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1900s | Horse Racing Timeline

1905 - Three Horse Derby Field / Jockey Otto Wonderly

April 2, 1905, jockey Otto Wonderly, died in a hospital due to head injuries sustained in a racing accident at Montgomery Park Racetrack in Memphis, Tennessee.  A highlight of Wonderly’s career came on June 14, 1902, at the Sheepshead Bay Race Track in Brooklyn, New York, when he won the most prestigious race in the United States for horses of all ages.  Wonderly captured the famous Suburban Handicap aboard Gold Heels in record time, on an off track, with 50,000 spectators.


May 4, 1905, Belmont Park Racetrack opened.  The park was built by a group of investors including August Belmont, Jr. and William Collins Whitney.


May 10, 1905, Agile beats two others to win the 31st Kentucky Derby.  Agile went 2:10 3/4 and won $4,850 for owner S. S. Brown.  Agile and Joe Cotton were two Kentucky Derby winners that also won the Tennessee Derby. 


In 1905, Churchill Downs owners, who were officials of the New Louisville Jockey Club, joined with nearby Douglas Park to form the Louisville Racing Association.  Their purpose was to establish race dates and policies for racing in the City.  This relationship led to the formation of the Kentucky Jockey Club in February 1919.


May 24, 1905, Tanya, won the 39th Belmont Stakes.  This was the first running of the stakes race at Belmont Park.  Tanya became the second filly to win the race.  The distance was 1 1/4M and she went off as the favorite at 2-1 over six other colts.  The net value to the winner was $16,240.  It would take another century before another filly would win when Rags to Riches won in 2007.  As a two-year-old, Tanya won the Hopeful Stakes, the National Stallion Stakes and Spinaway Stakes.  Watch a clip from the Thomas Edison film crew on Belmont’s opening day. 

1911 - Hart-Agnew Bill Stops NY Racing / Laurel Park Opens
1913 - Hometown Cooking / Belmont & Saratoga Re-open

May 10, 1913, Roscoe Goose, a hometown boy, rides the 39th Kentucky Derby winner.  It is the first time a Louisville native wins the race.  Roscoe rode his first meet at Churchill in 1908, and his in 1917.  After retiring from riding in 1918, Roscoe became a successful trainer.  He was also active in helping up and coming jockeys, such as Charley Kurtsinger, who rode 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral.  He was one of the first ten men named into the Kentucky Hall of Fame.


The 1913 Kentucky Derby set several new records.  It was a new track record for that distance at 2:04 4/5 for 1 ¼ that stood for one year, it had the largest crowd that year for attendance up to that point and this Derby was the first to have both a jockey and horse transported in just for the specific race from New York.  Lastly, Donerail set the highest odds, 100 to 1, to have won the Kentucky Derby paying $184.90.


May 31, 1913, the New York Times reported the return of racing to Belmont Park after three years.  The track opened with an agreement there would be no gambling. “Degambelized horse racing was placed on trial yesterday at Belmont Park, after three years of enforced idleness on the metropolitan tracks. Almost 30,000 spectators participated in the trial, in which they occupied the position of quasi-defendants with the officials of the Westchester Racing Association, who had covenated [promised] to insure a day of clean sport.”


Friday, June 13, 1913, Henry Payne Whitney’s Prince Eugene beat August Belmont’s Rock View and three other entries to win the 45th Belmont Stakes.  The distance was 1 3/8M in 2:18 on a fast track which set a new track record.  Mr. Whitney received $2,825.  There would be no legal gambling for this Belmont Stakes due to the Hart-Agnew Bill that banned all gambling in the state.


August 2, 1913, a crowd of 7,000 attended the reopening of Saratoga Race Course.  “Old Rosebud” won the Flash race, the third race of the afternoon that started the 50th anniversary of racing at Saratoga.  “Old Rosebud” also won the United States Hotel stakes, his 10th victory in 12 races that year.  The following May he won the Kentucky Derby.

1918 - Exterminator Shocks the World

May 11, 1918, was the 44th running of the Kentucky Derby.  Without the benefit of a single prep race, he hadn’t raced in 9 ½ months, Exterminator shocked the world by winning the Derby over a muddy track.  He beat seven others, including the favorite, War Cloud.  The Kentucky bred paid $61.20 to win.  It was to be the beginning of a long, illustrious career for the colt.


“Who is it laughs at years that flow?
Who is it always gets the dough?
Whose only creed is go and go?


The above verse, part of a short poem titled “Old Bones,” was affectionately written by Guy McGee and published in the Daily Racing Form in 1922.

1919 - Sir Barton Wins Derby, Preakness, Belmont - Triple Crown Not Coined Yet

May 10, 1919, Sir Barton wins the 45th running for the Kentucky Derby.  The winning purse was $20,825. 


Wednesday, May 14, 1919, the 44th Preakness host the Derby winner for the first time.  Winning owner J.K.L. Ross also had a filly entered.  The $25,000 Preakness purse now paid better the Derby.  Sir Barton won easily. 


Wednesday, June 11, 1919, Sir Barton wins the 51st Belmont Stakes.  He becomes the first horse to win the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in the same year.  Johnny Loftus was the first jockey to win the same three races in one year.  J.K.L. Ross was the proud winner and H. Guy Bedwell was the conditioner.  The term “Triple Crown” had not been coined yet.


June 6, 1919, Samuel D. Riddle’s Man o’ War made his racing debut at Belmont Park for a $700 purse.  The six other contenders were also going 5/8M.  Despite having jockey Johnny Loftus using much restraint throughout the race, Man o’ War won by a comfortable six lengths and made quite an impression in the papers.  Man o’ War won $500.00.


June 9, 1919, Man o’ War, trained by Louis Feustel, stepped up to stakes company and dusted five others in the 7th running of the 5.5F Keene Memorial Stakes at Belmont in 1:05.60.  Johnny Loftus up.  The purse was $5,000, Man o’ War earned $4,200. 


June 21, 1919, Man o’ War, won the 7th running of the Youthful Stakes at Jamaica Park going 5.5F in 1:06.60.  The purse was $5,000 and the winner took home $3,850.


June 23, 1919, Man o’ War, traveled to Aqueduct and won the 29th running of the 5F Hudson Handicap for two-year-olds in 1:01.60.  He carried 130 lbs. which is unheard of these days in the juvenile ranks.  Conceding 21 lbs., he stretched out easily and won unchallenged by 1 1/2 lengths.  The value of the race was $3,500, with the winner receiving $2,825. 


July 5, 1919, Man o’ War, vacationed in Aqueduct for 12 days, then took the 30th running of the 6F Tremont Stakes.  He beat two others in 1:13.00, carrying 130 lbs.  Man o‘ War won $4,800 in the $6,000 purse. 


August 2, 1919, Man o’ War wins the 36th running of the United States Hotel Stakes against more formidable competition at the Spa.  Upset, ran second. Despite getting a bad start and carrying 130 pounds, Man o’ War won easily by two lengths in 1:12.40.  The winner took home $7,600 from the $10,000 guaranteed purse. 


Wednesday, August 13, 1919, Man o’ War, losses his first race to Upset in the 7th running of the Sanford Stakes, possibly earning the Spa’s nicknames “the house of upsets” and the “graveyard of favorites.”  These were the days before starting gates when horses approached the starting line as a team and began racing by the starter’s flag signal.  On this day, Man o’ War was still approaching when the race started.  He was not even facing the right direction.  Upset won in 1:12.40, by half-length, carrying 15 lbs. less than Man o’ War.  Golden Groom the favorite, ran third. 


August 23, 1919, Man o’ War, giving 5 lbs., wins the 6F Grand Union Hotel Stakes by two lengths.  It was a clean start for all, with a winning time of 1:12.00.  Upset ran second.  This was the 7th running of the stakes race with a purse of $10,000, winner received $7,600. 


August 30, 1919, Man o’ War holds up the start for 12 minutes, for the 7th running of the 6F Hopeful Stakes, before winning in 1:13.00.  It was “a day of blistering heat, the air heavy with stormful threats.”  Twenty thousand people crowded the Spa to see Big Red race four colts and three fillies, including Upset and Constancy, for a $30,000 purse, the winner receiving $24,600.  Trying to beat the weather, the jockeys hurried to the starting line.  Still forming the line, the clouds burst open with heavy rain.  Man o’ War broke through the webbing four times, each time sprinting 50 yards down the course.  Man o’ War kicked the filly Ethel Grey and he did kick another filly, Cleopatra.  Reporters had a hard time seeing the action due to the rain.  Man o’ War won by four, ears flicking up with ease.  One reporter recalled Sam Riddle celebrating, “like a seventeen-year-old, he had hopped and skipped about the clubhouse and paddock and congratulated his jockey and trainer over and over.”  He knew they were on their way to the Futurity.


September 13, 1919, Man o’ War leaves Saratoga for Belmont to enter his last race of 1919, the 30th Futurity Stakes for two-year-olds.  The race was 6F. He won in 1:11.60 beating a young and talented “John P Grier.”  Man o’ War was a growing beast.  He was a scrawny kid of 970 lbs. while in the Spa.  In Belmont, he was up to 1,020 lbs.  By the time he made his three-yr-old debut at the Preakness, he tipped the scale at 1,150 lbs. 


November 20, 1919, Maj. August Belmont, Jr., announced that Fair Play would stay in Kentucky at his Nursery Stud, after selling him for $100,000 to G.A. Cochran of New York.  August also received the right to breed 10 mares to him.  Fair Play was the leading sire in North America of 1920, 1924 and 1927, and the leading broodmare sire of 1931, 1934 and 1938.  He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1956.  Fair Play is best known for siring Man o’ War.

1920 - Man o' War's 3-Year-Old Campaign

May 8, 1920, Man o’ War did not run in the 46th Kentucky Derby.  Owner Sam Riddle did not like racing in Kentucky, nor did he think three-year-olds were ready to go 10 furlongs as early as May.  He would change his mind by the time War Admiral came around.  Man o’War stayed in the east, and prepared for the Preakness. 



May 18, 1920, Man o’ War wins the 45th running of the Preakness by 1 1/2 lengths from Upset and seven others as he stretched out to 1 1/8M in 1:51.60.  “Paul Jones, who won the Kentucky Derby, was not eligible because he was a gelding.  Man o’War had a new jockey, Clarence Kummer, who would stay on the colt, with the exception of two races.  Net Value to Winner, $23,000: second, $3,000, third, $2,000 and fourth, $1,000.


May 29, 1920, Man o’ War wins the 1M Withers back at his Belmont Park home base.  A crowd of 25,000 turned out to see an American record set at 1:35.80 in a three-horse field, winning by two. 


June 12, 1920, Man o’ War next won the 1 3/8M Belmont Stakes against one challenger, Donnacona.  Donnacona, became only the 3rd horse in history to run in all three Triple Crown events.  The others were War Cloud (1918) and Sir Barton (1919).  Kummer rode Man o’ War to a new world record of 2:144.05, beating the previous standard set in England by over two seconds and beating Sir Barton’s American record by over three seconds.


June 22, 1920, Man o’ War, back in Jamaica Park, wins the 1M Stuyvesant Stakes in 1:41.60.  His odds of 1 to 100 were believed to be the lowest ever offered in an American horse race.


July 10, 1920, Man o’ War faces a mature John P. Grier in the Dwyer for basically a match race.  The favorite carried 126 lbs. and J.P.G 108 lbs.  They completed the mile together in a time of 1:35.03, breaking Man o’ War’s American record set in the Withers. “John P. Grier” made another surge and for a moment the spectators believed that he would win the race. Kummer then hit Man o’ War with the whip and they made a final surge and opened up a lead of two lengths in the final fifty yards. The final time was 1:49.01, a new world record for ​1 1/8M.


August 7, 1920, four-year-old, Man o’ War wins Saratoga’s 1 3/16M Miller Stakes in 1:56.60.  It was his sixth race of the year and a record crowd of 35,000 attended.  The saddling area was swarmed by fans to see Man o’ War, who was surrounded by twelve Pinkerton guards.  Earl Sande received the mount, his only ride on Big Red, replacing an injured Clarence Kummer, who had a shoulder injury.  At the odds of 1-30, yielding 12 and 17 pounds respectively to Donnacona and King Albert, Man o’ War took an early lead, was never extended, winning by six lengths over Donnacona. 


“You’ll never get me on his back again. He damned near pulled my arms out of their sockets.”
– Earl Sande


August 21, 1920, Man o’ War with Andy Schuttinger in the irons, wins the Travers in an overflow crowd.  The field went 1 1/4M in 2:01.8, equaling the track record set earlier in the year by Sir Barton.  This record stood until 1941.


September 4, 1920, one other horse was entered to face Man o’ War in the Lawrence Realization (1 5/8M) at Belmont.  He beat Hoodwink by 100 lengths, in a new American time of 2:40.8.


September 11, 1920, Man o’ War faced one other competitor in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (1 1/2M) and won under tight restraint by fifteen lengths.  Although declared a hollow victory by The New York Times, Man o’ War still set an American record for ​1 1/2M of 2:28 4/5, breaking the existing mark by 4/5 seconds.


September 18, 1920, Man o’ War ventures south to Havre de Grace Racetrack in Maryland to run in the Potomac. He was assigned 138 pounds, conceding from 24 to 34 pounds to his rivals, which included Kentucky Derby winner Paul Jones. He beat Wildair by ​1 12 lengths while breaking the track record by 1/5 seconds. Although Man o’ War was not seriously challenged, the high weight and a poorly maintained racing surface took a toll: he came out of the race with a swollen tendon on his right foreleg.


October 12, 1920, Man o’ War runs in his last race, the Kenilworth Park Gold Cup (1 1/4M) at Kenilworth Park in Canada, a match race against Sir Barton.  The event was so highly anticipated that it became the first race to be filmed in its entirety, with the resulting footage later shown in movie theaters across the country.  Man o’War got in with 120, against Sir Barton’s 126. Moments before the race jockey Earle Sande was removed from Sir Barton, and Frank Keogh was substituted. Sir Barton never had a chance, the final time was 2:03.00.  Man o’ War’s share of the purse made him the highest earning horse in American history.  The gold trophy presented in the winner’s circle, designed by Tiffany & Co, was later donated by Mrs. Riddle to Saratoga and is now used as the trophy for the Travers Stakes. 


1927 - Earl “Sandy” Graham

June 11, 1927, the Belmont is run for 1 1/2M and will continue to do so until 2020.  The race was won by Chance Shot with jockey Earl Harold Sande.  Net to winner was $60,910.


September 1, 1927, jockey Earl “Sandy” Graham was competing at the Polo Park Racetrack in Winnipeg, Canada.  Sandy was running ahead of the field aboard a colt named “Vesper Lad,” when the horse stumbled and threw him to the ground.  Trampled by other oncoming horses, Graham’s back broke and his chest crushed.  With no ambulance service available, he lay on the track until several jockeys carried him to the tack room.  Stablemate and close friend Tommy Luther pleaded with racetrack officials to take Graham to a hospital but to no avail.  His fellow jockeys could not help, as they were under contract to race and were afraid of the consequences if they left the track to get him medical attention.  February 24, 2001, Thoroughbred Times recounts the event, “Luther begged officials to take the stricken boy to a hospital, but no one would.  The riders couldn’t do it themselves, as each was obligated to ride in upcoming races, and to leave the jockey’s room would probably have cost them their livelihoods.  Desperate to do something to aide his injured friend, Tommy Luther took up a collection to pay for a taxi.  However, at a time when most jockeys did not receive a share of the race purse, they did not have enough money among them to pay the cab fare.  All afternoon Luther stayed with his suffering friend, unable to do anything more than drip water into his parched mouth.  At the end of the day’s race card, someone finally offered to drive Graham to the hospital, but by then, it made little difference and he died ten days later.

1932 - Eddie Arcaro Wins 1st Race / Phar Lap Dies

On January 14, 1932, Eddie Arcaro, on his 251st try, rode his first winner at Agua Caliente in Mexico.  The next year he was the leading apprentice jockey at New Orleans, but he missed three months of riding that year with a fractured skull and punctured lung suffered during a fall in Chicago.  Arcaro, known as “The Master,” rode a record 17 winners in Triple Crown races and became the only jockey aboard two Triple Crown champions. (Whirlaway and Citation)


On April 5, 1932, Phar Lap’s groom, Tommy Woodcock, found his horse in severe pain and with a high temperature, Phar Lap hemorrhaged to death within a few hours.  An autopsy revealed that the horse’s stomach and intestines were inflamed.  However, many believe someone poisoned the horse.  Alternative theories include accidental poisoning from lead insecticide and a stomach condition.  In 2000, equine specialists studying the two necropsies concluded that Phar Lap probably died of duodenitis-proximal jejunitis, an acute bacterial gastroenteritis.  In 2006, Australian Synchrotron Research scientists said it was almost sure Phar Lap was poisoned with a large single arsenic dose in the hours before he died.  The single-dose supports the theory that Phar Lap died on U.S. gangsters’ orders, who feared the Melbourne Cup-winning champion would inflict hefty losses on their illegal bookmakers.  No real evidence of involvement by a criminal element exists, however.


May 7, 1932, Col. E.R. Bradley’s Idle Hour Stock Farm, leader for all-time Derby starters at 28, won their third Derby with Burgoo King, a son of Bradley’s 1926 Derby winner Bubbling Over.  The three Derby wins are second to Calumet Farm.  Bradley named Burgoo King for James T. Looney, one of the men who popularized the peppery Kentucky-created stew known as burgoo.


June 27, 1932, Calumet Farm recorded its first victory in a Thoroughbred race with the two-year-old Warren Jr., who won by a nose at Arlington Park.  He earned $850.

1933 - Keeneland Incorporates / Kentucky Association Disbands

April 17, 1933, Keeneland Association filed for Articles of Incorporation.  Hal Price Headley was elected President of the Keeneland Association, a position he would hold until 1951.


In November 1933, the Kentucky Association disbanded, sold the track’s grandstand, clubhouse, and demolished the stables.  Due to financial difficulties, the 65 acre Lexington club disbanded 107 years after it began, to make way for the construction of a federal low-cost housing project.  Keeneland’s front gatehouses with initials K.A. are among the few known markers leftover from the historic track.
Horse Racing in Central Kentucky and Jefferson County; Marjorie Rieser University of Louisville

1936 - Keenland's 1st Race

May 2, 1936, Bold Venture wins the 62nd running of the Kentucky Derby.  Abroad was Ira “Babe” Hanford, the first apprentice jockey to win the Derby.  Bold Venture sired Middleground, winner of the 1950 Kentucky Derby.  Bill Roland rode Middleground, the second and last apprentice jockey to win the Derby.  Hall of Fame trainer Max Hirsch gave a leg up to both young jockeys.  Granville threw his jockey, James Stout.


Bold Venture would go onto hold the record for siring the most future winners.  As a post-Derby stud, he fathered two sons, Assault (1946) and Middleground (1950).


May 9, 1936, Bold Venture wins the Preakness Stakes, earning $27,325.  They went to post at 5:18 p.m. and went the 1 3/16 M went in 1:38.  Granville finished second by a nose.


June 6, 1936, Granville wins the 68th Belmont Stakes by a nose over Mr. Bones.  Granville won $29,800 for his connections.


October 11, 1936, the Keeneland Association hosted an open house to introduce the public to the new Totalizator® tote board, first of such machines to be installed in Kentucky.  More than 15,000 people attended. 


Thursday, October 15, 1936, at 1:53 p.m., a spotted pony carrying outrider Joe Moran stepped into the plowed dirt and led eight prancing thoroughbreds in the first post parade at Keeneland Racecourse.  Royal Raiment wins the $1,000 allowance for two-year-old fillies.  The grey filly was owned by John Jay Whitney, trained by J.W. Healy and ridden by John Gilbert.  Eight thousand people were in attendance for the seven races who wagered $74,639.  The first meet lasted nine days.  Paid attendance for that first nine-day Fall Meet totaled 25,337.  The first year was a moderate success for the Keeneland Association.  The financial statement for the year, however, revealed a net loss of $3.47.

1940 - Watch the Triple Crown Races

May 4, 1940, the 66th running of the Kentucky Derby.


May 11, 1940, Bimelech wins the 65th Running of the Preakness Stakes.


June 8, 1940, Bimelech wins the 72nd running of the Belmont Stakes.

1942 -Inaugural Louisiana Handicap

January 13, 1942, officials of Churchill Downs-Latonia Inc. sold the Latonia track and abandoned racing at the site.


April 24, 1942, the Churchill Downs-Latonia Incorporated’s name was officially changed to Churchill Downs Incorporated.  The American Turf Association continued its affiliation with Churchill Downs, but sold its last out-of-state holding, Lincoln Fields, in March 1947.


September 19,1942, it was truly a meeting of horses from opposite sides of the track.  On the one hand you had Whirlaway, not always the easiest horse to work with, but nonetheless, a defending Horse of the Year, former Triple Crown winner, and the current star of the powerhouse Calumet Farm.  His opposition was Alsab, a $700 purchase with less than regal bloodlines.  The diminutive runner needed ten starts to win his first stakes race, but through nearly constant racing for two seasons, was in position, like Whirlaway, to become a two-time champion.


December 12, 1942, more than twenty thousand people turned out to watch Calumet Farm’s Whirlaway win the inaugural Louisiana Handicap at the Fair Grounds Race Course.  The newly formed Thoroughbred Racing Association staged this event as a war-relief effort.  It would be the last race of Whirlaway’s brilliant career.  1942 gave him his second straight American Horse of the Year title.


December 22, 1942, the Keeneland Association wrote check number 2591 for $35,000.  It was presented to the Community War Chest during WWII.  Service members received gifts and amenities through this foundation’s work. 

1944 - Kentucky Derby's Largest Purse
1952 - Ben Jones & Eddie Arcaro Last Kentucky Derby

April 14, 1952, Nashua was foaled at Belair Stud in Maryland, home of many champions, including Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox and Omaha.  Bred by William Woodward, Sr. who died in 1953, he never had the opportunity to see Nashua’s brilliance on the racetrack.  In 1955 Nashua was sent into the auction after William Woodward, Jr., who was fatally shot by his wife in what was called the “shooting of the century.”  A syndicate headed by Leslie Combs II bid a record $1,251,200 for Nashua.


May 3, 1952, the 78th running of the Kentucky Derby was telecast nationwide for the first time.  Some feared that televising the race would reduce attendance, but it proved unfounded with subsequent broadcasts drawing tens of millions of viewers, further solidifying its popularity.  Hill Gail won the purse which exceeded $100,000 for the first time. 


It proved the final hurrah for the most successful trainer-jockey combination in Derby history.  Trainer Ben Jones extended his record to six Derby victories from only 11 horses.  He would never have another Derby starter, though son Jimmy Jones won have two more in only three runnings.  Four of Ben Jones’ Derby’s came with Arcaro in the saddle.  Arcaro, who won five Derbys, would ride eight more Derbys but never win again, coming closest with Nashua’s head defeat in 1955.  Hill Gail also gave Calumet Farm its record fifth Derby, with the fabled Lexington farm ultimately taking three more as owners.  Hill Gail missed the Preakness and Belmont after an ankle problem flared up.  He raced at ages four and five but never won another major race.  Video

1957 - Johnny Longden
1968 - Richard Nixon Watches the Only DQ'd Derby

In 1968, U.S. Olympic equestrian Kusner became the first licensed female jockey, after she sued the Maryland Racing Commission for denying her application for a jockey’s license based on gender.  She later rode on the east coast and in Canada and became the first licensed female jockey to ride races in Mexico, Germany, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Panama, and South Africa.  Kusner earned a silver medal at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, to become the first woman to medal in an equestrian competition.


May 4, 1968, Richard Nixon as a candidate for the Presidency was in attendance to watch Dancers Image cross the finish line first in the 94th Kentucky Derby.  However, Dancer’s Image had bute in his system and was placed last.  The second-place runner Forward Pass, was declared the winner.  Nixon, the only President to resign from office, witnessed the first horse DQ’d from the Derby.  The following year, Nixon returned to Churchill Downs, fulfilling a promise he made to attend the Derby if he won the Presidency.  To this day, Nixon is the only sitting president to attend the Derby.*


June 29, 1968, jockey Eddie Delahoussaye won his first race, at Evangeline Downs, aboard Brown Shill.


June 29, 1968, Gamely, Princessnesian and Desert Law all owned by William Haggin Perry and trained by Jim Maloney finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd, in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park.  The richest race ever run at Hollywood Park exclusively for fillies and mares, grossed $79,650, with the Perry powerhouse collecting $72,150 for the one-two-three finish.


September 10, 1968, Latonia Racetrack ushered in night racing for the first time in Kentucky.  A crowd of 7,680 was on hand in the pouring rain to support the new venue.  They bet $400,258, setting two new records.  The previous opening-day record was 4,720 betting $350,347. 


November 2, 1968, Dr. Fager made his final start in the Vosburgh Stakes, which he was assigned 139 pounds.  This was the highest weight ever assigned by track handicapper, Tommy Trotter, in a regular stakes event.  He completed the seven furlongs in 1:20 1⁄5, a new track record by a full second and just one-fifth of a second off the world record.  Video.


Some would argue he was the greatest of all-time.  Dr. Fager made 22 starts, winning 18 times with two second-place finishes and one show.  The only time he was out of the money was due to a disqualification in the Jersey Derby, in which he finished first.  Only three horses ever finished in front of Dr. Fager: Champion juvenile male Successor, Horse of the Year Damascus, and Horse of the Year Buckpasser.

1974 - Ruffian Campaign

May 22, 1974, Ruffian ran her first race in a 5.5F maiden special at Belmont Park, Jacinto Vasquez received the mount.  Thanks to the efforts of Frank Y. Whiteley, Jr., her talent was kept a secret and she went off at 9-2.  Under the guidance of Jacinto Vasquez, she quickly went to the front, easily extended her lead to 15 lengths and tied the track record of 1:03, something no other two-year-old had ever done while breaking their maiden race!  Ruffian’s impressive debut was later called the “greatest race ever run by a first-time starter.”  People laughed her off, but those were the ones who hadn’t seen her run yet.  They said she was “just too fat,” with her girth measuring 75 1/2 inches, and that they “weren’t throwing away perfectly good money.”

June 12, 1974, Ruffian ran her second race in Belmont in the 5.5F Fashion Stakes (III), Jacinto Vasquez up.  Copernica, a bay daughter of Nijinsky II should have been the favorite due to her previous wins, but the crowd sent Ruffian off as the first choice.  Also in the field was the unbeaten Jan Verzal, who unlike Ruffian and Copernica was already a stakes winner.  As in her maiden race, Ruffian gained the lead in the first few strides and easily held off Copernica’s game challenge.  Winning by six and three-quarter lengths, Ruffian once again tied the track record.  Copernica, finishing second, was thirteen lengths ahead of the rest of the field and gave everything she had to the race.  Sadly, the brave little filly wasn’t the same horse after the Fashion Stakes.  Ruffian had broken her heart. 

July 10, 1974, Ruffian’s 3rd race was at Aqueduct again at 5.5F in the Astoria Stakes (GIII).  Jacinto Vasquez was serving a suspension for reckless riding, and Vince Bracciale had the mount.  For the first time, Ruffian was accompanied to post by Sled Dog, the pony horse, and to the amazement of Bracciale it was Vasquez who led him to the post.  Trainer Frank Whiteley had told Jacinto that he would lose the mount on Ruffian if he didn’t ride the stable pony, and the crowd enjoyed the novelty of seeing one of the country’s leading riders playing the role of ponyboy.  The race itself held fewer surprises.  Ruffian easily won by nine lengths, under wraps, in 1:02 4/5.  Braulio Baeza later commented “I could have cut through the center field, and she still would have beaten me.”  His mount, Laughing Bridge, beat the rest of the field by twelve lengths, but could not hold a candle to Ruffian. 

July 27, 1974, Ruffian’s 4th race was the 6F Sorority (GI) at Monmouth with Jacinto Vasquez back in the reins.  It was her most challenging race to date.  Hot n Nasty had broken her maiden by 13 lengths and had scored two stakes wins.  Hot n Nasty made her move after the first quarter and became the first horse to head Ruffian, even sticking with her for a furlong before Ruffian dug in and pulled away.  Vasquez felt something not quite right with his mount, even as she pulled away from Hot n Nasty to set a new stakes record of 1:09.  Back at the barn, he discovered his filly had won the race on a freshly popped splint, which, although not a serious injury, was enough to take the edge off a horse.  Ruffian had proved she had heart. 

August 23, 1974, after a little less than a month of rest, Ruffian ran in her 5th race, the 6F Spinaway (GI) at Saratoga.  A reporter asked Ruffian’s groom Minnor Massey by how much his filly would win by, without thinking, Massey answered thirteen lengths.  He worried that his rash statement would make him appear foolish.  Suspended again, Jacinto Vazquez would miss the mount and Vince Bracciale once got the call.  Ruffian lead wire to wire to set a new stakes record of 1:08 3/5.  The margin of victory was precisely thirteen lengths.

1975 - Ruffian vs. Foolish Pleasure

January 18, 1975, Álvaro Pineda, 29, while riding at Santa Anita Park, was killed in a freak accident.  He died from a blow to his head when his horse, Austin Mittler, reared in the starting gate and flipped over, crushing his head against the gate’s steel frame.  His family would suffer a similar loss just three years later when his younger brother Roberto, at Pimlico, was killed due to an accident during a race.  Álvaro, the second leading rider of the Santa Anita meet, was aboard the lightly raced colt in an allowance for maidens.  He made one appearance in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 13th in 1967.  Pineda’s best mount may have been the Argentina-bred colt Figonero which he rode to victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup and to a new world record for nine furlongs in the Del Mar Handicap.  In 1974, Álvaro Pineda’s peers voted him the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award.  The annual award is given to a jockey in American racing who demonstrates high personal and professional standards on and off the track. 


April 14, 1975, with eight months rest, Ruffian made her 1975 debut in a 6F allowance test at Aqueduct, with Jacinto Vasquez up.  Trainer Frank Y. Whiteley, Jr., had entered her in the race the day before.  The other trainers with entries in the eighth race at Belmont probably would not have sent them to post, had they been given time to scratch, but Whiteley had done a masterful job of concealing his plans.  Ruffian cantered effortlessly to an almost five-length win in 1:09 2/5, a fast time for any other horse, although Ruffian’s only race without setting or equaling a record.


April 30, 1975, Ruffian’s 6th race was the 7F Comely Stakes (GIII) in Aqueduct, Jacinto Vasquez up.  Angel Cordero, Jr. took his best shot at beating the star, despite his inferior mount.  Riding up behind Ruffian, he let out a shriek, hoping the filly would bolt and run out of steam before the wire.  Cordero was successful in startling the filly, and Jacinto had to fight to hold her speed down, but Angel’s filly, Aunt Jin, was done by the top of the stretch.  Ruffian set a stakes record of 1:21 1/5.  She also achieved something that not even Secretariat, Kelso, or Citation had accomplished, the filly had created a minus win pool, both at the track and at off-track betting.  Such universal confidence in a favorite was almost unheard of; occasionally, a top horse would create a minus pool to show, but Ruffian’s fans had bet enough money on the filly to win that a minus pool resulted.  The track paid out more money than it had received.


May 10, 1975, Ruffian began her next goal, the NYRA Filly Triple Crown, which consisted of the Acorn Stakes (GI), the Mother Goose Stakes (GI), and the Coaching Club American Oaks (GI).  Chris Evert had taken the series the previous season, as had Dark Mirage in 1968.  For the Acorn, Ruffian was more cooperative about being rated in the early stages than she ever been before, even allowing Ron Turcotte and Piece of Luck to stay within a length of her during the first half of the race.  Finally, sensing the filly would not tolerate being held back much longer, Vasquez let his mount step up the pace.  She bounded away from Turcotte’s mount as if the other filly had stopped running and opening up a seven-length lead before her rider asked her to ease up again.  In the end, she won by 8 ¼ lengths in stakes record time of 1:34 2/5.  The race’s real contest had been for second, with the game filly Somethingregal nosing out Gallant Trial, then pulling up lame after the wire with a horseshoe nail in her frog.


May 31, 1975, Ruffian wins the Mother Goose (GI).


June 21, 1975, Ruffian Wins the Coaching Club American Oaks (GI).


July 6, 1975, Ruffian and Foolish Pleasure broke from Belmont’s starting gate, in front of more than 50,000 spectators, ready to run a mile and a quarter.  As usual, Ruffian took the lead, but just before the half-mile mark, something went terribly wrong.  Ruffian’s head dropped and she swerved into the colt.  It didn’t take long for Vasquez or the spectators to realize that she had injured herself.


July 17, 1975, jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. notched his 3,000th career victory, aboard Lexington Lark at Hollywood Park.

1981 - Bill Shoemaker Wins 8,000 Races
1984 - 1st Breeders' Cup / Queen Elizabeth II Cup

October 11, 1984, the inaugural running of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup took place, with Queen Elizabeth II in attendance to present the winning trophy.  Keeneland didn’t have an actual Winner’s Circle before the 1984 visit.  For regular races, a chalk circle drawn on the track served as the Winner’s Circle; for stake races, the trophy presentations were held in the infield grass.  Per the wishes of the Queen’s security team, Keeneland built a Winner’s Circle. Cherry Valley Farm’s Sintra won the inaugural running.


November 10, 1984, the inaugural Breeders’ Cup arrived at Hollywood Park in Los Angeles.  Seven races, featuring the world’s greatest horses, jockeys and trainers competing on one stage for $10 million in purses, with an unprecedented live four-hour national broadcast.  The $3 million Breeders’ Cup Classic hype lived up to its billing.  The favorite, Slew o’Gold, Preakness winner Gate Dancer and 31-1 longshot Wild Again drove and banged together down Hollywood Park stretch to the wire.  Attendance: 64,254 Handle: $19,476,050. 


December 8, 1984, Brian Taylor, while racing at the Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong was thrown from his saddle while crossing the finish line.  His mount, Silver Star (銀星一號), stumbled.  Taylor would succumb two days later in hospital from the serious neck and head injuries he had received.  His friend Bill Burnett wanted him to find someone else to replace him for that race due to his shingles.  Wally Hood offered to take the ride but at the last minute, Brian decided to race, which turned out to be his last.

1988 - Michael Joseph Venezia
1989 - Chris Antley’s Streak Ends

April 28, 1989, Racing Hall of Famer Julie Krone becomes the first female jockey to win a Keeneland stakes when she rides Gaily Gaily to win the Bewitch Stakes.


May 1, 1989, Chris Antley’s streak of winning a race every day comes to an end at 64 days.  In a career that spanned from 1983 until he died in 2000, he won 3,480 races with documented purse earnings of $92,261,894.  He won 127 graded stakes races, 293 overall stakes and led North American riders with 469 wins in 1985.


July 2, 1989, jockey Steve Cauthen became the first rider in history to sweep the world’s four major derbies after winning the Irish Derby with Old Vic.  He had previously won the Kentucky Derby with Affirmed (1978), the Epsom Derby twice with Slip Anchor (1985), Reference Point (1987) and the French Derby with Old Vic (1989).


October 4, 1989at 11:45 a.m., Secretariat, affectionately known as “Big Red,” was given a lethal injection at Claiborne Farm in Paris.  He was 19 years of age and suffered from laminitis, a painful and usually incurable degenerative disease of the hoofs’ sensitive inner tissues.  Dr. Thomas Swerczek, a professor of veterinary science at the U.K., performed the necropsy.  All of the horse’s vital organs were normal in size except for the heart.”  We were all shocked,” Swerczek said.  “I’ve seen and done thousands of autopsies on horses, and nothing I’d ever seen compared to it.  The heart of the average horse weighs about nine pounds.  This was almost twice the average size, and a third larger than any equine heart I’d ever seen.  And it wasn’t pathologically enlarged.  All the chambers and the valves were normal.  It was just larger.  I think it told us why he was able to do what he did.”

1997 - 14th Breeders’ Cup Championship

February 2, 1997, a life-size bronze statue of Cigar was unveiled at Florida’s Gulfstream Park on “A Salute to Cigar Day.”  Also, in 1997, the New York Racing Association renamed the Grade I NYRA Mile, run in November at Aqueduct, as the Cigar Mile.  The NYRA Mile was the second race in Cigar’s winning streak.


November 8, 1997, the 14th Breeders’ Cup turned out to be too predictable as favorites won five of the seven races.  Patrick Byrne won the Juvenile Fillies with Countess Diana and the Juvenile with Favorite Trick.  Trainer Jenine Sahadi and rider Corey Nakatani combined again to win the Sprint, this time with the 7-year-old gelding Elmhurst.  Foreign horses won the turf races. The Classic was all Skip Away.  A 4-year-old colt trained by Sonny Hine and ridden by Mike Smith, who dominated by six lengths, the largest Classic-winning margin to date.  In a close vote, Favorite Trick was later named Horse of the Year. 

November 14, 1997, George Edward Arcaro, known professionally as Eddie Arcaro, passed away.  Eddie was a Hall of Fame jockey who, at one time, won more American classic races than any other jockey in history.  He is the only rider to have won the U.S. Triple Crown twice.  They included 1941 on Whirlaway and again in 1948 on Citation.  His other Kentucky Derby wins were Hoop Jr. (1945) and Hill Gail (1952).  He is widely regarded as the greatest jockey in the history of American Thoroughbred Horse Racing.  What this man can do for you, I can do better. – Eddie Arcaro 1955. 

1999 - Laffit Alejandro Pincay Jr. is Winningest Jockey

March 21, 1999, Willy Kan Wai-yue, a female jockey in Hong Kong, died after a spill at Sha Tin Racecourse.  It was the 3rd Race on a rainy day. Kan was racing in midfield on Happy King, trained by Alex Wong, about halfway in a seven-furlong race when the seven-year-old clipped the heels of Big Fortune. She would die 2½ hours later in the hospital.


April 26, 1999 Churchill Downs Incorporated purchased Calder Race Course in Miami.


September 9, 1999, Jose Carlos Gonzalez, the defending 1989 Fairplex riding champion, was defending his title on opening day when the horse he was riding suffered a fatal injury on the final turn and took his rider with him.  Gonzalez was aboard Wolfhunt, a four-year-old English-bred colt leading the 1 1/16M race for $5,000 claimers when he broke down on the final turn.  Gonzalez, 23, was pronounced dead of massive head trauma at the track’s first-aid station shortly after the accident.  The rest of the day’s seven-race program was canceled, but no announcement was made to the crowd about Gonzalez’s death.  The crowd, estimated at 6,000, was shielded from seeing the spill’s aftermath by a three-foot hedge between the grandstand and the track.


J.C. Gonzalez would have been 24 years old on Oct. 5.  It was the first racing fatality in the 61-year history of the Los Angeles County Fair and the first in Southern California since Alvaro Pineda was killed at Santa Anita in 1975.  Jockey Burleigh Turetski died during a workout at Fairplex in a 1982 mishap.


September 10, 1999, Churchill Downs Incorporated acquired Hollywood Park in Inglewood, CA.


December 10, 1999, Laffit Alejandro Pincay Jr. became the winningest jockey in thoroughbred racing by winning race number 8,834.  He passed Willie Shoemaker for this honor at Hollywood Park.  He ended his career with 9,530 wins and would hold the record for seven years.