The Newmarket Course was the site of the first racing in America, this was located on the Hempstead Plain (or Salisbury Plain) in Nassau County. The area did not have many trees making it possible to have a site for horse racing. As soon as the British took over the New York colony, they began racing. The general belief is that the racecourse was located near the Garden City Hotel site at Stewart Avenue and Hilton Avenue in Garden City.
1730, a Virginia tobacco planter, Samuel Gist, imported Bulle Rock a 21 year old son of the Darley Arabian, the first recorded “thorough bred” horse brought into the colonies. Ref: 31
The written word of horse racing in the streets of Louisville. when local sources reported that races were held on Market Street in the downtown area.
“The famous horse PILGARLICK of a beautiful chestnut colour, full fourteen hand three inches high, rising ten years old, will stand the ensuing season on the head of Salt River at Captain Abr. Irvins, Mercer County, and will cover mares at a very low price of ten shillings a leap if the money is paid down, or fifteen at the expiration of the season; and twenty shillings the season in cash or thirty shillings in good trade. PILGARLICK was got by the noted imported horse Janus, his dam by old Silver-eye; and is the swiftest horse in the district of Kentucke from one to six hundred yards.” John Davenport.
The first horse racing track in Kentucky was laid out in Lexington. By 1789, complaints by “safety minded” citizens led to the formal development of a race meet at The Commons. The men who organized this race meet, including Kentucky Statesman Henry Clay, also formed the Commonwealth’s first Jockey Club. The organization later was named the Kentucky Jockey Club in 1809.
October 21, 1793, the trustees of Lexington issued a statement in the Kentucky Gazette to put a stop to racing thoroughbreds through the streets of Lexington after several close encounters of flying horse shoes hitting spectators.
January 22, 1796, two years after Lexington banned racing in the streets, Mr. Simeon Buford accepted Mr. Leonard Claiborne challenge to race their prized colts. The challenge and the response were printed in the Gazette. The race took place at the William’s Brothers track on North Main Street. Results are not known. Below is Simeon’s acceptance of the challenge.
Mr. Claiborne: “It has been five months since your horse by mere accident lamed himself: And I have been told he is as well as ever; and two months, I think, a reasonable time to put him in order – But for fear two months is not enough, I will give you till the last of March. Now, sir, come down, enter into writing with me, to run at Major Blackburn’s, or at Lexington course if it can be had, on the last Thursday in March, for two or three hundred pounds, the four mile heats, or a distance – weight for age. And in so doing you will very much oblige.
Your humble Servant,
January 22, 1796
Early in 1797, a company of gentlemen met at Postlethwait’s Tavern in downtown Lexington and organized Kentucky’s first Jockey Club. A track was built later that year on land, which is now the Lexington Cemetery. The Williams Race Track held meets there for the next 12 years.
Shippingport Island, a peninsula near the falls of the Ohio River held horse racing. During this time, the Falls of the Ohio was primarily occupied by French settlers, whose fur-trading businesses carried them upriver from New Orleans. Racing in Louisville was becoming popular and was felt that its own location other than city streets would be safer.
November 20, 1822, the National Course of D.C. hosted an important and popular battle between the North and South. James Harrison of Brunswick, Virginia wagered $5,000 that his horse, Sir Charles, could beat New Yorker, Cornelius Van Ranst’s, American Eclipse in a series of four-mile heats. Van Ranst accepted and the great American competition was set into motion. Sir Charles was the champion of Virginia and embodied the Southern ideal of elegance and speed. American Eclipse, a New York mare through and through, was built especially for power and stamina. Before the race even started, Sir Charles was injured in a trial run. Harrison agreed to pay the forfeit, but also decided to put Sir Charles through at least one heat with American Eclipse. Sir Charles lost badly, breaking down in the last portion of the race, giving American Eclipse an easy victory. The race itself put the National Course of D.C. on the map. Out of the ten-odd racetracks that graced the Washington area from as early as the late 1700s, the National Course was the first of national significance. It was more permanent than earlier racetracks, and could draw crowds of 4,000 people, a mix of ethnicities, sexes, ages, and classes- it was said that everyone attended the races at the National Course, from “the President of the United States to the beggar in his rags.”
July 23, 1826, the Kentucky Association (also known as the “Kentucky Racing Association”) was formed to promote the breeding and racing of thoroughbred horses in Kentucky. It was founded by a group of prominent locals including planter and politician Henry Clay, Jesse Bledsoe, Dr. Elisha Warfield and Thomas F. Marshall. Between 1828 and 1834, the Association acquired 65 acres of land in the city of Lexington, Kentucky that is today at the east end of 5th Street at Race Street. The Association built a one-mile dirt racetrack with a grandstand and stables to host thoroughbred flat racing events. Present day, it was located at the east end of 5th Street at Race Street in Lexington.
The Hope Distillery Track opened in Louisville on what is presently Main and 16th Streets. Racing was also held on a number of private tracks located on farms throughout the local area. One of the more prominent of these was Peter Funk’s Beargrass Track which was located in an area now bordered by Hurstbourne Lane and Taylorsville Road.
Oakland Race Course was established by the Louisville Association for the Improvement of the breed of horses. It was comprised of a 76 man organization that included distinguished locals such as; Robert Breckinridge, C.W. Thurston and James Guthrie. That track was built on 55 acres that were purchased from brothers Henry and Samuel Churchill. Samuel served as the track’s first President.
October 13, 1832, the first Black Maria won the race for the Jockey Club purse of $600 at the Union Course. She won so many races her purse winnings alone amounted to nearly $15,000, a very large sum for the period. In 1870, an article about her in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine said: “The track was heavy, and yet, to achieve a victory, twenty miles had to be run. We wonder if there is a horse on the turf to-day that could stand up under such a performance as this?” The second Black Maria also had an illustrious career.
The Oakland Race Course was opened in the fall of 1833 and brought racing back to a formal site with the track, complete with clubhouse, located at what is now Seventh and Magnolia Streets in “Old Louisville.” It was the first Louisville track to receive national recognition.
September 30, 1839, Oakland Race Course in Louisville held “the greatest race west of the Alleghenies,” between the pride of all Kentuckians, Grey Eagle, and the Louisiana horse, Wagner. The growing competition between the two thoroughbreds had actually developed into a rivalry between the two states represented. Oakland was struggling financially by 1839, when promoter and entrepreneur Yelverton C. Oliver arranged a match race offering a purse of $14,000. In those days racecourses were three to five miles long and there was no starting gate, which did not appear until the following century. Horses often ran in two to three races a day, and this match was for the best two out of three four-mile heats, winner take all. Wagner took it all and Kentucky fans were not satisfied and wanted a rematch, which they got the next month. October 5, 1839, the second contest between the Wagner and Grey Eagle took place. The Jockey Club supplied the purse of $1,500. an estimated 10,000 people (or more) were in attendance, including hundreds of racing enthusiasts who had made the long trek across the mountains from the Atlantic seaboard; among the noted aristocrats on this day was a contingent from Lexington, led by Henry Clay. Grey Eagle won the first heat; Wagner the second. The excitement was intense during the running of the third heat, but the race was never finished. Grey Eagle gave way in the second mile; he had broken down and never raced again!
September 11, 1844, the three day Crab Orchid meet, run over the Spring Hill Course began near Crab Orchid, Kentucky. The weather was extremely fine and the attendance on each day was numerous. Day’s one race had a proprietor’s purse of $50 with an entry fee of $10 and was for 3-year-olds. It consisted of mile heats until a filly named Ann Bell came out on top. Day two races had a proprietor’s purse of $100, free for all ages. These also were mile heats and a 4-year-old mare named Lucy Webb was the day’s winner. On day three, the big race, had a proprietor’s purse of $100, free for all ages. There were 2 two mile heats, won by the hometown favorite mare, Denmark.
April 1, 1853, The Union Course (Fair Grounds) stages its first meeting for Thoroughbreds, a five-day event initiated by members of the Metairie Jockey Club. The first race ever for Thoroughbreds over the track was won by a filly owned by Mississippi horseman William J. Minor. She took the event in straight two-mile heats.
May 23, 1853, Darley ran his first race, as a three-year-old, in the Association Stakes at Kentucky Association Race Track. Although he raced in the colors of Dr. Warfield, who had been in the process of retiring from the turf, he was leased to trainer, Henry Brown. The race was contested over mile heats. The field was on edge, possibly due to the muddy conditions and the colt found himself part of the group that bolted before the start. Despite having run over 2 miles before the official break, in the race itself, Darley led from flagfall to finish, as he did in the second heat, thus leaving a remarkable first impression.
Darley, later that year, had a new owners who renamed him Lexington. Little did they know he would become the most successful sire of the second half of the nineteenth century. He was the leading sire in North America 16 times. One of his progeny was Preakness, namesake of the famous race at Pimlico.
May 21, 1860, Woodlawn Race Course Association in Jefferson County held their first day of racing. Sometimes referred to as the “Saratoga of the West.” It was a track of major importance during the 1860s. Organized competitive horse racing in Kentucky was relatively young when Woodlawn Race Course was opened on the east side of Louisville. Opening spring day of the track’s second season was crowded. The “Courier” noted that “the attendance was very large, including many of the first ladies of our city and state.” It also mentioned that “the course” was “in splendid condition.” A surviving remnant of Woodlawn Race Course is the trophy, The Woodlawn Vase. Kentuckian Robert Atchison Alexander, noted owner of Woodburn Farm, commissioned Tiffany and Company to craft the trophy, which was first presented at Woodlawn in 1861. During the Civil War the trophy was buried on the racetrack grounds for safekeeping. It now serves as the model for half-size replicas given to the annual winner of the Preakness Stakes.
June 27, 1860, the inaugural running of the Queen’s Plate took place at the Carleton Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario. The prize of 50 guineas was awarded to Don Juan by Queen Victoria’s blessing. It is the oldest continuously run race in North America. There has been one King of Great Britain since the race’s inception, when it was referred to as the King’s Plate.*
August 2, 1864, the United States’ first modern sports facility, Saratoga Race Course, opened for a five day summer meeting on the grounds still used today. The Travers Stakes, holds the distinction of being the very first race ever run at Saratoga. Named after the first president of the Saratoga Association, William R. Travers, the first edition of the race was won by his own horse Kentucky, which he co-owned with John Hunter and George Osgood.
September 25, 1866, Jerome Race Track opened and it marked the return of thoroughbred racing to New York after a hiatus during the Civil War. The appointments were lavish, with a large dining room, a magnificent ballroom, and clubhouse accommodations comparable to a luxury hotel. The grandstand held 2,500 seats. General Ulysses S. Grant was in attendance along with 25,000 fans. Management barred gambling and liquor. The new track received great press. It rapidly surpassed Saratoga as the most important track in America and a model for first class tracks to be built in the next twenty years which included Monmouth, Churchill and the bay course in San Francisco. In 1867, the Belmont Stakes, one of the three major horse races that constitute the Triple Crown, was held at Jerome Park, and it remained there until 1890.
Thursday, June 19, 1867, Belmont Stakes debuted at Jerome Park Racetrack in Fordham, Westchester County — now part of The Bronx. In a field of four horses, the only filly that entered, Ruthless, won the inaugural event by a head over second place DeCourcey. Instead of having to carry 110 pounds like the other three horses, Ruthless only had to carry 107. The filly covered the 15⁄8 M race in 3.05.00. For winning, Ruthless’s owners received $1,850. Ruthless was the first of only three fillies to win the Belmont Stakes. The other two are Tanya (1905) and Rags to Riches(2007).
The Belmont predates the Preakness by six years and the Kentucky Derby by eight. It is the fourth oldest race overall in North America.
Tuesday, May 23, 1873, Pimlico Race Course ran the second race on the card named “The Preakness” for the first time at a distance of a mile and a half. It was brainchild of then Maryland Governor, Oden Bowie, a sportsman and an enterprising racing entrepreneur. His term ended in 1872 but in ’73, his filly, My Maryland, represented him in his world class stakes race. Survivor won the first Preakness Stakes with a purse of just over $2,000 was awarded. He won by 10 lengths which remained the largest margin of victory for over 100 years.
June 7, 1873, the 7th Belmont, 15/8M, was won by Springbok, who beat nine others, by four lengths to win $5,200. August Belmont had two entered.
Monday, May 17, 1875, 10,000 lucky fans witnessed the first Kentucky Derby run on a track later known as Churchill Downs. It was also the first day of racing for this new track. The distance was 1½ miles and was run in 2:37.75. Aristides, a small colt roughly 15 hands, won by two lengths over 14 other contestants. 13 of the 15 jockeys were African American including the winner Oliver Lewis. Ansel Williamson, who was born a slave, was the winning trainer. Hal Price McGrath, a native Kentuckian, owner of gambling parlors in NYC, owned and breed Aristides on his extravagant McGrathiana Farm, now known as UK’s Coldstream Farm. There were no roses for the winning connections but Mr. McGrath did win a purse of $2,850.
Wednesday, May 19, 1875, the first Kentucky Oaks was run at the Louisville Jockey Club later known as Churchill Downs. Vinaigrette won the then 1½ mile race in a time of 2:39¾, winning a purse of $1,175. The Oaks and the Derby are the oldest continuously contested sporting events in American history, and the only horse races to be held at their original site since their conception. The Kentucky Oaks was modeled after the English Oaks at Epsom Downs.
Friday, May 28, 1875, Tom Ochiltree wins the 3rd Preakness. Owner J.F. Chamberlin won $1,900. L. Hughes guides home the winner over a slow track going 1 1/2M. Tom Ochiltree is by the grand sire Lexington.
June 12, 1875, Calvin wins the 9th Belmont Stakes still being run at Jerome Park at 1 1/2M. Winning owner and breeder, Price McGrath, also owned the second place finisher Aristides and the 4th place finisher Chesapeake. August Belmont entered two himself.
September 15, 1875, Isaac Murphy’s won his first race. The win came at the Lexington Crab Orchard track, aboard B. F. Pettit’s chestnut filly Glentina (future winner of Louisville’s Jockey Club’s Colt & Filly Stakes). Crab Orchard located 46 miles south of Lexington was the oldest circular track in the state and was a testing ground for potential stake winning horses and the talented jockeys.
February 5, 1875, Benjamin G. Bruce published the first issue of a weekly magazine he called the Kentucky Live Stock Record in a house at 17 Jordan’s row, now Upper Street, that magazine would later be known as the The Thoroughbred Record.
Monday, May 15, 1876, Vagrant wins the second Kentucky Derby in 2:38 4/5, taking home $2,950. The field of 11 was away in good order. PAROLE broke in front with BULLION in closest pursuit. VAGRANT came up on the outside and was in front after three-quarters, PAROLE having dropped back fourth. CREEDMORE moved up on the first turn but was two lengths back of the winner at the finish. BULLION had the misfortune of having a horse, believed to be HARRY HILL run up on him rounding the clubhouse turn, striking his left hind foot and severing a tendon. He finished on three legs.
Tuesday, May 22, 1877, Kentucky bred Baden-Baden wins the third Kentucky Derby. Eleven went to post on a “fast” track. William “Billy” Walker an African American jockey, who was born a slave, guided home the winner in 2:38. Owner Dan Swigert and future U.S. Racing Hall of Fame trainer Edward D. Brown, also an African American. The connections who took home $3,300.
April 3, 1878, The New York Times published a small piece on a upcoming race:
“Col. M. Lewis Clark, Jr., President of the Louisville Jockey Club, has perfected arrangements by which Ten Broeck and Mollie McCarthy are to run four-mile heats at Louisville, July 4 next, for the sum of $10,000. Two or three other races will be given at the same time. The owner of Mollie McCarthy thinks she can beat any horse in the country. The mare will be brought from California to Louisville in Budd Doble’s car, which has been chartered for the round trip, and will probably arrive here about the first of May to prepare for the contest. Ten Broeck was never in better condition than at present.”
The press deemed the race a failure but it did create much pubilicity for the new track. Matt Winn later described this race as the last of the great 4 mile heat system races in America. This race was so popular that it inspired several folk songs, including what some say inspired the 1st bluegrass music recording “The racehorse Song” by Bill Monore.
Tuesday, May 21, 1878, Kentucky bred Day Star wins the fourth Kentucky Derby against eight rivals. Time: :25 1/2, :49 3/4, 1:16 1/2, 1:45 3/4, 2:37 1/4 (Derby Record). Track dusty. $4,450 to the winner. Jimmy Carter up.
May 20, 1879, Lord Murphy won the fifth running of the Kentucky Derby. Run on a fast track with a field of nine horses, Lord Murphy was knocked almost to his knees by Ada Glenn on the first turn, but managed to pull himself up from 7th to 1st place at the mile marker to win over the fast approaching Falsetto. Lord Murphy was originally named Patmus and was a grandson of Lexington. He was owned by Geo. W. Darden & Co., trained by George Rice, ridden by Charlie Shauer and won the race in a record time of 2:37.00. Famed jockey Isaac Murphy finished second.
June 28, 1879, Brighton Beach Race Course opened at Brighton Beach on Coney Island, NY., by the Brighton Beach Racing Association. Headed by real estate developer William A. Engeman, the one-mile race track was located in back of his Brighton Beach Hotel.
June 19, 1880, the Sheepshead Bay Race Track opened for their first day of racing. The racetrack was built by a group of prominent businessmen from the New York City area who formed the Coney Island Jockey Club in 1879. Led by Leonard Jerome, the track’s President and William Kissam Vanderbilt, the Club held seasonal race cards at nearby Prospect Park Fairgrounds until construction of the new race course was completed. It was built on the site of the Coney Island Jockey Club at Sheepshead Bay, New York. Sheepshead Bay was probably the most prominent of the Brooklyn tracks and originated the Futurity and the Suburban. It also was unique in that it had the first turf course. When turf racing ended at Sheepshead Bay, it virtually stopped in America until a turf course was constructed in Hialeah in the 1930’s.
Tuesday, May 18, 1880, Kentucky bred Fonso beats the smallest field (5) to win the sixth Kentucky Derby. Tice Hutsell gave G. Lewis a leg up. This Derby was the dustiest of all. Some estimates had the dust 5 inches deep. FONSO broke in front and was never headed. After a quarter, it was FONSO, KIMBALL, BANCROFT and BOULEVARD with QUITO, which was left at the post, far back. QUITO moved into third position on the back stretch but had nothing left for the final drive. FONSO was a length in front of KIMBALL at the wire with BANCROFT three lengths back. A foul claim by the rider of KIMBALL against FONSO was not allowed. 47 nominations. Net to winner; $3,800.
Friday, May 27, 1881, the 9th running of the Preakness Stakes was the first race on the card at a distance of one and a half mile. $2,000 was the gross purse money to the owner of the winner, Saunterer.
Tuesday, May 16, 1882, Kentucky bred Apollo wins the eighth Kentucky Derby over 13 other starters, the largest filed to date. An unnamed colt ran in the derby, so he ran with his sire’s name, Pat Malloy. Trained by Green B. Morris; bred in Kentucky by Daniel Swigert and ridden by B. Hurd. The winning owners, Morris & Patton, took home $4,560.
Wednesday, May 23, 1883, Leonatus wins the ninth Derby. The winner received a purse of $3,760. The name “Churchill Downs” is first used to landmark the racetrack that is the home of the Kentucky Derby.
Friday, May 16, 1884, Buchanan wins the 10th Kentucky Derby. Isaac Burns Murphy wins his first on his fourth try. Nine went to post on a “good” track. One of those being Bob Miles who beat the flag and jumped into a two-length lead at the start. The winning owner Cottrill & Brown took home $3,990.
May 14, 1886, Ben Ali won the 12th Kentucky Derby in a record setting performance. This was a very controversial derby because James Ben Ali Haggin, the owner, could not place a large bet on his winning stallion. In 1886, C. M. White purchased the pooling privileges (wagering rights) for the Derby for $30,600 and demanded that all the Derby bookmakers pay him a $100 fee to operate at the track. The bookmakers refused to pay so there were no bookies to handle high-dollar bets. News traveled fast in the east coast and other horse racing circuits of Haggin’s ill treatment in Louisville causing many horsemen to boycott the Kentucky Derby during the 1890s and early 20th century. Bookmakers returned for the 1887 Derby but the damage was done; field quality and race profits reduced dramatically over the years until Churchill Downs was facing closure and sold to a syndicate led by Matt Winn in 1903.
Friday, May 10, 1889, George “Spider” Anderson wins the 17th running of the Preakness aboard Buddhist in a match race against Japhet . Spider was the first African American to win the famed race. Gross Value $1,380. Gross to Winner $1,180. Second $200.
August 20, 1889, Morris Race Track in Westchester County, New York opened for their first day of racing. African-American Racing Hall of Fame jockey Isaac Murphy rode on opening day at the new facility and was described as “the finest race track in the world.” Accessible by horse and buggy, the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad added a short spur from its main line near the Van Nest station that brought racing fans directly to the new race track from the greater New York City area.
1890 the Kentucky Association faced financial problems and sold the track to a group of investors. The economic depression following the Panic of 1893 was a serious blow, and financial difficulties plagued the new owners. Due to the poor economy the track owners had difficulty attracting horses for important events
April 1, 1890, Benning Racetrack, Washington, DC. opened to the public. John Madden, “the Wizard of the Turf,” liked Benning, and brought as many as 36 horses at a time. “The meetings at Bennings race track are increasing in importance annually and the stakes here offered are well worth the attention of any owner,” said the Daily Racing Form in 1903. A Tennessee congressman carried a bill through Congress to prohibit racetrack gambling in Washington. A Kentuckian lectured Sims in a different hearing on moral reforms: “Your innocent little amendment to a road bill destroyed the Benning race track.” This was a wave of Anti-racing sentiment that came in through NY and spread. Other tracks reopened once the laws lightened, but Benning never did. The last race was April 12, 1908. The grandstand burned down in 1915.
Tuesday, June 10, 1890, Morris Park Racecourse hosted both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
The 18th consecutive running of the Preakness was moved to New York and The New York Jockey Club would keep the distance at 1 & 1/2M. The race would not run again till 1894. The Preakness Stable owned the 4-5 favorite named Montague who paid $10.40. Gross value: $1,665.
Morris Park hosts their first Belmont and Burlington wins the 24th Belmont Stakes. The mile and a quarter went in 2:07.34. The purse was double from the previous year, $8,560 and would drop back to $5,070 in 1891.
June 25, 1890, Isaac Burns Murphy raced in the most memorable contest of his life. Matched against a white counterpart, jockey Ed “Snapper” Garrison; the race would settle the debate as to which rider was the better jockey, in a match race that had definite racial overtones. Murphy was victorious in a race so close it is known to be one of the first “photo finishes” in the history books of horse racing.
Wednesday, May 11, 1892, Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton rode Azra to victory in the 18th Kentucky Derby. Fifteen year old Lonnie became the youngest jockey to ever win the Derby. Clayton and Azra followed up their Derby success with victories in the Clark Handicap and the Travers Stakes. African American Jockeys won 15 of the first 28 Derby’s run.
The Preakness Stakes was not run in 1891, 1892 and 1893.
Race starter Charles H. Pettingill almost caused a riot from the fans in the 93′ American Derby. He delayed the start of the race for a perfect start for a hour and a half, forcing the race to be restarted almost 40 times. By the time he started the only race Man o” War lost in, he would be 70 years old.
June 21, 1893, Aristides passed away after winning the first Kentucky Derby 18 years earlier. A chestnut thoroughbred with a white star and two hind stockings, Aristides was bred by Hal Price McGrath and foaled in 1872. Aristides raced 21 times with 9 wins, five places, and one show. In 1988, the Aristides Stakes was inaugurated at Churchill Downs to honor him. A life-sized bronze statue of Aristides by Carl Regutti stands at Churchill Downs Clubhouse Gardens as a memorial.
Tuesday, May 15, 1894, Chant wins the 20th Kentucky Derby. Also in 1894, The New Louisville Jockey Club was incorporated. William F. Schulte was appointed President and Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark was retained as Presiding Judge for the track.
Thursday, May 19, 1894, the 19th Preakness makes its return at a new track and new distance. The Brooklyn Jockey Club’s Gravesend Course hosted the 1 1/16M test. Assignee wins on a fast track in 1:491/4 at odss of 4-1. The colt by Spendthrift earned $1,830 for the Keene family.
November 26, 1894, the articles of incorporation of the new Louisville Jockey Club were filed in the County Clerk’s office. The incorporators were Messrs. Emile Bourlier, Henry Wehmhoff and W.E. Applegate, each of whom held twenty shares valued at $100 per share, W.F. Schulte and C.J. Bollinger, fifteen shares, and M.S. Simonton, ten shares. The capital stock was fixed at 110,000.
Monday, May 6, 1895, Lexingtonian Byron McClelland owned and trained the 21st winner of the Kentucky Derby. Halma won his connections $2,970. Churchill Downs president William F. Schulte constructed a new grandstand complemented by two twin spires atop the roof on the opposite side of the track for a reported cost of $100,000.
November 2, 1895, Belmar won the 29th Belmont Stakes. The race was run so late in the year because the New York Jockey Club had closed operations. This Belmont was run under the jurisdiction of the Westchester Racing Association. The distance was one and one quarter mile.
Wednesday, May 6, 1896, Ben Brush beat Ben Eder by a nose to win the 22nd Kentucky Derby. Net to the winner was $4,850. This was the first time the race would be run at 1 1/4 miles going in 2:07 3/4. Willie Simms was in the irons for his first of two Derby wins. He was the only African American jockey to win all three Triple Crown races.
June 6, 1896, Margrave beats three others to win the 21st Preakness Stakes. The heavy favorite won giving five pounds. The 1 1/16 mile went in 1:51 on a fast track. Harry Griffin, from New York City, rode the winner
March 18, 1897, The Kentucky Association (also known as the “Kentucky Racing Association” and the “Kentucky Association for the Improvement of the Breeds of Stock”) was put up for sale due to finically difficulties and after 1893 panic. The status of the track remained in limbo for four years.
March 5, 1901, The Kentucky Racing Association Track was sold to Charles Green of St. Louis, Missouri, who had been a trustee for the stockholders, in 1901 for $1 plus other considerations. It was the second sale of the track since its 1826 start.
Monday, April 29, 1901, the 27th running of the Kentucky Derby took place. The winner was His Eminence with James Winkfield aboard in 2.07.75. Trained and owned by F.B. Van Meter the 1st place prize money was $4,850. Second place received $700 and third won $300. The 1901 Derby was the only time the race was run in April.
May 2, 1903, the 29th running of the Kentucky Derby took place. Three-year-old Kentucky bred, Judge Himes, took home $4,850 for the win. Harold “Hal” Booker, who only rode in one derby, was the winning jockey. Hal stopped James Winkfield from winning three consecutive Derby’s, a feat James wanted very badly. “It was a Derby run and won not by the touted, odds-on favorite, but by the much despised outsider,” wrote The Thoroughbred Record, “but be it said to the credit of the colt and jockey, he was well-piloted, and when Judge Himes passed the wire of the classic event, it was to the plaudits of all Kentucky.” More than 50 years later, Winkfield, living in France, had another take on his ride, telling The Record: “I drove him too hard, too early.”
It was the first time a web barrier was used to start the Derby. This was an elastic tape being four inches wide and stretched across the track, with the starter pressing a button to release the iron arms holding the barrier in place. The barrier was used until 1930, when the starting gate was implemented.
April 2, 1905, jockey Otto Wonderly, died in a hospital from a as a result of 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 race record time on an off track in front of more than 50,000 spectators.
May 24, 1905, Tanya, won the 39th Belmont Stakes, the first time the race was held at Belmont Park. She also became the second filly to win the race. It was the 39th running of the prestigious stakes. The distance was a mile and a quarter and Tanya went off as the favorite at 2-1 over six other colts. 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, she won the Hopeful Stakes, the National Stallion Stakes, and the Spinaway Stakes.
1905, the owners of Churchill Downs, who were officials of the New Louisville Jockey Club, joined with nearby Douglas Park to form the Louisville Racing Association, whose 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.
March 23, 1906, the Kentucky General Assembly passed an act establishing the Kentucky State Racing Commission. This Governor-appointed group was to regulate all of thoroughbred racing in the state. To also license corporations desiring to hold race meets, as well as, trainers and jockeys. It also gave power to revoke such licenses, if necessary, and to subject these entities to the courts of the state.
The importance in the founding of this commission was that racing in Kentucky was at last recognized as a permanent institution; one that required supervision and set rules. Pioneers had begun matching their horses as early as 1780 on the race paths bordering the forests. From that time the sport was continued in small groups of two, in three-day race meets, in organized corporations that made their own rules and regulations. With the formation of the State Racing Commission, all running races ‘were governed by this body of five men; set standards and rules were made for the entire state. And as a result, a man could enter his horses at any track in the Commonwealth and would know that the conditions would be the same at all places. Leslie Combs II was elected chairman.
June 17, 1906, Sysonby died in his stall at Sheepshead Bay Racetrack of septic poisoning. Some 4,000 attended his funeral following a day of racing at the historic track. He won 14-15 liftie start
Tuesday, May 5, 1908, Stone Street won the 34th Kentucky Derby on a muddy track, in 2:15.20, the slowest derby for the 1 1/4 distance. 19 year old Arthur Pickens was in the irons and held the record for being the youngest jockey to win the Derby for 70 years until Steve Cauthen, 18, won in 1978. It was Stone Street’s only stakes race win and the connections won a purse of $4,850.
May 13, 1911, Meridian wins the 37th Kentucky Derby. The winning connections took home $4,850. The winning time was 2:05 which equaled the track record and set the Derby record. The starting gates opened at 5:02 PM.
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 3/8 miles in 2:18 on a fast track which set a new track record. Mr. Whitney received $2,825.
August 2, 1913, a crowd of 7,000 attended the reopening of Saratoga Race Course. Old Rosebud won the Flash, 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.
May 8, 1915, Regret wins the 41st running of the Kentucky Derby. Regret, the first filly to ever win the Derby, generated significant publicity for the race, causing Churchill Downs president Matt Winn to observe that because of Regret’s win “the Derby was thus made an American institution.”
March 29, 1917, a few minutes before midnight, Man o’ War was born at Major August Belmont, Jr.’s, Nursery Stud, near Lexington. He was the second foal of his dam, Mahubah. He raced 21 times as a two and three-year-old; 18 in New York, two in Maryland and one in Canada, his last race. America would enter WW1 a few days after he was born. Three years later “Big Red” along with Babe Ruth would capture the hearts of sport fans nationwide as the country headed into the roaring 20’s.
May 12, 1917, Omar Khayyam, foaled in England, won the 43rd Kentucky Derby and thus became the first foreign bred horse to win the Derby. On the same day, Kalitan won the 42nd Preakness Stakes, one of two times the races were held on the same day. Kalitan became the first Preakness Stakes winner to be presented with the most valuable trophy in sports, the Woodlawn Vase.
June 16, 1917, the 49th running of the Belmont Stakes between three entries took place. The winner was Hourless who was bred at August Belmont, Jr.’s Haras de Villers in Foucarmont in Upper Normandy, France. He was foaled at Southcourt Stud in Southcote, Bedfordshire, which was owned by Leopold de Rothschild. With World War I raging in Europe, in 1915 Hourless was exported to the United States. Hourless set a new track record for a 1 3/8 miles going 2:17 4/3, winning $5,800.
May 11, 1918, the 44th Kentucky Derby was run. Without the benefit of a single prep race—he hadn’t raced in 9 ½ months!—Exterminator shocked the world by racing over a muddy track that he clearly relished. Exterminator took the lead after six furlongs, was headed with a furlong to go, then fought back courageously to win by a length. Exterminator 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.
“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.
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. It was also the first major purse increase. The $25,000 Preakness 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 a Triple Crown. J.K.L. Ross was the proud winner and H. Guy Bedwell was the conditioner. The term “Triple Crown was not coined yet.
June 6, 1919, Samuel D. Riddle’s, Man o’ War, made his racing debut at Belmont Park in a $700 purse race against six other contenders going 5/8M. Despite having jockey Johnny Loftus using much restraint throughout the race, Man o’ War won by an easy 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 Keene Memorial Stakes at Belmont going 5.5F in 1:05.60. Johnny Loftus up. The purse was $5,000, Man o’ War won $4,200.
June 23, 1919, Man o’ War, traveled to Aqueduct and won the 29th running of the 5F Hudson Handicap, in 1:01.60 for two-year-olds. 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 from two competitors in 1:13.00, carrying 130 lbs. Man ‘ 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 tougher 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, winning $7,600 in the $10,000 guaranteed purse.
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, and the group circled, approached the starting line as a team, and were released by signal of the starter’s flag. On this day, Man o’War was still circling when the flag fell, and was in fact, not even yet 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 in a clean start, by two, in 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 the 7th running of the 6 furlong Hopeful Stakes, by a full 12 minutes before winning in 1:13.00. It was “a day of blistering heat, the air heavy with stormful threats.” 20,000 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. One colt, possibly Man o’ War kicked the filly Ethel Grey and Man o’ War did kicked 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 the Saratoga for Belmont to enter his last race of 1919, the 30th Futurity Stakes for two-year-olds, going 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. At Belmont, he was up to 1,020. By the time he debuted as a three-year-old 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. He is best known for siring Man o’ War.
May 8, 1920, Man o’ War did not run in the Kentucky Derby. Owner Sam Riddle did not like racing in Kentucky, nor did he think 3-yr-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 30th 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: fourth, $1,000.
June 12, 1920, Man o’ War Next won the Belmont Stakes (1 3/8M) against one challenger. Donnacona thus became only the 3rd horse in history to run in all three Triple Crown events. Before him were War Cloud (1918) and Sir Barton (1919). Kummer rode Man o’ War to a new world record of 2:141⁄5, beating the previous standard set in England by over two seconds and beating Sir Barton’s American record by over three seconds.
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 3/5, 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 1/5, a new world record for 1 1⁄8 miles.
August 7, 1920, four-year-old, Man o’ War wins the Saratoga’s Miller Stakes (1 3/16) in 1:56.60. It was his 6th 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, for his only ride on Big Red, replacing an injured Clarence Kummer, his regular jockey, who had a shoulder injury. At the odds of 1-30, yielding 12 and 17 pounds respectively to his two rivals, 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 1⁄4 miles in 2:01 4/5, 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 4/5. The record stands today.*
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 1⁄2 miles 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. 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 1⁄2 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. Video
January 27, 1921, Man o’ War arrived in Lexington after retirement and was ridden under silks before a huge crowd the following day at the Lexington Association track. He retired to Hinata Farm in Lexington but soon moved to Faraway Farm. While it is true that our greatest horse never raced in Kentucky, he did set foot on a Kentucky racetrack. Video
May 13, 1922, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes were run on the same day. Morvich, from gate four, won the 48th running of the Derby. Owner Ben Block won $53,000 from the purse. Greentree Stable’s Pillory, from the five hole, won the 47th running, winning $51,000 for the Preakness.
November 18, 1922, Ellis Park Race Course, opened the gates for the first Thoroughbred meet. One month earlier, Ellis officially opened with a Grand Circuit harness meet. Ellis Park, originally Dade Park, was built in 1922 by the Green River Jockey Club. The original plans were to build a track 1 ½ miles long (as the Green River Jockey Club wanted one of the longest in the nation). Ernest F. Bohme, a Lexington architect, assigned to develop the plans for Ellis Park, became confused during the decision making and brought in sketches with a track 3/8 of a mile shorter. Time was growing short, so the original investor decided to go with Bohme’s design.
April 15, 1923, Purchase, along with forty other horses, died in a barn fire at Harry F. Sinclair’s Rancocas Stable, New Jersey. Purchase was called “The Adonis of the Turf.” Walter Vosburgh, the official handicapper for The Jockey Club as well as a turf historian for many years (and for whom the Vosburgh Stakes were named), wrote: “…one of the most exquisitely beautiful of racehorses…to describe Purchase would be to exhaust the superlative.” As a three-year-old, Purchase won the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Southampton Handicap, Stuyvesant Handicap, Dwyer Stakes, Empire City Derby, Huron Handicap, Saratoga Handicap and the Saranac Handicap.
Monday, May 12, 1924, Nellie Morse wins the 49th Preakness Stakes. The distance was 1 1-8 Mile which was the distance from the 36th Preakness to this one. The distance would change to what is run today, 1 3-16 M.
January 15, 1925, Hialeah Park opened for thoroughbred racing. Not only did Hialeah include a one-mile dirt track, but nearby was a jai alai fronton (the first in the U.S.), a dance hall, a roller coaster, and oh, a snake catcher! Because Hialeah was on the edge of the Everglades, it wasn’t unheard of to catch a couple dozen snakes a day near the infield lake, so a snake catcher was hired full time. The track suffered damages in the Great Hurricane of 1926.
September 1, 1927, jockey Earl “Sandy” Graham was competing at the Polo Park Racetrack in Winnipeg, Canada. He 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 was broken and his chest was 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. According to a February 24, 2001 Thoroughbred Times recount of 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 racecard, someone finally offered to drive Graham to the hospital but by then it made little difference and he died ten days later.
Tuesday, May 17, 1930, Gallant Fox wins the 56th running of the Kentucky Derby. The winner received a purse of $50,725 and a $5,000 Gold Cup.
June 7, 1930, Gallant Fox is the second horse to win the Derby, Preakness and Belmont. There were four entries. Net value to winner $66,040. Owner: Belair Stud, Trainer: James Edward Fitzsimmons, Jockey: Earle Sande
June 8, 1930, Bryan Field’s New York Times story referred to the colt “completing his Triple Crown.” It is believed to be one of the earliest references to the Kentucky Derby-Preakness-Belmont Stakes winner.
November 4, 1930, Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup Race in Australia, the country’s most prestigious race. The legendary Phar Lap won (after a 3rd placing the previous year), as the shortest priced favorite in history and the only favorite to win at ‘odds on’ (8/11). Due to his outstanding success, criminals tried to shoot Phar Lap three days earlier after he had finished a track work. They missed, and later that day he won the Melbourne Stakes, and three days later the Melbourne Cup.
May 9, 1931, the 56th Preakness Stakes took place.
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 to be aboard two Triple Crown champions (Whirlaway and Citation).
April 5, 1932, Phar Lap’s groom, Tommy Woodcock, found his horse in severe pain and with a high temperature, within a few hours, Phar Lap hemorrhaged to death. An autopsy revealed that the horse’s stomach and intestines were inflamed. To this day his death has been debated. Many believe the horse had been deliberately poisoned. 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 certain Phar Lap was poisoned with a large single dose of arsenic in the hours before he died, perhaps supporting the theory that Phar Lap was killed on the orders of U.S. gangsters, who feared the Melbourne Cup-winning champion would inflict big 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 is 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.
April 17, 1933, articles of incorporation were filed for the Keeneland Association. That August, the Association purchased 147½ acres of Jack Keene’s property for $130,000 in cash and $10,000 in preferred stock at par value. Hal Price Headley was elected President of the Keeneland Association, a position he would hold until 1951.
November 1933, the Kentucky Association disbanded, was sold and the track’s grandstand, clubhouse, and stables were demolished. 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 gate, houses one of the few known markers left over from the historic track; an old gatepost with initials K.A. Ref: 23
May 4, 1935, Omaha wins the 61st Kentucky Derby.
May 11, 1935, Omaha wins the 60th running of the Preakness.
August 29, 1935, Keeneland Association purchases 147.5 acres of Fayette County farm land from Jack Keene. The sale included Jack’s limestone barn and his track. The purchase price was $130,000 in cash and $10,000 in stock. Ref: 28
June 8, 1935, Omaha wins the 67th running of the Belmont Stakes and becomes the third horse to win the Triple Crown.
May 2, 1936, the 62nd running of the Kentucky Derby was won by jockey Ira “Babe” Hanford, who won aboard Bold Venture. Babe was the first apprentice jockey to win the Derby. Bold Venture sired Middleground, winner of the 1950 Kentucky Derby. Middleground was ridden by Bill Roland, the second and last apprentice jockey to win the derby. Hall of Fame trainer Max Hirsch gave a leg up to both young jockeys. Video
May 9, 1936, Bold Venture wins the Preakness Stakes, earning $27,325. They went to post at 5:18 PM. The 1 3/16 M went in 1:38.
June 6, 1936, Granville wins the 68th Belmont Stakes, winning $29,800. In the Derby, Granville threw his jockey James Stout. He then finished second by a nose to Bold Venture in the Preakness Stakes. In the Belmont, he won by a nose in a photo finish from Mr. Bones.
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.
October 15, 1936, Royal Raiment wins the first race, a $1,000 allowance for two year old fillies, run at Keeneland Racecourse. The grey filly was owned by John Jay Whitney, trained by J.W. Healy and ridden by John Gilbert. 8,000 people were in attendance for the seven races and 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.
1937, tunnels were constructed under the track at Churchill Downs to provide better patron access to the infield, which was also known as the “centerfield” in yesteryear. An additional tunnel, large enough to facilitate semi-trucks, was added in 1985 when the Matt Winn Turf Course was constructed.
April 25, 1938, directors of the Association organized the first horse sales at Keeneland in the open paddock area. The auctioneer took bids on thirty-one various thoroughbreds totaling $24,885, an average of $802.74. The highest price paid by a bidder that April day was $3,500 for a 9 year old mare named Marmitina with a suckling colt. The small, initial thoroughbred sale started a new tradition like o other in the industry.
November 9, 1938, Keeneland made their first charitable contribution. Two years after the Kenneland Association was founded, the Race Course had made a small profit. $500 was gifted to the Lexington Community Chest, a forerunner to the United Way. Ref: 22
June 8, 1940, the 72nd running of the Belmont Stakes took place.
February 1, 1941, Golden Gate Fields held their inaugural meet, became the only major racetrack in Northern California. With the onset of World War II, the United States Navy took over the property as the “Albany Naval Landing Force Equipment Depot” for storing hundreds of landing craft destined for use in the Pacific theater. After the war, Golden Gate Fields resumed horse racing. Golden Gate Fields was owned and managed for 25 years by foreign car importer and horseman Kjell Qvale. It was subsequently acquired by Magna Entertainment Corp. In March 2009, Magna filed for bankruptcy. The Stronach Group, the current owners, acquired Golden Gate Fields in 2011.
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 and he was voted 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. Servicemen received gifts and amenities through this foundation which would later be known as The United Way.
June 16, 1945, the 70th running of the Preakness Stakes took place. It was the only Preakness run in June in Baltimore.The Preakness was held five times in June while run in New York.
January 3, 1946, George Monroe Woolf, fell from Please Me in the 4th race at Santa Anita as they turned for home. He passed the next day in the hospital. nicknamed “The Iceman”, was a Canadian-born thoroughbred race horse jockey. An annual jockey’s award given by the United States Jockeys’ Guild is named in his honor. He became known for riding the people’s champion Seabiscuit to victories in 1938.
November 1, 1947, Man o’ War had a heart attack at the age of 30 in Lexington. Three days later, more than 2,000 people attended his funeral, which was broadcast on NBC Radio and featured nine eulogies. He passed away less than a month after his longtime groom Will Harbut died. Although Man o’ War never raced in Kentucky, he spent the majority of his life in the Bluegrass State. There are estimates that as many as three million visitors traveled to Mr. Riddle’s Faraway Farm between 1921 and 1947 to see the legendary horse in retirement and hear Will, who nicknamed him, “the mostest horse that ever was.” tell tales of his exploits on the track. Man o’ War made his debut on June 6, 1919 when attendance and purses at racetracks were at record lows. By the time he retired 16 months later, he was a national hero, joining Babe Ruth as the first shining stars of the Roaring Twenties. The charismatic horse’s popularity had brought fans back to the track. He was originally interred at Faraway Farm, but in the early 1970s, his remains were moved to a new burial site at the Kentucky Horse Park. Video
March 5, 1948, jockey Al Snider and two friends set off to fish near Sandy Key, FL. One minute, Snider and his friends could be seen sitting fishing, the next minute, under gusting winds and rolling waters, they were gone, forever. “A total mystery because there was never a trace of them found, not even a piece of clothing,” said Tommy Trotter, a Gulfstream Park and Keeneland steward whose father, Tobe, also disappeared on the skiff. Al Snider was going to be king of the racing world. Just days earlier, the 28-year-old rider had won the Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah Park aboard Calumet Farm’s Citation. Snider was the colt’s regular rider, and the day before he set off to go fishing he was offered a contract to ride full time for prestigious Calumet. Citation went on to win the Triple Crown.
March 19, 1949, William Lee “Bill” Shoemaker, considered too small to be a jockey, ran his first race at 18 years old at Del Mar. His mount was on a filly called Waxahachie. He finished fifth. The winner, prophetically enough, was ridden by Johnny Long-den, a cagey veteran who cut off the young jockey coming out of the starting gate. (Shoemaker eventually avenged himself when he broke Long-den’s record for career wins in 1970.)
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 auction after the tragic death of 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 the race’s popularity. The purse exceeded $100,000 for the first time as well.
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’ Derbys 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
August 31, 1955, Swaps (West) and Nashua (East) met in a $100,000 winner take all, East versus West, match race at Washington Park, in Chicago with 35,262 fans in attendance. Nashua, trained by Jim Fitzsimmons and ridden by Eddie Arcaro wanted revenge for his defeat by Swaps in the Kentucky Derby. Swaps ridden by unknown Willie Shoemaker and trained by a rough cowboy Mesh Tenney, was the speed horse and Nashua the inexorable stalker never met again, but their two-race rivalry is one of the most famous in American racing history. Swaps was favored at 1-3; Nashua was 6-5. They entered the starting gate, Nashua in the No. 2 hole and Swaps in No. 4.
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November 22, 1955, Andrew Cap Tilles, the “A” in CATS passed away in his hometown of St. Louis. CATS, an investment syndicate became known in the media as the “Big Three,” after its three principal partners: Louis A. Cella, Samuel W. Adler and A.C. Tilles. By World War One, the Big Three had acquired most every major non-coastal horse race track in the heart of the country, with the exceptions of Hawthorne and Churchill Downs. As CATS President, Tilles revolutionized the horse racing industry by introducing electricity to the game, developing the modern system of licensing book makers, and holding the first ever recorded instance of night racing.
February 9, 1957, Round Table was the focal point of one of the most memorable sales in thoroughbred history. Shortly before the 5th race at Hialeah, with a hand shake, A.B. “Bull” Hancock Jr., sold Round Table to Oklahoma Oilman Travis M. Kerr for $175,000 a bargain for Kerr but bull kept 20% interest as a stallion. Ref: 30
February 28, 1957, Johnny Longden became the first jockey to win 5,000 races. In 1956 he had become thoroughbred racing’s winningest rider, breaking the record of 4,870 wins by British jockey Sir Gordon Richards (1904–1988). Longden, who was called “The Pumper” by his fellow jockeys because of his riding style, rode many of the great thoroughbreds of the day. In 1943, he captured the U.S. Triple Crown aboard Count Fleet. A sculptured bust of Longden, along with busts of fellow jockeys William Shoemaker and Laffit Pincay, has been placed in the paddock area at Santa Anita Racetrack. Video
September 4, 1959, Kelso started his historical career. Owned by the Bohemia Stable of Mrs. Allaire du Pont, the homebred son of Your Host was gelded before his first start, which resulted in a victory in an Atlantic City maiden race at 6-1 odds – the highest odds of his 63-race career. Dr. John Lee would get to train Kelso two more times in September, finishing second both times. Kelso took a break, found a new trainer and did not race again until June 22, 1960 – after all three Triple Crown races were contested. When he retired in 1966, he left the racetrack as the sport’s all-time leader in earnings with $1,977,896 in purse money. Video
May 5, 1961, Charles William Boland, at the age of 21, died one day after being thrown from his horse, Wyvern, at Fort Erie Race Track. He suffered a fatal head injury. His racing wins, included the 1960 Durham Cup Stakes at Woodbine Racetrack and rode Windy Ship to victory over the Canadian Triple Crown champion, New Providence.
March 22, 1962, Hal Price Headley, a Lexingtonian and owner of Beaumont Farm passed away at Keeneland Race Course of a heart attack. Returning from the track with a group of his horses and his daughter to Barn Q, he was fatally stricken at 11 AM. Headley was considered the guiding force in the foundation of Keeneland. The Alcibiades Stakes, named for Hadley’s foundation broodmare, was won by Headley’s, Rash Statement in 1959, who also won the Spinster Stakes in 1960. Headley bred 88 stakes winners in all.
August 20, 1962, the 93rd Travers Stakes is won by a nose. Bill Shoemaker rode Jaipur, and Manual Ycaza rode Ridan. Almost from the outset, both horses were at each other’s throats. For the entire 1 1/4 miles, the two were never more than a half-length apart for the lead, and for the last mile, their heads were bobbing side by side. Jaipur prevailed by a nose only because his head was down and Ridan’s was up at the wire.
June 8, 1963, Aqueduct Racetrack host the 95th running of the Belmont Stakes. Darby Dan Farm’s Chateaugay won the $101,700 first place prize money. R.C. Ellsworth won $25,000, L.L. Haggin II won $12,500 for third and C.V. Whitney won $6,250 for fourth. Widener and Jacobs finished out of the money.
June 3, 1967, the 99th running of the Belmont Stakes.
November 16, 1967, Native Dancer passed away. Nicknamed the Grey Ghost, he was one of the most celebrated and accomplished Thoroughbred racehorses in history and was the first horse made famous through the medium of television. As a two-year-old, he was undefeated in his nine starts for earnings of $230,495, a record for a two-year-old. During his three years of racing, he won 21 of 22 starts. “When he lost the Kentucky Derby by a head, thousands turned from their TV screens in sorrow, a few in tears,” Time magazine reported.
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, Dancers 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 only horse to be 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.*
September 10, 1968, Latonia Racetrack ushered in night racing for the first time in Kentucky. A crowd of 7,680 was on hand in pouring rain to support the new venue creating a handle of $400,258, setting two new records. The previous opening day record was 4, 720 betting $350,347. Although additional lights were erected between the close of the summer harness racing and the thoroughbred meet, it was difficult to see horses on the turn, especially for the chart caller. The bright orange saddle cloths used instead of the traditional white cloths did seem to help.
November 2, 1968, Dr. Fager made his final start in the Vosburgh Stakes, in which he was assigned 139 pounds, the highest weight ever assigned by track handicapper Tommy Trotter in a regular stakes event. Dr. Fager broke in fourth place but soon moved up to challenge for the lead. He completed the half-mile in 43 4⁄5 seconds then started to draw away, eventually winning by six lengths. 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 as a result of 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.
February 22, 1969, Barbara Jo Rubin becomes the first woman jockey to win, in a pari-mutuel (betting) race, at a major American thoroughbred track when she rides Cohesian to a neck victory over Reely Beeg in the ninth race at Charles Town, W.Va. Her first win was on Hobby Horse Hall, Nassau, Bahamas in 1969. Also in 1969 she was woman to win at Aqueduct and first woman named to ride in the Kentucky Derby. Her horse was later withdrawn. In 1970 Barbara Jo was the first woman to retire from professional racing. Thirty years later Charles Town named the Barbara Jo Rubin Stakes in her honor. Video
May 1, 1970, Diane Crump became the first women jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby. Crump won the first race on the underdcard that day, and then on a horse name Fathom, came in 15th in a 17-horse field in the Derby. Ms. Crump was also the first female jockey to compete in a pari-mutuel race in the United States at Hialeah Park, FL. Watch the 96th Kentucky Derby.
May 16, 1970, the 95th Preakness Stakes was won by Personality. The Maryland Jockey Club reported total attendance of 42,474, this is recorded as third highest on the list of American thoroughbred racing top attended events for North America in 1970.
June 15, 1971, Cheryl White, atop her father’s horse, became the first black female jockey in the United States. This outing was the first of two scheduled probationary rides for the 5-foot-3, 107-pound White as she tried to make more history as the first nonwhite woman licensed to jockey.
March 1, 1973, Robyn Smith became the first female jockey to win a stakes race. Ms. Smith guided North Sea, in Aqueduct’s Paumonok Handicap, to the winner’s circle.
May 22, 1974, Ruffian ran her first race in a five and a half furlong Maiden Special at Belmont Park, Jacinto Vasquez up. Thanks to the efforts of Frank Y. Whiteley, Jr., her talent had been successfully kept a secret, and Ruffian went off at odds of 9 to 2. Under the guidance of Jacinto Vasquez, she quickly went to the front, easily extended her lead to fifteen lengths, and tied the track record of 1:03, something no other 2 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 actually 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.” Video
June 12, 1974, Ruffian ran her second race in the Fashion Stakes (III) at Belmont, 5.5F, 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 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. Video
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 pony boy. 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. Video
July 27, 1974, Ruffian’s 4th race was the Sorority (GI) at Monmouth going 6F with Jacinto Vasquez back in the reins, it was her toughest race to date. Hot n Nasty had broken her maiden by 13 lengths and scored two stakes wins, making her move after the first quarter and becoming 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. Video
August 23, 1974, after a little less than a month of rest, Ruffian ran in her 5th race, the Spinaway (GI) going 6F at Saratoga. A reporter asked groom Minnor Massey by how much his filly would win by, without thinking, Massey gave an answer of thirteen lengths, then worried that his rash statement would make him appear foolish. Suspended again, Jacinto Vazquez would miss the mount and Vince Bracciale was once again up. Ruffian lead wire to wire to set a new stakes record of 1:08 3/5. It was the second fastest six furlongs of the entire Saratoga meet, with the fastest being La Prevoyante’s 1:08 2/5, and the margin of victory was exactly thirteen lengths. Video
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 steel frame of the gate. His family would suffer a similar loss just three years later when his younger brother Roberto, at Pimlico, was killed as a result of 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, awarded annually to a jockey in American racing who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct, on and off the racetrack.
April 14, 1975, with eight months rest, Ruffian made her 1975 debut in an allowance test at Aqueduct, with Jacinto Vasquez up, going 6F. 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. She cantered effortlessly to an almost five length win in 1:09 2/5, a fast time for any other horse, although it was Ruffian’s only race without setting or equaling a record. Video
April 30, 1975, Ruffian’s 6th race, the Comely Stakes (GIII) was 7F at 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 through by the top of the stretch, and Ruffian not only set a stakes record of 1:21 1/5. Ruffian had 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 was forced to pay out more money than it had received. Video
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 had before, even allowing Ron Turcotte and Piece of Luck to stay within a length of her during the first half. 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. At the end, she won by eight and a quarter lengths in stakes record time of 1:34 2/5. The real contest in the race 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. Video
July 6, 1975, Ruffian and Foolish Pleasure broke from the starting gate at Belmont, 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. Video
March 14, 1976, Jockey Bill Shoemaker wins his 7,000th race.
September 19, 1978, lobbyist for the Horse Industry, the off-track betting business and the American Horse Council were in Washington, DC to push for the off-track betting bill in front of Congress. Congress was headed down the home stretch as they will adjourn in less than a month. The three groups claimed the legislation would protect the horse industry from possible extinction, but also would allow the off-track betting industry to prosper. The most important feature of the bill was a requirement that race tracks and off track betting parlors which have been fierce competitors, cooperate for the good of both. The bill passed.
April 7, 1979, Steve Cauthen rode his first winner in England. He guided Marquee Universal to the winners circle in the Grand Foods Handicap at Salisbury Racecourse. As he grew older, Cauthen had increasing problems making weight. In 1979, he moved to England, where jockeys normally compete at higher weights. He became a highly successful rider there, as well as in Ireland, France, Germany, and Italy. Cauthen was British Champion Jockey three times, and won 10 European classic races, including the 2,000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby twice, and the St. Leger Stakes three times. He also won the Irish Oaks twice, and in 1989 rode European Horse of the Year Old Vic to victory in the French Derby and the Irish Derby. In 1991, he won the Derby Italiano on Hailsham.
April 24, 1981, Bill Shoemaker wins his 8,000th race, 2,000 more than any other jockey.
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 prior to the 1984 visit. For regular races, a chalk circle drawn on the track served as the Winner’s Circle. For major races, the trophy presentations were held in the infield on grass. Per the wishes of the Queen’s security team, Keeneland built a Winner’s Circle. The race was won by Cherry Valley Farm’s, Sintra.
November 10, 1984, the inaugural Breeders’ Cup was held 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. Video
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.
March 3, 1985, Bill Shoemaker became the first jockey whose mounts surpassed $100 million in career earnings when he rode Lord at War to a 1 3/4-length victory in the $500,600 Santa Anita Handicap today before a record crowd at Santa Anita Park. Shoemaker, who is 53 years old, went into the day needing $82,977 to top $100 million. Video
November 21, 1987, Breeders’ Cup returned to site of its inaugural running, Hollywood. One of the most exciting Classics to be run, winners of the past two Kentucky Derbies, Ferdinand and Alysheba, battled to the wire. Judge Angelucci, named for a long term Fayette County Judge, set the pace. This was for Horse of the Year. Video
October 13, 1988, Michael Joseph Venezia, was thrown from his horse, Mr. Walter K. and trampled to death by a trailing horse during a race at Belmont Park. He was survived by his wife, Helene, son, Michael Edward, and daughter, Alison. Annually since 1989, the New York Racing Association provides the Mike Venezia Memorial Award to a rider who exemplifies extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship. Active in jockey affairs, Venezia served as president of the Jockeys’ Guild from 1975 to 1981.
November 5, 1988, Churchill Downs and Kentucky held their first Breeders’ Cup World Championship. Racing fans witnessed some of the greatest performances in the sport’s history on this rainy day. Alysheba, who under dark skies won the 3 million dollar Classic, (dubbed the “Midnight Classic”) to capture the Horse of the Year title. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas became the first trainer to win three Breeders’ Cup races on a single card and Julie Krone became the 1st women BC jockey, riding in three races. But the day’s most dramatic moment came in the million dollar Distaff (fillies & mares), where the undefeated Personal Ensign, appearing hopelessly beaten at the top of the stretch, somehow gathered herself and closed stoutly on Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors and prevailed by a head. She was trained by Lexingtonian Shug McGaughey III and owned and bred by Ogden Phipps. For years, the 1988 Distaff would remain the signature moment of the Breeders’ Cup. Video
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 his death in 2000, he won 3,480 races with documented purse earnings of $92,261,894, 127 graded stakes races, 293 overall stakes and led North American riders with 469 wins in 1985.
October 4, 1989, at 11:45 AM, 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 sensitive inner tissues of the hoofs. 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.”
March 26, 1992, Henryk de Kwiatkowski arrived in his private plane at Bluegrass airport a half an hour before the “absolute auction” of Calumet Farm. He offered $17m for Calumet. It was a low bid for the farm’s horses and its 760 acres but it was the best made. Mr. de Kwiatkowski became the owner of Kentucky’s, and America’s, most famous horse farm. Starting at $10 million, Henryk, a prominent owner of thoroughbreds, and Issam Fares, who owns an adjacent farm about half the size of Calumet, bid against each other for about 20 minutes. After the two-day auction, DeKwiatkowski bought the main parcel, he spent $210,000 on another 44 acres at Calumet and paid $200,000 for the rights to the Calumet name. Among 400 other items in the auction, including trophies, was an odd-looking 1939 horse van that transported Whirlaway and Citation, the Kentucky Derby Museum paid $72,000 for. DeKwiatkowski was 64, was a Polish-born aeronautical engineer who started his own aircraft company in the U.S. in the late 1950s. “This was the chance of a lifetime, to own this farm. I am speechless. I am ecstatic. This is a nice investment for my children, and not a whisker will be changed. I love horses, and I will not change one blade of grass.”
December 17, 1993, a seven-alarm fire completely destroys the grandstand. With a round-the-clock effort for 19 days, Fair Grounds erects temporary facilities and conducts racing for its remaining 60 days.
January 20, 1994, Ron Hansen’s body was found in a salt marsh near the San Mateo Bridge not far from where he left his car three months earlier. Hansen rode more than 3,600 winners and his horses earned more than $40 million. Hansen mostly rode in California, winning five titles at Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows and was the leading rider in the Los Angeles County Fair meet four consecutive years. He rode six winners on a card at Golden Gate in 1990. Hansen rode Video Ranger to a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby in 1990, the same year Golden Gate ruled him off the track for five weeks during a race-fixing investigation. Hansen was reinstated by the California Horse Racing Board in time to ride in the Derby. For many, Hansen’s demise at age 33 remains as much a mystery today as it did when he disappeared in October 1993. Some suggested foul play. Others said it had to be suicide. Nothing seemed too farfetched where Hansen and thoroughbred racing were concerned.
November 26, 1994, Cigar wins race the 2nd race in his 16 win streak again going one mile at Aqueduct. However this was the NYRA Mile (GI), beating Devil His Due. The NYRA Mile was renamed the Cigar Mile after his retirement. Video
February 11, 1995, Cigar returns to graded competition in the Donn Handicap (GI) at the classic distance of 1 1/8M. Holy Bull ran his last race. Video
March 27, 1996, the he inaugural running of the Dubai World Cup occurred. At the time it was the world’s richest race with a purse of $4 Million Dollars. It was Cigar’s 14th straight victory for the 6 year old bay colt who traveled 6,000 miles to compete. It was also his most competitive race, where Jerry Bailey had to ask Cigar more than he had ever done before. The win left Cigar two victories short of Citation’s record of 16 consecutive victories. It also vaulted Cigar past Alysheba as racing’s leading money winner and swelled his international reputation.
May 30, 1996, Jimmy Croll then made the most inspired decision of all his time with Holy Bull. He diverted his colt from the Triple Crown trail and pointed for the Met Mile at Belmont. Holy Bull, as a three-year-old, would get a weight break and only have to carry 112 lbs. He would be running against older horses for the first time. It was no contest. Holy Bull ran away, reporting home by 5 ½ widening lengths in 1:33.98 and earning a stratospheric Beyer Speed Figure of 122. Holy Bull would be the 6th three-year-old to win the famous race. Video
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 extremely predictable as favorites won 5 of the 7 races. Patrick Byrne, won the Juvenile Fillies with Countess Diana and the Juvenile with Favorite Trick. The team of trainer Jenine Sahadi and rider Corey Nakatani combined to again 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 to win by six lengths, the largest Classic-winning margin to date. In a close vote, Favorite Trick was later named Horse of the Year. Video
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. Eddie was once banned from the track and after a year he returned, partly due to public pressure. What this man can do for you, I can do better. – Eddie Arcaro 1955. Video
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 in a distance of 1400 meters for Class 5 horses. 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. As the horses were bunched up together, she was kicked in the chest and head by the horses who could not get out of the way in time. She would die 2½ hours later in hospital.
The chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Stewards, Alan Li Fook-Sum: “Ms Kan was a true sportswoman and her contribution to Hong Kong horse-racing will be greatly missed.” As a mark of respect, the rest of the card in Sha Tin on that day was cancelled. And in her honor, the trophy awarded to the Champion Apprentice each season has now been renamed the “Willy Kan Memorial Cup.” Kan created history by becoming the first female to ride in the Hong Kong Derby. Willy Kan‘s funeral was held with Buddhist ceremony and she was buried in Junk Bay Chinese Permanent Cemetery.
September 9, 1999, Jose Carlos Gonzalez, the defending 1989 Fairlplex 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 4-year-old English-bred colt who was leading the 1 1/16-mile 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 program of seven races 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 aftermath of the spill 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.
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.
April 24, 2000, The Keeneland foundation would be officially restructured as a non-profit organization. The new (501)c 3 status now allows Keeneland to accept contributions and give donors tax breaks. The 1960 Kentucky new tax laws impacted Keeneland contributions and forced to drop its non-profit status and dissolve the foundation. Ref: 28
January 12, 2001, Affirmed passed away. His great duels with Alydar in the Triple Crown series may be the best Triple Crown races of all-time. Affirmed was trained by Lazaro S. Barrera and was owned and breed by Lou and Patrice Wolfson’s Harbor View Farm.
February 4, 2004, Michael Francis Rowland, 41, was in the stirrups on World Trade, a five year old bay, in the 7th race at Turfway Park. Rowland was leading when his mount’s foreleg broke. This would have been Michael’s 3,999th win, one away from a major milestone for professional jockeys. He was in a coma until his death February 9. His death raised concerns over jockey safety, an issue that gathered steam and moved to the national forefront by year’s end. Turfway Park established the Michael F. Rowland Fund, as well as the Michael F. Rowland Award to honor the jockey who best exemplifies Rowland’s work ethic, professionalism, and perseverance.
March 12, 2004, Rafael Bejarano won seven races on a single race card at Turfway Park and not all were favorites. The next day he came back and won 5 races. Rafael ended the meet with a track-record 196 wins. Also in 2004 Bejarano won the most races of any jockey with 455 wins.
November 6, 2005, Ellis Park was in the middle of a F3 Tornado that cut a 41 mile swath. Only three of the horses stabled at the park died that day, but several were severely injured. The terrace grandstand crumbled to the ground and nine of the 39 barns were destroyed. Debris from the park was swept away with the wind along the tornado’s path. The club house and the main grandstand sustained little damage. A farmer discovered several race horses, wandering in the Ohio River bottoms, days after the storm.
December 1, 2006, Russell Baze winning the fourth race at Bay Meadows set the world’s all-time record for most career victories, passing jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., by winning career race 9,531 aboard Butterfly Belle. He is the first jockey to win 10,000 races and in 2013 he won his 12,000th race. Since the inauguration of the Isaac Murphy Award in 1995, presented annually by the National Turf Writers Association to the jockey with the highest winning percentage in North America, Baze has won it 13 of 14 years, coming in second in 2004.
May 5, 2007, HM Queen Elizabeth II was on track to watch Street Sense win the Run for the Roses. It was the fifth visit to Kentucky and first to the Kentucky Derby. The Queen was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and close friend, horse breeder, William Farish, a former US ambassador to the UK, whose farm she stays on. Race course president Steve Sexton said: “Queen Elizabeth is certainly the most prestigious guest we’ve entertained in the modern-day history of the Kentucky Derby.”
November 23, 2007, Chad Brown won his first start as a trainer with his own string. His first stable started with only ten horses, five provided by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and the other five by Gary and Mary West. He won with his second starter, but the horse was claimed, reducing the stable to nine. He then went to Oaklawn Park for the winter meet, before moving to Keeneland where he scored his second win.
February 15, 2009, Rachel Alexandra begins her three-year-old campaign with a easy mile victory at Oaklawn’s 9th race, the Martha Washington. Video
March 14, 2009, Rachel Alexandra, wins her first graded stakes of the year, Fairgrounds Oaks (GII) in the slop, effortlessly. Video
May 1, 2009, Rachel Alexandra won the Kentucky Oaks (GI) in 2009 by 201⁄4-lengths, by far the largest in the race’s history. Video
May 16, 2009, Rachel Alexandra became the first filly to win the Preakness in 85 years and the first to win from the outside position. Video
June 27, 2009, Rachel Alexandra, won her third Grade I of the year, the Mother Goose. She set the record for fastest time and margin of victory, topping the legend Ruffian’s reocrd. Video
August 2, 2009, Rachel Alexandra takes on the boys again in the Haskell (GI) winning in the slop by 6, just missing the track record. Video
September 5, 2009, Rachel Alexandra ends her three-year-old season, 8 for 8, undefeated, by winning the Haskell (I). For the first time all year a few of the boys came close, but she put them away to be the first female of any age to win the historic race. Video
November 7, 2009, Zenyatta became the first female to win the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic run at Santa Anita Park. She carried 124 lbs and won by 1 length over Gio Ponti. She earned $2,700,000 of the $5,000,000 purse. Later she became the first horse to win two different Breeders’ Cup races, improving her winning record to 14 of 14. Zenyatte won 19 consecutive races in a 20-race career. Video
November 17, 2010, Zenyatta announced her retirement, a little over a month after winning the Hollywood’s Lady’s Secret Stakes (G1). This was the third time she won the race and with this victory, she broke the all-time North American record for Grade/Group I victories by a filly/mare. She also tied the all-time North American record for consecutive victories without defeat, and broke the all-time North American female earnings record.