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Thursday Thoughts: The Max Hempt Connection

by Al Cimaglia

June 28, 2018

This Saturday there will be four major stake races set to roll at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The headliners are, the $300,000 James Lynch Final for 3-year-old pacers, the $500,000 Ben Franklin free-for-all for pacers, the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Trot for 3-year-olds and the $500,000 Max Hempt Final for 3-year-old pacers. Some of the finest standardbreds in North America will be battling for a share of $1.8 million in purses.

I can't tell you why, but the name Max Hempt fascinated me. I have heard the name in the past and decided to do a little research with the help of harnessmuseum.com. Next time you hear Keystone or Adios as a prefix in a name of a standardbred, you will understand why Max Hempt has a $500,000 stake race named in his honor.

Max Hempt was a Pennsylvania native born in 1919 and began breeding standardbreds in 1942. He was the chief operating officer in Hempt Brothers Inc. and was the founder of the West Shore Polo Club. His father George L. Hempt introduced Max to harness racing as he owned and operated a stable in the 1930's and 1940's. In 1942 George Hempt died, it was then Max started his own breeding stable, as he took three of his father's brood mares and the results were outstanding. Max was able to send yearlings to sales for the next five decades.

World Champion and 1954 Horse of the Year Stenographer was bred and owned by Hempt Farms. Stenographer was the cornerstone for success that followed year after year. She was the dam of Keystone Spartan and the mare Keystone Selene, the offspring of those two sired many top trotters. Hempt Farms was also the home of top producers Keystone Ore, Defiant Yankee and Hambletonian winners Speed Bowl and Harlan Dean.

Keystone Pioneer, Keystone Patriot, Keystone Harem and the 1976 Horse of the Year Keystone Orr were all bred by Hempt Farms. All those mentioned above were winners of at least $1,000,000 in purse money. In the 1950's Max was also involved with Hanover Shoe Farms and Delvin Miller as they formed a partnership and bred the great stallion Adios. Before Adios died in 1965, he had sired 589 offspring.

Max wore many hats in the harness racing industry. Besides being a breeder, he was also a trainer and amateur driver. Max was the President of the Hambletonian Society for 18 years. He was a USTA Director from Pennsylvania for 21 years and was a Vice-President and Trustee of the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. Max was elected to the Living Hall of Fame in 1979.

Max Hempt died on May 23, 1999 at the age of 79. From now on, I'll understand the connection with Max whenever I hear Keystone or Adios as part of the name for a standardbred.

Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.