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Major Theft at National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame

Betty Flood and Katlin Nash | September 12th, 2013

1903 Belmont Stakes trophy, won by Africander.


1903 Brighton Cup trophy, won by Hermis.


1923 Grand National Steeplechase trophy, won by Sergeant Murphy.


1914 Brook Cup Handicap Steeplechase trophy, won by Compliment.


1905 Saratoga Special trophy, won by Mohawk II.

Five historical trophies were stolen during a three-minute burglary at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York, on September 12. The trophies were held in two separate cases. Two were taken from one case and three from another. The cases were located in two separate areas of the museum.

According to museum officials, the lone thief first hit the Steeplechase Gallery, taking the 1914 Brook Cup Handicap Steeplechase trophy and the 1923 Grand National Steeplechase trophy. The thief, “dressed as a ninja,” then entered the Civil War Gallery and took the 1903 Belmont Stakes trophy, the 1903 Brighton Cup, and the 1905 Saratoga Special trophy.

The 1914 Brook Cup Handicap Steeplechase trophy was won by Compliment at Belmont Race Course. The 18k gold trophy, made by Howard & Co., measured 16½" tall and weighed 88.9 ounces. The 1903 Belmont Stakes trophy was won by Africander. The silver trophy was made by Tiffany & Co. and featured semiprecious stones. The trophy’s measurements were not available, according to the museum spokesman. The 1903 ­Brighton Cup, won by Hermis at Aintree in England, was made of 18k gold, measured 14¾" tall, and weighed 35 ounces. The 1905 Saratoga Special was won by Mohawk II, owned by John Sanford of Amsterdam. The 18k gold trophy, made by Gorham & Co., measured 15¼" tall and weighed 76 ounces.

Perhaps the most significant and notable of the trophies was the sterling silver Grand National Steeplechase trophy, won in 1923 by Sergeant Murphy, owned by Stephen “Laddie” Sanford. It was the largest of the five, weighing 248 ounces.

The museum is trying to determine the exact value of the trophies. According to the museum’s director, Christopher Dragone, an appraisal of the “lost items will not reflect the unique history of each. These trophies are irreplaceable. We are ­saddened by this unfortunate event and hopeful that the investigation leads to the individual or individuals who committed this crime and return of the trophies.”

A reward of $20,000 is being offered by the StarNet Insurance Company for information leading to an arrest and conviction, and to recovery of the trophies.

The museum has more than 16 surveillance cameras, according to Lieutenant John Catone of the Saratoga Springs Police Department. Catone said he thought the suspect had spent time in the museum, either recently or over a period of time. “My guess is he is targeting them [the trophies] because of the gold. I do not believe this was a drug- ­fueled robbery,” he said.

Catone said the individual wore dark clothing. A more detailed description was unavailable pending the review of the video. The individual escaped with the stolen trophies in a duffle bag.

Brien Bouyea, a spokesperson for the museum, said, “There were similarities between the break-in at National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs and a burglary on December 17 or 18, 2012, at the National Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, New York.”

Thieves at the Goshen Museum targeted a display case containing a sterling silver Fabergé soup tureen and ladle, the Memphis Gold Challenge Cup, the gold Weaver Loving Cup, and a Tiffany basket-shaped bowl inscribed “Worthy Chief.” The sterling silver Fabergé soup tureen and ladle were given to an American by Czar Nicholas II of Russia in 1912. Ten other trophies dating from 1895 to 1946 were also stolen.

There is a $10,000 reward offered for information leading to the return of the Fabergé tureen and the Memphis Gold Challenge Cup.

Bouyea said, “None of the harness racing museum items have been recovered. We have contacted our insurance companies and appraisers as well as the F.B.I.”

Lieutenant Catone said, “The city police intend to publicize the burglary nationwide with hope it will turn up a lead.” Any information or questions should be directed to the Saratoga Springs Police Department through Investigator Laura Emanatian at (518) 584-1800, ext. 3402 or Investigator James Bell at (518) 584-1800, ext. 3492.

Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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