Thomas Hitchcock, Sr.

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Thomas Hitchcock, Sr.
Occupation Trainer
Born November 23, 1860
Westbury, New York, United States
Died September 29, 1941
Major racing wins, honours and awards
Major racing wins
Adirondack Stakes (1906)
Saratoga Special Stakes (1906)
American Grand National Steeplechase
(1906, 1938)
Honours
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (1973)
Significant horses
Salvidere, Good and Plenty, Annibal

Thomas Hitchcock (November 23, 1860 - September 29, 1941) was one of the leading American polo players during the latter part of the 19th century and a Hall of Fame horse trainer and owner known as the father of American steeplechase horse racing.

Biography[edit]

He was born on November 23, 1860 in Westbury, New York, his father had been involved in the newspaper business with Charles Anderson Dana. In 1891 he married Louise Mary Eustis of Washington, D.C. She was the daughter of George Eustis, Jr. and Louise Corcoran Eustis (of the Corcoran Family of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Riggs Bank fame). They had two sons, Tommy Hitchcock, Jr. and Francis Center Eustis Hitchcock, and two daughters, Celestine Eustis Hitchcock, who married New York City architect Julian L. Peabody and died with him in the marine disaster, the sinking of the S.S. Mohawk off the coast of New Jersey in January 1935; and Helen Hitchcock who married Averell Clark, also of New York City.

Thomas Hitchcock was a key figure in developing the sport of polo in the United States. In 1877 he and his friend August Belmont, Jr. were part of the group that organized the first polo match on Long Island, New York, played on the infield of the racetrack at the Mineola, New York, Fair Grounds. One of the first 10-goal players in the U.S., Hitchcock's efforts resulted in the 1881 formation of Long Island's Meadowbrook Polo Club. In 1886 he was a member of the United States team in the first International Polo Match that played for the Westchester Cup. A polo player herself, and the founder in the year 1916 of the Aiken Preparatory School, Louise Eustis Hitchcock had her sons playing polo as soon as they were old enough to swing a mallet. She also helped family friend Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney to learn the game. Son, Tommy Jr., would become a polo player who is considered by many expert observers as the greatest to have ever played the game.

Thomas Hitchcock and his wife spent virtually every winter at their 3,000-acre (12 km2) estate in Aiken, South Carolina where in 1892 he founded the Palmetto Golf Club. At that time, the city served as a winter playground for many of the country's wealthiest families such the Vanderbilts and the Whitneys. The Hitchcocks built a steeplechase training track on their Aiken property and trained young thoroughbred horses imported from England. Fond of fox hunting, they also established the Aiken Hounds and in 1916 received official recognition from the Masters of Foxhounds Association of North America. As an owner and trainer of racehorses, in 1895 Thomas Hitchcock began a career that would last for 47 years until his death in 1941. In flat racing his colt Salvidere earned American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt honors. However, he had even greater success in steeplechasing. He was the owner or trainer of a number of top horses including the Hall of Fame gelding Good and Plenty with whom he won the 1906 American Grand National.

Elder brother, Francis R. Hitchcock was a thoroughbred owner/breeder in both the United States and in France and was a member of the Board of Stewards of The Jockey Club for thirty-one years. [1]

Thomas Hitchcock died in 1941.

Legacy[edit]

Following its formation, in 1973 Thomas Hitchcock was inducted posthumously in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and in 2002 into the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame.

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