By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The Sanford Stakes at Saratoga Race Course is already a special day for Amsterdam mogul Stephen Sanford's descendants, and the local group trying to keep the memory of his racing contributions alive.
On Sunday, though, the 99th run marked a two-pronged milestone that will charge them in preparing for next year's benchmark -- not only has it been 100 years since Sanford passed, but what's left of his thoroughbred racing farm in the town of Amsterdam was included in the State and National Registers of Historic Places just two months ago.
"The inclusion to the registry was huge, and well-deserved," said Sanford's great-great grandson Pierre Manigault, who credited the Friends of the Sanford Stud Farm in its efforts to preserve the farm. "It's not only an honor to the farm and my great-great grandfather's legacy, but to the town of Amsterdam, too."
Sanford, owner of the former Amsterdam carpet business that employed 25 percent of the city's population at its height, started what's referred to as the Hurricana Stud Farm in 1880. At its greatest extent, Hurricana spanned approximately 800 contiguous acres and possibly as much as 200 additional noncontiguous acres in the town and city of Amsterdam, according to the register.
Sanford and his son John Sanford were the first to successfully breed thoroughbred horses in this section of the country, the registry says. The farm housed 10 stallions and 50 mares at a time, producing between 25 and 40 foals a year.
Sanford, who raced thoroughbreds under the purple and gold colors of Hurricana Farm, first brought horses to Saratoga in 1880, and, from its home base in Amsterdam, remained one of the venerable track's most prominent names for generations.
The Sanford Stakes first ran in 1913, the year of his death, and has been a fixture of the Saratoga track season every year since, save for a one-year hiatus in 2005.
Though there are no longer Sanford descendants in the Amsterdam area, relatives traditionally come back to celebrate the race with the Friends, the nonprofit group dedicated to preserving what is left of Sanford's farm on Route 30 in the town of Amsterdam.
Manigault joins the Friends every year for their annual Sanford Stakes Day "Lunch at the Track," and as he has done the past several years, presented the trophy to the winner of the race.
Both Manigault, Friends President Scott Friers and past president Louis F. "Sam" Hildebrandt say they're gearing up for the 100th run next year, and hope to have some special events and features to commemorate it.
That includes attempts to establish a temporary display to honor the Sanford Stakes at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, just across from the Saratoga Racetrack.
Friers said the Friends will make a marked push to increase awareness of Sanford's contributions to the racing industry, and of the farm's history.
"People who aren't from around here, or maybe the younger generations don't know the significance of the Sanford name," Friers said. "They just look and see a barn -- but it's obviously so much more. We just need to get people there."