The BackPage

This massive monument pays homage to the patriarch of a great equine dynasty. Do you know where in the Hudson Valley it is?



The BackPage

 

Where in the Hudson Valley…?

 

Thoroughbred Tomb 

 

By A.J. Loftin

 

 

Standing more than three stories high, this imposing granite obelisk might have been erected for a U.S. president, or a captain of industry. But no: It’s all about a horse.

Not just any horse, of course, but a world-class trotter. The great Hambletonian, who died in 1876 at the ripe old age (by equine standards) of 27, sired 1,331 foals with champion bloodlines. The Hambletonian bloodlines proved so strong, in fact, that other family lines became extinct. And today, nearly all American trotters and pacers can be traced to one or more of Hambletonian’s sons.

 

A great-grandson of the imported English thoroughbred Messenger, Hambletonian was born in Sugar Loaf in 1849. His owner, Jonas Seeley, had a hired hand, William Rysdyk, who became so attached to the foal that he begged Seeley to sell it to him. Big mistake on Seeley’s part. Rysdyk paid $125 for the horse that would later make him a fortune in stud fees, at $500 a pop.

 

Hambletonian 10, as the trotter was registered, made his first public appearance at the Orange County Fair in Goshen. Even at six months of age he caused quite a stir. A rival breeder quickly challenged Hambletonian to a one-mile race against his stallion, Abdallah Chief, with the two owners driving skeleton wagons on a course in Long Island. Needless to say, Abdallah Chief lost. The sore loser insisted on another race and lost again, this time by seven whole seconds.

 

Many portraits of Hambletonian were created during his lifetime; the famed horse artist George Stubbs did an oil painting, and Currier and Ives issued a well-known print showing Hambletonian with his owner. Upon the death of this splendid creature, Rysdyk buried him in a coffin in his backyard. A number of years later, the National Association of Trotting Horse Breeders decided that a monument would be more fitting, and 81 donors gladly contributed to the fund. A formal dedication at the graveside took place in 1893. The association even sprang for an ornate wrought-iron fence.

 

Have you seen this monument? If so, E-mail us at edit@hvmag.com. The first person to name the correct location (street and town) wins a prize.

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