by Currier & Ives
A great grandson of the imported English Thoroughbred Messenger profoundly influenced the sport of harness racing. On May 5, 1849, Hambletonian was born in Sugar Loaf, N.Y. Sired by Abdallah and foaled to a horse called the Charles Kent Mare, Hambletonian and his dam were owned by Jonas Seeley. Seeley's hired hand, William Rysdyk, cared for them. 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 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.
At age 27 on March 27, 1876, Hambletonian died. Both he and his owner, who 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.
The Hambletonian bloodlines were so strong that, after a number of years, all other family lines became extinct. The lineage of nearly all American trotters and pacers can be traced to one or more of four prominent Hambletonian sons: George Wilkes, Dictator, Happy Medium, and Electioneer. Famous descendants of Hambletonian include Dexter (2:17 /¼), Lou Dillon (the first two minute trotter), Maud S., Billy Direct (1:55), Greyhound and the 1995 Hambletonian winner, Tagliabue (1:53.3).