Maximilian Justice (Max) Hirsch, race-horse trainer, son of Jacob and Marie (Neffendorf) Hirsch, was born in Fredericksburg, Texas, on July 30 (sometimes given as July 12), 1880. As a boy he worked as a jockey and groom at the Morris Ranch. At the age of twelve he ran away from home to become an exercise boy. He was a jockey on the western circuit at fourteen and rode 123 winners in 1,117 races before he became too heavy. He became a trainer at age twenty, and between Gautaman, the first winner he saddled in 1902, and Heartland, who won at Aqueduct on April 2, 1969, the day before he died, Hirsch conditioned such famous horses as Grey Lag, Sarazen, Bold Venture, Dawn Play, Assault, Middleground, and High Gun. His winners included three Kentucky Derby victories-Bold Venture in 1936, Assault in 1946, and Middleground in 1950. Assault became a Triple Crown winner by taking the Preakness and Belmont Stakes as well as the Derby.
Hirsch trained horses for many years at the King Ranch stables, which produced Bold Venture, Assault, and Middleground. Assault suffered from a serious foot injury and would never have been able to race again but for a special steel spring, devised by Hirsch and inserted into the foot, which enabled the animal to run without stumbling.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1959, when a plaque commemorating him was placed in the Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, New York. He married Kathryn Claire of New York in 1905; two of their five children eventually became horse trainers. Their daughter Mary, who married Charles McLennon, was the first woman granted a trainer's license by the Jockey Club. During the latter years of his life Hirsch divided his time between his home at Queens village, New York, and Columbia, South Carolina. He was a Catholic. He died on April 3, 1969, in New Hyde Park, New York, and was buried in Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury, New York. He was elected to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame on December 31, 1970.
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Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Sports and Recreation
Sports (Horse Racing and Polo)
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Hirsch, Maximilian Justice,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 13, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
January 1, 1995