Hugh A. "Andy" Grant, Jr., former president of the Hambletonian Society, whose steady hand and unwavering dedication guided the fortunes of the Hambletonian, the most important harness racing trotting race in North America, passed away on Wednesday, January 25. He was 68.
Grant joined the board of the Hambletonian Society, formed in 1926 to promote and encourage the Standardbred breed, in 1978. Over his next 30 years on the board he served as president and chief executive officer (1985-1998), and then chairman of the executive committee (1998-2008). He assumed emeriti status in 2009. Grant’s influence on the Society, which owns and administers harness racing's most important events across North America, can not be underestimated.
“The history of the Hambletonian is virtually the history of the modern trotting horse. Since its inception in 1926, the Hambletonian has been the proving ground for the best of our breed,” said Grant in a 1990 article. “From this race have come many of our best stallions and mares, and they, in turn, have improved the breed through their sons and daughters.”
When Grant first joined the Society board, the Hambletonian was moved from the fairgrounds of DuQuoin, Illinois to the East Rutherford, NJ oval of the Meadowlands, where the sport of harness racing was enjoying explosive growth. Though the move at the time was not popular with traditionalists, the Hambletonian purse and profile grew exponentially at the Meadowlands, reaching a high of $1.7 million and attracting more than 25,000 spectators annually.
Grant was instrumental in fostering and continuing the relationship with The Meadowlands and the New Jersey Sports And Exposition Authority in positioning the Hambletonian as the international event it remains today. Under his tenure the race also secured a $1 million sponsorship partnership with Cadillac.
He also expanded both the board and its role in guiding the future of harness racing. In 1984 the Society started the Breeders Crown, a series of year-end championship races that remain the defining event in divisional honors, providing unprecedented television media and sponsorship coverage for harness racing. The Hambletonian and Breeders Crown series are just two of the more than 120 stake races and events the Society administers annually.
“Andy Grant was a visionary for the Hambletonian Society and the sport of harness racing,” said Tom Charters the current president & C.E.O. of the Society. “He recognized the larger role and responsibility for the Society within the harness sport and all of horse racing as well. He was constantly concerned about the well being and challenges for the industry. There is nothing that we have achieved in the past three decades that doesn’t bear his positive influence or guidance. He will be remembered as one of the great leaders of the modern era and dear friend and mentor to all of us.”
Grant was born into the business of racing. His father, the late western Pennsylvania oilman, sportsman and philanthropist Hugh A. Grant Sr. owned both Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds. Grant always recalled his father’s rare distaff double in 1960, winning thoroughbred’s racing’s Black-Eyed Susan with Airman’s Guide and the Messenger with pacer Countess Adios on the same day.
During his high school years Andy worked as caretaker in Hall of Famer Delvin Miller’s stable, and eventually joined the amateur driver circuit while attending Georgetown University. He held no illusions about his driving talents though and permanently traded in his driving colors for a suit and tie, joining the NY stock exchange in 1962. He managed to combine the world of finance and his love of racing in 1975, founding the Manhattan-based Bradford Bloodstock, Inc., named for his hometown of Bradford, Pennsylvania.
The agency bought and sold bloodstock, negotiated private sales and limited partnerships, syndicated stallions and was a major force at yearling sales and auctions. Grant syndicated such stand out stallions as, Bonefish, Tyler B, and Speed In Action, who he also raced in partnership. The great trotting mare Delmonica Hanover was sold three separate times through Bradford Bloodstock.
“Andy was an excellent judge of a horse’s ability and worth in the marketplace,” said Randy Manges who worked for Bradford Bloodstock for 12 years and enjoyed a lifelong friendship with Grant. “He was a man of class and integrity, and his word or handshake was as binding as any contract.”
Grant continued the blue-blooded broodmare band his father started, and the racing record books are studded with champions bearing the “Tarport” surname. Among hundreds of winning horses owned by Grant were Breeders Crown winner Cheery Hello; Hambletonian Oaks winner Dance Spell; top pacing mares Tarport Hap and Kris Messenger (whose foals subsequently earned more than $1 million), trotting stand-outs Tarport Lizzy, Tarport Frenzy and Tarport Bridget and the aforementionedand Tyler B.
He bred solely or in partnership such recent champions as Mister Apples ($663,193), as well as Hambletonian Oaks winner Park Avenue Kathy, Breeders Crown winner King Conch, and top performers like Deliberate Speed and Mark Johnathan.
In addition to his tenure on the Hambletonian Society board, Grant also served as a director of the U.S. Trotting Association, representing downstate New York, from 1980 through 1985. He was a past president of the Grand Circuit, on the board of North American Harness Racing & Marketing Association, was a trustee of the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame as well as a member of the Hall of Fame screening committee, and an avid collector of racing art and memorabilia. He was voted the Proximity award by the U.S. Harness Writers in 1988 and twice bestowed honorary status in the writer’s organization in 1976 and 1990.
Grant was enshrined in Harness Racing’s Living Hall of Fame in 1992.
He is survived by his wife Patricia, his children Leslie Grant Ritten (Peter), Caroline Grant Porter (Josh) and H. Andrew Grant III (David), sister Kathleen G. Flintoft and two granddaughters Brett Ritten and Elsa Porter.
There will be memorial service on Tuesday, January 31 at 1:30 pm at: Frank E. Campbell -- The Funeral Chapel, 1076 Madison Avenue at 81st Street, New York City, N.Y.10028.
Visitation hours will be at The Funeral Chapel on Monday evening from 5:00 to 8:00.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be sent either to: Head & Neck Cancer Research Program at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, New York, N.Y.; Georgetown Preparatory School, Garrett Park, Md.; or the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, Goshen, N.Y.