Wizard of the Race Track
Hirsch, the dean of American horse trainers, sat in the clubhouse
at Belmont Park on Long Island, New York and reminisced about his
first race as a jockey. It was a Sunday afternoon match race down
Main Street in Fredericksburg,
Texas - from Maier Corner to the Buckhorn Saloon (where Security
State Bank now stands). The horses and riders had to dodge the Vereins
Kirche that at the time was in the middle of the street.
"Sundays were something in Fredericksburg
in those days," Hirsch recalled. So many people "you couldn't stir
'em with a stick."
Maximillian Justice Hirsch was born in Fredericksburg,
Texas on July 3, 1880. His parents were Jacob and Mary Neffendorf
Max Hirsch loved horses, and at age 12 he became an exercise boy at
Ranch, 12 miles southwest of Fredericksburg
on the Pedernales
River. At the time Morris
Ranch was one of the premier thoroughbred training facilities
in the country.
| Old horse barn
April 2016 photo © Michael Barr
|By age 14 Hirsch
was a jockey. Over the next six years he rode 123 winners.
At age 20, Hirsch switched to training horses. In his storied career
he trained three Kentucky Derby winners: Bold Venture (1936), Assault
(1946), and Middle-ground (1950). His horses also won the Preakness
once and the Belmont Stakes four times.
The Klebergs, owners of the King Ranch in South Texas, hired Hirsch
to train their horses, and he built the King Ranch stables into a
world racing powerhouse. Assault, a three-year-old owned by the King
Ranch and trained by Max Hirsch, won the triple-crown in 1946.
Hirsch holding Assault. Eddie Arcaro aboard.
spanned seven decades, and his ability as a horse trainer brought
him fame throughout the world. His horses won 1,933 races and over
His knowledge of horses was legendary. Anyone headed to the betting
window sought his advice.
On July 4, 1921, Hirsch entered Sidereal, a horse that had never won,
in a race at Saratoga. In a casual conversation with Arnold Rothstein,
the mobster who fixed the 1919 World Series, Hirsch predicted that
his horse was ready to win.
Betters did not agree. Odds makers put his chances of winning at 30
But Rothstein knew a tip from Max Hirsch was gospel. Sidereal won,
and Rothstein picked up $770,000.
Hirsch was inducted into to the National Museum of Racing and Hall
of Fame in 1959. Sports Illustrated Magazine called him "inestimable,
incomparable, and indescribable."
Courtesy Fredericksburg Standard
| Max Hirsch was
still training horses when he died on April 3, 1969.
Even at the height of his fame, Hirsch returned to Fredericksburg
to see his family whenever he could. His brother, Henry Hirsch, was
the County Judge of Gillespie
His relatives still live in Fredericksburg
and the Texas Hill
© Michael Barr
1, 2016 Column
New York Times, July 13, 1956."Max Hirsch, 76, Honored at Dinner."
Fredericksburg Standard, February 6, 1946, p1. "Max Hirsch, Noted
Horse Trainer, Here for Brief Visit with Local Relatives."
Sports Illustrated Magazine, June 29, 1959.
The Ghosts of Morris Ranch
by Michael Barr
Healer and Winner by Clay Coppedge
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