Sanford Stud Farm
The history of this farm and Saratoga Race Course are closely woven together. Located just north of Amsterdam, New York, three generations of the Sanford family bred and raced some of the country's best horses beginning in the 1870's. On the Oklahoma side of the barn area is a section named “Sanford Court” in honor of the farm. The Sanford Stakes is still run today (the only loss for the great Man O' War by a horse aptly named Upset). I visited the few remaining buildings and took this reference photo of what were once the mare and foal barns, adding my own horses and grooms in period dress from my imagination. It's said that the horses were walked from the farm to the race track...about twenty-six miles...and people would line the streets to watch them go by.
Circa 1910's, notice the paddock is comprised of gentlemen only, all wearing straw-type hats (very in-style) as they observe the horses entering for saddling. African-American grooms walk their charges through thick grass with no gravel paths such as those that exist today. The trees in front of the stalls are mostly gone now, and the few that remain are fairly large. The red and white striped awnings were added much later.Harrowing the Track
Before it was mechanized with tractors, the harrows that comb the surface of the track between races were pulled by draft horses. The starting gate was also moved around the track with teams of horses. Many years ago when I was a young teenager, my dad would take me to Narragansett Park in Rhode Island and I remember being awe-struck by the massive size of these reliable horses. Take note of the trees in the infield. Most are gone now but there are a few left that have grown huge and momentarily block out the field of horses from the cameras as they race down the backstretch.
The Loose HorseThis is my take on a drawing that appeared in the Daily Graphic newspaper in 1877. Long before photography became a staple tool in news reporting, illustrators had to quickly sketch out the day's events. Note how all the horses are all in the same extended stride and the two horses with riders behind the loose horse were drawn much smaller, a means of creating spacial perspective. I think these artists did a great job back then, drawing quickly and effectively to capture the essence of a story.
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