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Hollie Hughes

Hollie Hughes
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  Hollie Hughes was born on a small farm near Amsterdam, N.Y., in 1888. For more than 70 years, Hughes was associated with the Sanford family of New York and their racing operation.

  At 15, Hughes went to work for Gen. Stephen Sanford’s Hurricana Stud, and later became the trainer for Gen. Sanford’s son, John, and his grandson, Stephen. At a time when steeplechasing was a highly visible part of the sport, Hughes sent out Sanford jumpers to win all of the important steeplechase races, including the American Grand National six times, with Tourist in 1930 and 1932, Best Play (1933), Snap Back (1935), and Sun Dog (1959 and 1960).

  Hughes was a regular at Saratoga Race Course for more than 60 years. In his early days of training for the Sanfords, Hughes would personally escort horses from Amsterdam to Saratoga Springs.

  “It was 28 miles from Amsterdam to Saratoga and we left the farm in a long procession of horses at 1 a.m. a day or two before the meeting was to open,” Hughes told The Saratogian in 1978. “By 5 a.m., we were in West Milton, where we fed and watered the horses and gave them a brief rest. We had a bit of breakfast, too, and then proceeded. We reached Saratoga between 10 and 11 a.m. Then, having put the horses in their stalls, we walked home.”

  Hughes won his first race in 1914 at Saratoga, and two years later conditioned Kentucky Derby winner George Smith. In 1918, Hughes sent out George Smith, under 130 pounds, to defeat Derby winners Exterminator and Omar Khayyam, who were carrying 10 and 15 pounds less, respectively, in the Bowie Handicap. Hughes later stated that George Smith “was the greatest horse I ever put my hands on.”

  Hughes also won the 1949 Whitney Handicap and more than 20 stakes overall. He retired from training in 1975 at the age of 87.
  Hollie Hughes was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1973.