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Maximilian Hirsch

Maximilian Hirsch
Induction Year: 
July 30, 1880, Fredericksburg, Texas
April 3, 1969, New Hyde Park, N.Y.
Career Years: 
Number of Winners: 

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Max Hirsch snuck aboard a train from Texas to Maryland at the age of 12 and was off to the races. He got the racing bug a couple years earlier when he was riding horses in Texas fairs. The youngster was noticed by John A. Morris and went to work at the prominent owner’s ranch. When he heard word that Morris was sending several racehorses to Baltimore, Hirsch saw an opportunity to chase his dream.


In Maryland, Morris put the young stowaway to work in his racing stable. A couple of years later, around the age of 14, Hirsch became a jockey. He won 123 races while in the irons before increasing weight derailed his riding career.


Hirsch became a trainer at the age of 20 and earned his first win in that capacity in New Orleans with a horse named Gautama. His first major victory came in the 1915 Dwyer Stakes with Norse King. Hirsch’s first great horse was Sarazen, whom he trained for Virginia Fair Vanderbilt.


For Hirsch, Sarazen won 27 of 55 starts, including back-to-back editions of the Dixie Handicap in 1925 and 1926, as well as the Carter, Manhattan and Metropolitan handicaps, among others. Hirsch said Sarazen’s 1924 victory in the International Special No. 3 over standout horses from both America and Europe was one of his favorite racing moments. In that contest, at the Latonia track in Kentucky, Sarazen defeated Belmont Stakes winner Mad Play, standout filly Princess Doreen and European star Epinard.


Hirsch enjoyed tremendous success in the Triple Crown events, sweeping the series with the King Ranch colt Assault in 1946. Hirsch also won the Kentucky Derby with Bold Venture (1936) and Middleground (1950), the Preakness with Bold Venture (1936) and the Belmont with Vito (1928), Middleground (1950), and High Gun (1954) for a total of nine wins in the American classics. All three of Hirsch’s Derby winners were owned by King Ranch.


Although records from Hirsch’s training from 1902 through 1908 are incomplete, he won a confirmed 1,933 races with purse earnings of $12,203,270 from 1909 through 1969. Hirsch’s last winner, a filly named Heartland, won the feature at Aqueduct only hours before the old master died April 3, 1969 at the age of 88.


Hirsch’s daughter, Mary, who married racing official Charles J. McLennan, became the first woman to be granted a trainer’s license. Two of Hirsch’s sons also became trainers. One of them, William J. “Buddy” Hirsch, succeeded his father as the trainer for King Ranch and was also inducted into the Hall of Fame.