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Hollie Hughes

Hollie Hughes
Induction Year: 
Oct. 16, 1888, Amsterdam, N.Y.
Jan. 9, 1981, East Rockaway, N.Y.
Career Years: 

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Born on a small farm near Amsterdam, N.Y., Hollie Hughes was associated with the Sanford family’s prolific racing operation for more than 70 years. In 1903, at the age of 15, Hughes went to work for Gen. Stephen Sanford’s Hurricana Stud, and later trained for his son, John, and grandson, Stephen “Laddie” Sanford.


Hughes reflected on his early days with the Sanfords in a 1978 article he wrote for The Saratogian.


“The first time I visited Saratoga, I got there by walking. I was 15 years old and since I was on summer vacation from school in Amsterdam, I wanted to make a few dollars,” Hughes wrote. “Sanford Stud Farm hired a number of young boys to walk horses in the racing stable from Amsterdam to Saratoga for the August meeting. A friend of mind was working for Sanford Stud as an exercise boy and he submitted my name. I was one of those hired.


“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. 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.”


Once he became a licensed trainer, Hughes enjoyed success with both steeplechasers and flat horses. He won the American Grand National six times: with Tourist II in 1930 and 1932; Best Play in 1933; Snap Back in 1935; and Sun Dog in 1959 and 1960. Hughes also trained standout jumpers Golden Meadow, Fulton, Dartmooor, Tremere, and Oneida.


For John Sanford, Hughes trained George Smith, winner of the 1916 Kentucky Derby, who later won the Bowie Handicap, defeating Kentucky Derby winners Omar Khayyam and Exterminator. For Laddie Sanford, Hughes conditioned Round Pond, winner of the Flamingo, Royal Palm, Monmouth, and Whitney handicaps. Another Hughes standout was Rafty, winner of the Sussex Turf and Bowling Green handicaps.


Hughes retired from training in 1975. Two years earlier, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. At the ceremony, Hughes recalled his humble beginnings in the sport.


“It’s been a long time coming, but it’s still a surprise,” Hughes said. “I knew when I walked from Amsterdam to Saratoga in 1903 that I’d amount to something here someday.”