By ADAM SHINDER
Recorder Sports Staff
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- With every passing year, the Sanford Stakes brings an even greater swell of memories for Landine Sanford Manigault.
Manigault, the great-granddaughter of Stephen Sanford, presented the winner's trophy Sunday at the 97th running of the race named in the family patriarch's honor, and said she was thrilled to return to the track that has played such a central role in the history of perhaps Amsterdam's most notable family
"I used to come here for years with my grandfather and my uncle, Laddie Sanford, almost all my life," said Manigault.
She was at the Spa again Sunday, representing the family for the race that was first run in 1913, the year of Stephen Sanford's death, and has been a fixture of the Saratoga season every year since, save for a one-year hiatus in 2005. The Sanford family, which raced thoroughbreds under the 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.
Even now, 98 year's after Sanford's death, it's a connection that Manigault and the rest of her family are proud to keep alive.
"It's a nice connection. It is wonderful," she said. "I'm glad I'm here, thoroughly, and I think Saratoga continues to be the prettiest race course in the country."
However, the family is far from the only driving force in keeping the Sanford name alive and well, both in Amsterdam and at Saratoga. The Friends of Sanford Stud Farm are dedicated to the preservation of the Sanford legacy and of the farm's broodmare barn that still sits on Route 30.
The Friends of Sanford Stud Farm, led by president Louis F. "Sam" Hildebrandt, were at the Spa once again for their annual Sanford Stakes Day "Lunch at the Track," and Manigault was proud to sing the praises of the organization for their efforts.
"I think that Sam Hildebrant and the Friends of the Stud [Farm] are doing a super job, I really do," Manigault said.
After presenting Mike Repole and John Velazquez, the owner and jockey of Sanford winner Overdriven, with the silver trophy, Manigault said that she was committed to keeping the family tradition alive and well at Saratoga, especially with two milestone dates approaching in the near future -- the 100th anniversary of Stephen Sanford's death in 2013, and the 100th running of the Sanford a year later.
"When we get to the 100th, it'll be really extraordinary," Manigault said.
The Sanford Stakes wasn't the only event to bring a little local flavor to Saratoga's opening Sunday, however. The day also marked the conclusion of the opening weekend's "Hats Off to Saratoga" festival, and two locals took home prizes in the 20th annual hat contest - a tribute to both the sublime and the esoteric. Carol Slezak of Amsterdam took home third place in the "Uniquely Saratoga" competition for the most original headgear, while Lori Mott of Fort Johnson was awarded third in the "Fashionably Saratoga" contest for the most stylish hat.