobby Brocato was up against the immortal Swaps in all of his five starts, losing every time but running respectably.
At the Bay Meadows fall meeting, Bobby Brocato set two more track records in winning the Election Day and Peter Clark handicaps, carrying 132 pounds in the former. In the latter, he struck one of his forefeet and was never the same again. He retired with lifetime earnings of $504,510.
4. Hail to Reason won the Youthful, Tremont, Great American, Sanford, Sapling, Hopeful, and World’s Playground stakes en route to being named champion 2-year-old male of 1960. His career on the track ended in September with a life-threatening injury.
At stud in his first crop, Hail to Reason sired five major stakes winners, including Hail to All, who won the Belmont Stakes in 1965.
Two years later, Proud Clarion, a son of Hail to Reason, captured the Kentucky Derby at 30-1, defeating future Hall of Fame member and Horse of the Year Damascus.
In 1970, Hail to Reason completed his “sire Triple Crown” when his son Personality won the Preakness Stakes on his way to being voted co-Horse of the Year.
In 1972, another son of Hail to Reason – Roberto – won the Epsom Derby and went on to become one of Europe’s preeminent sires.
Hail to Reason was bred and trained by Hall of Famer Hirsch Jacobs and raced in the name of his daughter, Patrice. In 1978, Patrice and her husband, Louis Wolfson (owners of Harbor View Farm), watched their colt Affirmed win the coveted Triple Crown.
5. Afleet Alex won the 2004 Sanford Stakes in stakes-record time of 1:09.32. Were it not for bad racing luck, he likely would have been undefeated in all six of his starts at age 2 and could have been a Triple Crown winner in 2005.
In the Kentucky Derby, Afleet Alex was beaten by one length in a race where jockey Jeremy Rose admitted that he did not give the horse the best of rides.
In the Preakness, Afleet Alex was bumped and went to his knees but recovered and won by nearly five lengths. The Florida-bred then blew the field away in the Belmont Stakes, winning by seven lengths.
Afleet Alex suffered a hairline fracture in July, and after two aborted comeback attempts, he was retired to stud. He was voted champion 3-year-old male.
Another bit of information on Loftus is he rode John Sanford's George Smith to a Kentucky Derby win in 1916....