Originally created 08/28/00

Horsing community loses Cassatt



It could be in the middle of the woods during a fox hunt. It could be on the horse track or at a social event. Whatever the setting, something inevitably would prompt Sandy Cassatt to tell one of his trademark stories.

It was Mr. Cassatt's masterful ability to capture attention with a funny story that many of his friends and colleagues in the Aiken horsing community said they remembered Sunday.

Alexander Johnston Cassatt Jr., known as Sandy to those around him, died at Aiken Regional Medical Centers on Saturday at the age of 67.

Since his move to Aiken in the mid-1980s, Mr. Cassatt contributed to many facets of the city's horse training community. He trained both steeplechasers and flatracers and owned a horse farm.

Mr. Cassatt was also the former master of the Aiken Hounds.

"His fox hunting style was classical," said Georgianna Conger-Wolcott, a steeplechase board member and daughter of Ford Conger, well-known for his work with the Aiken Steeplechase Association.

"You looked at him and could imagine Mr. Hitchcock," she said. The Steeplechase, the most esteemed event of the Triple Crown, can be traced to the Hitchcock family.

Originally from Maryland, Mr. Cassatt was the great-grand nephew of Pennsylvania Railroad President Alexander J. Cassatt and the famous American impressionist painter Mary Cassatt. Mr. Cassatt was known to possess artistic talent himself while supporting Aiken's local artists.

"He definitely inherited some of (Mary Cassatt's) talent," Mrs. Conger-Wolcott said.

Before becoming owner of Gum Branch Farm in Aiken, Mr. Cassatt served a brief stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, trained horses in Mexico and managed two horse farms in Illinois. He even tried his hand as a steeplechase jockey.

In the Aiken horse community, he was just as active.

"He was always involved - his advice and counsel will be missed," said president of the steeplechase board Howard Hickey .

Mr. Cassatt also contributed to the growth of Aiken's Steeplechase during his tenure on the board by helping raise money and support, Mrs. Conger-Wolcott said.

"He was an amazing force in helping my dad make the Steeplechase what it is today," she said.

But it was the personality that Ron Stevens, president of the Aiken Training Track, said he would remember most vividly - the talented storyteller.

"The horsing community is going to miss him - he was a real personality, a real character. Everyone knew Sandy Cassatt."

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227.