Focus on History: Kentucky Derby winners with Amsterdam ties


Two different Amsterdam industrialists owned Kentucky Derby winners. The horses were named George Smith and Clyde Van Dusen. 

George Smith was named for popular gambler and racing handicapper George Elsworth Smith, who died in 1905 from tuberculosis

John Sanford of Amsterdam had not bred the Kentucky Derby winner but purchased the horse in 1915. 

The Sanfords operated one of Amsterdam’s largest carpet-making factories.  John Sanford’s father Stephen made a fortune with his mills and founded the family’s horse farm.  An organization called Friends of the Sanford Stud Farm is working to preserve buildings remaining from the once massive spread on Route 30.  The location in the town of Amsterdam is a regional shopping mecca today.

George Smith’s trainer, Hollie Hughes, was serving in the U.S. Army when the horse won the 1916 Derby.  Hughes was chief trainer for the Sanfords for many years and has been inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame.

In the Derby, George Smith, with jockey Johnny Loftus in the saddle, won by a neck over Star Hawk on a clear day.  George Smith later was used for stud at Sanford’s farm, producing no famous offspring.  Sanford donated the horse to the Jockey Club’s Breeding Bureau in 1926 and he ultimately ended up siring horses for the U.S. Army.

Years later Hughes found a horse named Snob that he thought would also have a chance in the Derby.  John Sanford was not interested saying, “I won one Kentucky Derby. I have no desire to win another.”


The 1929 Kentucky Derby winner was a gelding named Clyde Van Dusen, the first male offspring of Man of War.  With Linus “Pony” McAtee in the saddle, Clyde Van Dusen beat 20 other horses on a muddy track. The next gelding to win the Derby was Saratoga’s Funny Cide in 2003.

Amsterdam broom mill proprietor Herbert Gardner owned the Kentucky-bred Clyde Van Dusen.  Gardner lived at 301 Guy Park Avenue and had a horse track and farm off Golf Course Road in the town of Amsterdam, behind the current location of a Fort Johnson fire station.

Brothers William and Herbert Gardner operated their broom factory on Chuctanunda Hill, a street running from Church to Grove streets on the east side of the Chuctanunda Creek.

The horse was named for his Kentucky trainer, Clyde Van Dusen. The animal spent his later years as an exercise horse for his human namesake who went on to be a horse trainer in California.

Van Dusen, a former jockey, said, “Clyde is a little horse, and that is why Mr. Gardner named him after me.”

No trophy was awarded in 1916 for George Smith’s Derby victory.  Trophies first appeared in the 1922 Derby and the first Derby Gold Cup, as it is called, was presented in 1924 to Rosa Hoots, owner of Black Gold.

Presumably the 1929 Derby gold cup was presented to the owner of the winner, Herbert Gardner.

In 2008 curator Jay Ferguson from the Kentucky Derby Museum made a number of unsuccessful inquiries in an effort to locate the trophy awarded Herbert Gardner for Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.

Ferguson told The Daily Gazette in 2008 that he believes Herbert Gardner had financial reverses and the trophy ended up with his brother William, who was mayor of Amsterdam in two non-consecutive terms.  Ferguson thought the trophy may have been passed on to William Gardner’s heirs.

When asked about the location of Clyde Van Dusen’s trophy, museum director of communications Rachel Collier said this month, “Yes, as far as we know, the trophy in question is still unaccounted for.”


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