It used to be that, if you blinked at the traffic light, you might think that you'd dozed off and driven to Saratoga in your sleep. East of Route 30 near the Amsterdam-Perth border, a wooden-railed full-size race track curved off toward Hagaman. For what seemed like100 yards, a white wooden barn followed its arc. There was a second mansard-roofed, two story barn topped by a cupola at either end, a three decker barn which could have held a cavalry brigade, a Greek Revival caretaker's house, and acres of pasture. But the most intriguing sight was the row of centotaphs between the curved barn and the shoulder of Route 30. Tall as an adult, these stakes victory memorials were a racehorse cemetary to a child's eye. From at least the 1960s, the oddest feature of the scene was that, although the pastures were neatly mowed, the track cleanly raked, and the buildings gleamed with fresh white paint, there was never a sign of man or horse.

The farm of phantoms was sometimes known as the Hurricana Stock Farm, sometimes as the Sanford Stable after its original owners, the proprietors of the largest mills in "The Carpet City". One account states that John Sanford got involved in high-stakes thoroughbred racing after a doctor recommended that he find a respite from the stress of the business world! He assembled his farm from five properties which encompassed about 1,100 acres.

The Hurricana Farm was home to George Smith, the bluegrass-bred stallion who won the 1916 Kentucky Derby in a record 2:04 with Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Loftus up. Another Racing Hall of Fame member with ties to the farm was George Smith's trainer Hollie Hughes, who worked with the Sanford Stable horses for over 70 years.

It is said that the Sanford Stable's horses were sometimes walked from the farm to Saratoga. Today Saratoga still commemorates the Sanford 's stable with the "Sanford Stakes". The Sanford has been won by such notable champions as Secretariat (1972), but its most famous moment involved a defeat. In 1919, Man O' War circled restlessly after 5 false starts and was sideways to the starting line when the race began. Despite being boxed on the rail, he made up all the lost ground but a half-length. This only defeat in a 21 race career was to a horse prophetically named "Upset".


The observation tower at the left has been gone for years, but through the late 1980s, it seemed as if the rest of the Hurricana Farm would continue in its preserved under glass state. Then a carpet of shopping centers and big box stores with enormous parking lots began unrolling from the Perth line. By the mid-1990s, asphalt had breached the northern border of the farm. The track and marvelous curved barn vanished first, along with the "horse tombstones". There was talk that the mansard-roofed and cupola-ed barn behind the tower would be preserved, but it disappeared about two years ago.

By the summer of 2002, the three-decker broodmare barn was the only surviving structure from the postcard to the left. Although the barn has been donated to the Town of Amsterdam for preservation, it is being encircled by retail buildings, such as the store whose sidewall is visible at the extreme left in the photograph.

-Moe Hawk (with great assistance from Jerry Snyder)



Image By Jerry Snyder