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First Posted Dec 28, 2009
Jul 25, 2010

Hambletonian Harness Race and Hamiltonian 10 or Rysdyk's Hambletonian

The Hambletonian stakes is a prestigious American harness race, named in honor of Hambletonian 10 a foundation sire of the Standardbred horse breed, also known as the "Father of the American Trotter." The Hambletonian is held annually for three-year-old trotting Standardbreds. It is the most coveted North American race for trotters; among races for pacers, only the Little Brown Jug is as prestigious. The Hambletonian is the first, and most prestigious, event in the United States Trotting Triple Crown races. The Hambletonian is currently run at Meadowlands Racetrack in August.

Hamiltonian 10 or Rysdyk's Hambletonian

Hamiltonian 10

Hambletonian 10, or Rysdyk's Hambletonian, (May 5, 1849-1876) was an American trotter and sire who profoundly influenced the sport of harness racing. The stallion was born in Sugar Loaf, New York, on 5 May 1849. Hambletonian has been inducted into the Immortals category of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame.

Origin and Early Years

Hambletonian 10 bred by Jonas Seely, Jr. on his farm at Sugar Loaf in Orange County, New York. He was sired by Abdallah who was a grandson of the hugely influential Thoroughbred sire, Messenger. Abdallah was ugly in body and temperament, so much so that he was sold to a fish peddlar for $5. Hambletonian's dam was known as the Charles Kent Mare or the "Kent Mare." Hambletonian was thrice inbred to Messenger, considered a foundation sire of Standardbreds.

Seeley's hired hand, William Rysdyk, cared for the mare and foal. Rysdyk became so attached to the pair and was so convinced that the foal would someday be great that he asked to purchase them. Seeley finally agreed, and for $125 William Rysdyk took his prize possessions home.

Hambletonian had an unusual build, being low at the withers (15.1 ¼ hh) but high at the croup (15.3 ¼). This length of hind leg did, however, provide a great deal of thrust with each stride, and he passed this on to all his get.


Hambletonian 10, as he was registered, made his first public appearance at the age of six months at the nearby Orange County Fair in Goshen. He caused quite a sensation and horsemen started referring to him as "Rysdyk's Abdallah colt." This colt began his stud career at age two when Rysdyk allowed him to cover four mares. Meanwhile another son of Abdallah, Abdallah Chief, owned by Seeley C. Roe, was looming as a competitor for the local stallion honors. Roe had nothing but contempt for Hambletonian, and claimed he'd never be a trotter, only a show horse. This issue was settled in 1852 at Long Island's Union Course. Hambletonian and Abdallah Chief were hitched to skeleton wagons with their owners driving. Three minutes and three seconds after the start, Hambletonian crossed the finish line ahead of his rival. Roe still wasn't satisfied and insisted on another race. A time trial was held. Abdallah Chief went the mile in 2:55 1/2. Then Roe watched Hambletonian, in what would be the only time trial of his career, trot the mile in 2:48 1/2. Rysdyk then placed Hambletonian at stud in Chester and bred him to local mares for a fee upwards of $500. The horse's reputation quickly grew as a sire of speed, and Rysdyk made a modest fortune from the horse's services. In his years at stud, 1,331 foals were sired. From four of Hambletonian's sons (George Wilkes, Dictator, Happy Medium, and Electioneer), the lineage of virtually all American Standardbred horses can be traced.


At age 27 on March 27, 1876, Hambletonian died. Both he and his owner, who had died in 1870, were buried in Chester, N.Y. Seventeen years after Hambletonian's death a granite monument, the gift of many people who had fond memories of the horse, was placed over his grave on Hambletonian Avenue.


In 24 seasons at stud, between 1851 and 1875, Hambletonian produced about 1,335 foals. Through four Hambletonian sons, 99 percent of all of the harness racing horses in North America today trace their bloodline to him.

In the 1860s, one of his sons, Dexter, trotted the mile in 2:17.25-a record. Dexter was immediately bought for $25,000 by a Robert Bonner for his own private driving pleasure. A rigidly moral man, Bonner did not approve of racing or betting, so no one will ever know if Dexter could have trotted even faster. But ever since, no horse lacking lines to Hambletonian in their pedigree has ever done better.

The Hambletonian Stakes race, the most prestigious harness race for trotters in North America, is named in honor of Hambletonian 10.

For More Information:

Thoroughbred Heritage Portraits
Hambletonian 10
Hamiltonian Society
Sugar Loaf Historical Society

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