Who Was Hollie Hughes?

Hollie Hughes at Saratoga. Photo used with the permission of Sanford Stud Farm.

Hollie Hughes at Saratoga. Photo used with the permission of Sanford Stud Farm.

It was in 2008 that I first made the historical acquaintance of Hollie Hughes, a man who devoted himself to and made a life in horse racing, a man as closely linked to one of racing’s first families as anyone could be.

In 2008, I wrote of Hughes and of Sanford Farm, the place where he began his racing career, and of the disgraceful disintegration of the farm and the valiant efforts of local people to restore the few bits of it that remain.

One can’t read—or write—about the Sanford family without mentioning Hollie Hughes, and vice versa. As Red Smith noted in a 1978 column in the New York Times, quoting Phil Bieber:

“In 1903…a skinny, pleasant lad of 15 applied for a job at the Sanford Stud Farm in Amsterdam, N.Y. His name was Hollie Hughes and he was taken on as night watchman.”

Twenty-eight years earlier the same newspaper had reported on a win by a Sanford horse at Gulfstream, Yankee Hill in the Inaugural Handicap, the author James Roach noting that Hughes had been training for the Sanfords for “half a century.”

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