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John Sanford (1851)

John Sanford (January 18, 1851 - September 26, 1939) was an American businessman, a prominent owner/breeder of Thoroughbred racehorses, and a member of the United States House of Representatives from New York's 20th congressional district.


Early life

John Sanford, a son of Sarah Jane Cochrane and Stephen Sanford and the grandson of John Sanford (1803) was born on January 18, 1851 in Amsterdam (city), New York and died on September 26, 1939 in Saratoga, New York. He was a descendant of Gov. Thomas Welles, the Fourth Colonial Governor of Connecticut and the transcriber of the Fundamental Orders.[1]

He attended Amsterdam Academy, and the Poughkeepsie Military Institute. He was educated at Yale College, earning a degree in 1872.


He married at Sanford, Florida, February 17, 1892, Ethel Sanford, born on September 2, 1873 at Brussels, Belgium and died in 1924 in New York City. She was a daughter of Hon. Henry Shelton Sanford and Gertrude Ellen Dupuy. Henry Shelton Sanford was the accomplished diplomat and successful businessman and founder of the city of Sanford, Florida.

John and Ethel were the parents of the following three children:

      • Stephen "Laddie" Sanford, born in Amsterdam, New York, September 15, 1899 was an American professional polo player and director of the Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company whose wife was American actress, Mary Duncan.
      • Sara Jane Sanford, born in Amsterdam, New York, November 8, 1900. She married Italian diplomat, Mario Pansa in 1937.
      • Gertrude Sanford Legendre, was born in Aiken, South Carolina, March 21, 1902, and was an American socialite who served as a spy during World War II. She was also a noted explorer, big-game hunter, environmentalist, and owner of Medway plantation in South Carolina.[2] She was inspiration for Philip Barry's 1929 play Holiday (1938 film) made into a classic movie starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.


He engaged with his father in the carpet manufacturing industry in Amsterdam, New York.

Sanford was elected as a Republican to the Fifty-first and Fifty-second Congresses (March 4, 1889-March 3, 1893). He was not a candidate for renomination in 1892. He resumed former business pursuits. He served as delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1892.

Thoroughbred horse racing

On the death of his father Stephen in 1913, John Sanford inherited Hurricana Farm. His father had been successful in racing and John Sanford would become a major figure in the industry. He raced a number of top horses and in 1916 won the Kentucky Derby with his colt, George Smith. In 1923 he became the first American to win the most prestigious steeplechase race in the world when his horse Sergeant Murphy won the English Grand National. In 1933, Sanford won the American Grand National with Best Play.

John Sanford was member of the New York Racing Commission and the Sanford Stakes, run annually at Saratoga Race Course, is named in his family's honor.

During the 1930s, John Sanford changed the Hurricana Farm name to Sanford Stud Farms. A major breeder, Sanford imported several important stallions from Europe where he owned Haras de Cheffreville in Cheffreville-Tonnencourt, France.


John Sanford died in Saratoga, New York in 1939 and was interred in the family plot in the Green Hill Cemetery in Amsterdam, New York. His once renowned breeding farm and training facility in Amsterdam has fallen into severe decay. In 2007, the "Friends of Sanford Stud Farm" was formed by a former Sanford jockey Louis F. Hildebrandt in an attempt to raise the funds necessary to restore the property.[3]



United States House of Representatives


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