1900s | Horse Racing Timeline
In 1901, when Willie Simms retired as a jockey, he had one of the best lifetime-winning percentages in the sport. However, by the 1920s, African Americans no longer played a vital role in the sport. The accomplishments of Simms and other African American jockeys had basically been forgotten. In 1977 Simms was inducted into the hall of fame at the National Museum of Racing.
March 5, 1901, the Kentucky Racing Association Track was sold to Charles Green of St. Louis, Missouri, a trustee for the stockholders. He took control for $1 plus other considerations. It was the second sale of the track since the 1826 start.
Monday, April 29, 1901, His Eminence won the 27th running of the Kentucky Derby in 2:07.75 with James Winkfield aboard. Trained and owned by F. B. Van Meter, the 1st place prize money was $4,850. Second place received $700 and third $300. The 1901 Derby was the only April Derby.
May 3, 1902, Alan-a-Dale won the 28th running of the Kentucky Derby with Jimmy Winkfield up. He was the last African American jockey to win the Derby. By the end of 1902, Churchill Downs and the Derby were in danger of disappearing from the sport. By some accounts, the track was suffering severe financial difficulties, and even the Derby itself seemed to be losing some of its luster, only four horses turned out to contest the 1902 Kentucky Derby, one year after a field of five had faced the starter for the 1901 renewal.
October 1, 1902, Churchill Down’s financial problems continued to plague the racetrack. Finally, a group headed by Louisville Mayor Charles Grainger, Charlie Price and Matt J. Winn agreed to take over the operation. Under this administration, the track finally showed its first profit in 1903, 28 years after its founding.
May 2, 1903, the Kentucky Derby's 29th running was won by Kentucky bred, Judge Himes. Six horses contested the race. The connections took home $4,850 for the win. Jockey Harold "Hal" Booker, rode in the derby once and won. 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 demuch-despiseder," 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 Thoroughbred 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.
On May 2, 1904, Lasca Durnell became the first woman to own a Kentucky Derby starter and a winner with Elwood. It was also the first time a woman bred the winner, Mrs. J.B. Prather, also known as Emma Holt. The 30th running of the Kentucky Derby had five enteries.
Wednesday, May 25, 1904, Morris Park hosted their last Belmont Stakes. Mr. Keene's Delhi won the 38th Belmont Stakes. The race had a solid field of eight. They were at the post for four minutes before the 4:00 p.m. start.
April 2, 1905, jockey Otto Wonderly, died in a hospital due to head injuries sustained in a racing accident at Montgomery Park Racetrack in Memphis, Tennessee. A highlight of Wonderly's career came on June 14, 1902, at the Sheepshead Bay Race Track in Brooklyn, New York, when he won the most prestigious race in the United States for horses of all ages. Wonderly captured the famous Suburban Handicap aboard Gold Heels in record time, on an off track, with 50,000 spectators.
May 10, 1905, Agile beats two others to win the 31st Kentucky Derby. Agile went 2:10 3/4 and won $4,850 for owner S. S. Brown. Agile and Joe Cotton were two Kentucky Derby winners that also won the Tennessee Derby.
In 1905, Churchill Downs owners, who were officials of the New Louisville Jockey Club, joined with nearby Douglas Park to form the Louisville Racing Association. Their purpose was to establish race dates and policies for racing in the City. This relationship led to the formation of the Kentucky Jockey Club in February 1919.
May 24, 1905, Tanya, won the 39th Belmont Stakes. This was the first running of the stakes race at Belmont Park. Tanya became the second filly to win the race. The distance was 1 1/4M and she went off as the favorite at 2-1 over six other colts. The net value to the winner was $16,240. It would take another century before another filly would win when Rags to Riches won in 2007. As a two-year-old, Tanya won the Hopeful Stakes, the National Stallion Stakes and Spinaway Stakes. Watch a clip from the Thomas Edison film crew on Belmont's opening day.
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. They also licensed corporations desiring to hold race meets, as well as trainers and jockeys. It also gave the power to revoke such licenses, if necessary, and subject these entities to the state's courts.
The importance of this commission was that it recognized Kentucky racing as a permanent institution, one that required supervision and set rules. 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." 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 lifetime starts.
Monday, May 6, 1907, the 33rd Kentucky Derby was won by Pink Star, the only entry with blinkers. Times: :24, :50, 1:17, 1:45, 2:12 3/5. The track was heavy and the start good. Pink Star won easily. Trained by W. H. Fizer and bred in Kentucky by J. Hal Woodford. The race purse was $6,000, the winner earning $4,850, $700 for second and $300 to third.
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 1/4M distance. Arthur Pickens was in the irons. It was Stone Street’s only stakes race win and the connections won a purse of $4,850. Arthur is buried alongside his wife, Lillian Webster Pickens, in the Maysville Cemetery.
In 1908, Kentucky outlawed bookmaking, a move that threatened the ability of Churchill Downs to generate purse money for their races. Without wagering, Churchill Downs and the Derby could not survive. Fortunately, the quick-thinking Matt Winn remembered an occasion three decades earlier when the track had experimented with pari-mutuel wagering run by machines, allowing racing fans to bet among themselves while leaving bookmakers out of the equation. After discovering an obscure statute that exempted the pari-mutuel machines from Kentucky’s anti-gambling laws, Winn orchestrated a cross-country search to find machines that could serve at Churchill Downs on the day of the rapidly approaching 1908 Derby. Amazingly, six machines were found, and the Derby went off as scheduled, with longshot Stone Street prevailing and paying $123.60 for every $5 win bet, the minimum at the time. From that point on, the Derby grew quickly in prestige. Huge crowds turned out every year, and the purse of the race climbed from $6,000 in 1912 to more than $50,000 by 1921.
On Wednesday, May 12, 1909, the Preakness returned to Pimlico and has been run annually without interruption ever since. Effendi wins with Willie Doyle up. The distance was one mile, the only other one mile Preakness was 1910. Several traditions enjoyed today are attributed to the spontaneity of the 1909 Preakness renewal. For example, the musical rendering of “Maryland My Maryland” began when a bugler, moved by the spirit of the day, began playing Maryland’s historic state song. The rest of the band, inspired by the music, joined in and the crowd reacted enthusiastically. In addition, the 1909 Preakness also inaugurated the concept of the “painting of the colors” atop the weather vane, to honor the winning horse.
May 10, 1911, the Bluegrass Stakes race was run for the first time at the Kentucky Association Track.
Lost Lexington, Kentucky By Peter Brackney
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. Post-time was 5:02 p.m. Matt Winn changed racing forever, by introducing the two dollar minimum bet. In the past, the minimum pari-mutuel bet had been five dollars, beyond the reach of most working people.
October 2, 1911, Laurel Park opened for business. Three years later, in 1914, New York City grocery entrepreneur James Butler purchased the track, installing renowned promotions king Col. Matt Winn as the track’s general manager. Winn is recognized as the man who put the Kentucky Derby on the racing map. Laurel started during a track building boom in Maryland. With racing dark in New York because of a gambling ban, and racing legal in only a handful of states, Maryland opened Laurel, Havre de Grace, and Bowie race tracks in a short span of four years. With Pimlico, the grand-daddy of all the Maryland tracks, already thriving, the state seemed poised to take over the role as the center of American racing, a title previously held by New York.
May 31, 1913, the New York Times reported the return of racing to Belmont Park after three years. The track opened with an agreement there would be no gambling. “Degambelized horse racing was placed on trial yesterday at Belmont Park, after three years of enforced idleness on the metropolitan tracks. Almost 30,000 spectators participated in the trial, in which they occupied the position of quasi-defendants with the officials of the Westchester Racing Association, who had covenated [promised] to insure a day of clean sport.”
Friday, June 13, 1913, Henry Payne Whitney’s Prince Eugene beat August Belmont’s Rock View and three other entries to win the 45th Belmont Stakes. The distance was 1 3/8M in 2:18 on a fast track which set a new track record. Mr. Whitney received $2,825. There would be no legal gambling for this Belmont Stakes due to the Hart-Agnew Bill that banned all gambling in the state.
August 2, 1913, a crowd of 7,000 attended the reopening of Saratoga Race Course. "Old Rosebud" won the Flash race, the third race of the afternoon that started the 50th anniversary of racing at Saratoga. "Old Rosebud" also won the United States Hotel stakes, his 10th victory in 12 races that year. The following May he won the Kentucky Derby.
May 9, 1914, the favorite Old Rosebud wins the 40th Kentucky Derby with J, McCabe in the irons. Seven horses started for a purse of $10,000 added. Winning owner H.C. Applegate received $9,125. J. E. Madden bred the colt in Kentucky.
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.”
May 9, 1915 edition of the Daily Racing Form quoted Harry Payne Whitney as saying, “I do not care if Regret never wins another race, nor if she never starts in another race, she has won the greatest race in America and I am satisfied.” Suddenly, the Kentucky Derby was on the rise again.
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 WWI 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 WWI raging in Europe, in 1915 Hourless was exported to the United States. Hourless set a new track record for 1 3/8M going 2:17:4/3, winning $5,800.
May 11, 1918, was the 44th running of the Kentucky Derby. Without the benefit of a single prep race, he hadn’t raced in 9 ½ months, Exterminator shocked the world by winning the Derby over a muddy track. He beat seven others, including the favorite, War Cloud. The Kentucky bred paid $61.20 to win. It was to be the beginning of a long, illustrious career for the colt.
“Who is it laughs at years that flow?
Who is it always gets the dough?
Whose only creed is go and go?
The above verse, part of a short poem titled “Old Bones,” was affectionately written by Guy McGee and published in the Daily Racing Form in 1922.
Wednesday, May 14, 1919, the 44th Preakness host the Derby winner for the first time. Winning owner J.K.L. Ross also had a filly entered. The $25,000 Preakness purse now paid better the Derby. Sir Barton won easily.
Wednesday, June 11, 1919, Sir Barton wins the 51st Belmont Stakes. He becomes the first horse to win the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in the same year. Johnny Loftus was the first jockey to win the same three races in one year. J.K.L. Ross was the proud winner and H. Guy Bedwell was the conditioner. The term “Triple Crown” had not been coined yet.
June 6, 1919, Samuel D. Riddle’s Man o’ War made his racing debut at Belmont Park for a $700 purse. The six other contenders were also going 5/8M. Despite having jockey Johnny Loftus using much restraint throughout the race, Man o’ War won by a comfortable six lengths and made quite an impression in the papers. Man o’ War won $500.00.
June 9, 1919, Man o’ War, trained by Louis Feustel, stepped up to stakes company and dusted five others in the 7th running of the 5.5F Keene Memorial Stakes at Belmont in 1:05.60. Johnny Loftus up. The purse was $5,000, Man o’ War earned $4,200.
June 21, 1919, Man o’ War, won the 7th running of the Youthful Stakes at Jamaica Park going 5.5F in 1:06.60. The purse was $5,000 and the winner took home $3,850.
June 23, 1919, Man o’ War, traveled to Aqueduct and won the 29th running of the 5F Hudson Handicap for two-year-olds in 1:01.60. He carried 130 lbs. which is unheard of these days in the juvenile ranks. Conceding 21 lbs., he stretched out easily and won unchallenged by 1 1/2 lengths. The value of the race was $3,500, with the winner receiving $2,825.
July 5, 1919, Man o’ War, vacationed in Aqueduct for 12 days, then took the 30th running of the 6F Tremont Stakes. He beat two others in 1:13.00, carrying 130 lbs. Man o‘ War won $4,800 in the $6,000 purse.
August 2, 1919, Man o’ War wins the 36th running of the United States Hotel Stakes against more formidable competition at the Spa. Upset, ran second. Despite getting a bad start and carrying 130 pounds, Man o’ War won easily by two lengths in 1:12.40. The winner took home $7,600 from the $10,000 guaranteed purse.
Wednesday, August 13, 1919, Man o’ War, losses his first race to Upset in the 7th running of the Sanford Stakes, possibly earning the Spa’s nicknames “the house of upsets” and the “graveyard of favorites.” These were the days before starting gates when horses approached the starting line as a team and began racing by the starter’s flag signal. On this day, Man o’ War was still approaching when the race started. He was not even facing the right direction. Upset won in 1:12.40, by half-length, carrying 15 lbs. less than Man o’ War. Golden Groom the favorite, ran third.
August 23, 1919, Man o’ War, giving 5 lbs., wins the 6F Grand Union Hotel Stakes by two lengths. It was a clean start for all, with a winning time of 1:12.00. Upset ran second. This was the 7th running of the stakes race with a purse of $10,000, winner received $7,600.
August 30, 1919, Man o’ War holds up the start for 12 minutes, for the 7th running of the 6F Hopeful Stakes, before winning in 1:13.00. It was “a day of blistering heat, the air heavy with stormful threats.” Twenty thousand people crowded the Spa to see Big Red race four colts and three fillies, including Upset and Constancy, for a $30,000 purse, the winner receiving $24,600. Trying to beat the weather, the jockeys hurried to the starting line. Still forming the line, the clouds burst open with heavy rain. Man o’ War broke through the webbing four times, each time sprinting 50 yards down the course. Man o’ War kicked the filly Ethel Grey and he did kick another filly, Cleopatra. Reporters had a hard time seeing the action due to the rain. Man o’ War won by four, ears flicking up with ease. One reporter recalled Sam Riddle celebrating, “like a seventeen-year-old, he had hopped and skipped about the clubhouse and paddock and congratulated his jockey and trainer over and over.” He knew they were on their way to the Futurity.
September 13, 1919, Man o’ War leaves Saratoga for Belmont to enter his last race of 1919, the 30th Futurity Stakes for two-year-olds. The race was 6F. He won in 1:11.60 beating a young and talented “John P Grier.” Man o’ War was a growing beast. He was a scrawny kid of 970 lbs. while in the Spa. In Belmont, he was up to 1,020 lbs. By the time he made his three-yr-old debut at the Preakness, he tipped the scale at 1,150 lbs.
November 20, 1919, Maj. August Belmont, Jr., announced that Fair Play would stay in Kentucky at his Nursery Stud, after selling him for $100,000 to G.A. Cochran of New York. August also received the right to breed 10 mares to him. Fair Play was the leading sire in North America of 1920, 1924 and 1927, and the leading broodmare sire of 1931, 1934 and 1938. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1956. Fair Play is best known for siring Man o’ War.
May 8, 1920, Watch film a clip from the 46th Kentucky Derby won by Paul Jones. Man o’ War did not run in the Kentucky Derby. Owner Sam Riddle did not like racing in Kentucky, nor did he think three-year-olds were ready to go 10 furlongs as early as May. He would change his mind by the time War Admiral came around. Man o’War stayed in the east, and prepared for the Preakness.
May 18, 1920, Man o’ War wins the 45th running of the Preakness by 1 1/2 lengths from Upset and seven others as he stretched out to 1 1/8M in 1:51.60. “Paul Jones, who won the Kentucky Derby, was not eligible because he was a gelding. Man o’War had a new jockey, Clarence Kummer, who would stay on the colt, with the exception of two races. Net Value to Winner, $23,000: second, $3,000, third, $2,000 and fourth, $1,000.
June 12, 1920, Man o’ War next won the 1 3/8M Belmont Stakes against one challenger, Donnacona. Donnacona, became only the 3rd horse in history to run in all three Triple Crown events. The others were War Cloud (1918) and Sir Barton (1919). Kummer rode Man o’ War to a new world record of 2:144.05, beating the previous standard set in England by over two seconds and beating Sir Barton’s American record by over three seconds.
July 10, 1920, Man o’ War faces a mature John P. Grier in the Dwyer for basically a match race. The favorite carried 126 lbs. and J.P.G 108 lbs. They completed the mile together in a time of 1:35.03, breaking Man o’ War’s American record set in the Withers. “John P. Grier” made another surge and for a moment the spectators believed that he would win the race. Kummer then hit Man o’ War with the whip and they made a final surge and opened up a lead of two lengths in the final fifty yards. The final time was 1:49.01, a new world record for 1 1/8M.
August 7, 1920, four-year-old, Man o’ War wins Saratoga’s 1 3/16M Miller Stakes in 1:56.60. It was his sixth race of the year and a record crowd of 35,000 attended. The saddling area was swarmed by fans to see Man o’ War, who was surrounded by twelve Pinkerton guards. Earl Sande received the mount, his only ride on Big Red, replacing an injured Clarence Kummer, who had a shoulder injury. At the odds of 1-30, yielding 12 and 17 pounds respectively to Donnacona and King Albert, Man o’ War took an early lead, was never extended, winning by six lengths over Donnacona.
“You’ll never get me on his back again. He damned near pulled my arms out of their sockets.”
– Earl Sande
August 21, 1920, Man o’ War with Andy Schuttinger in the irons, wins the Travers in an overflow crowd. The field went 1 1/4M in 2:01.8, equaling the track record set earlier in the year by Sir Barton. This record stood until 1941.
September 11, 1920, Man o’ War faced one other competitor in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (1 1/2M) and won under tight restraint by fifteen lengths. Although declared a hollow victory by The New York Times, Man o’ War still set an American record for 1 1/2M of 2:28 4/5, breaking the existing mark by 4/5 seconds.
September 18, 1920, Man o’ War ventures south to Havre de Grace Racetrack in Maryland to run in the Potomac. He was assigned 138 pounds, conceding from 24 to 34 pounds to his rivals, which included Kentucky Derby winner Paul Jones. He beat Wildair by 1 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. Watch the Race.
January 27, 1921, Man o’ War arrived in Lexington for retirement. In a ceremonial send off, he was ridden under silks before a vast 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 the greatest horse never raced in Kentucky, he did set foot on a Kentucky racetrack. Watch some videos on the legend.
May 13, 1922, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes ran on the same day. Morvich won the 48th running of the Derby, winning $53,000 for owner Ben Block. Greentree Stable’s Pillory won the 47th Preakness, winning $51,000.
November 18, 1922, Ellis Park Race Course opened the gates for their 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, who wanted the nation's longest stretch run. The original plans were to create a track 1 1/2M long. Architect Ernest F. Bohme from Lexington developed the plans for Ellis Park. He miscalculated and built the stretch, 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 and a turf historian for many years (Vosburgh Stakes namesake), 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 at 1 1/8M. This distance was run from the 36th Preakness to this one. Next year, the distance would change to what is run today, 1 3/16M but they would still experiment with other distances in the coming years.
On 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 court (the first in the U.S.), a dance hall, a roller coaster, and oh, a snake catcher! Hialeah was on the edge of the Everglades. It wasn’t unheard of to catch a couple of dozen snakes a day near the infield lake, so they hired a snake catcher full time. The track suffered damages in the Great Hurricane of 1926.
May 15, 1926, the 52nd Kentucky Derby took place. Some called the winner, Bubbling Over, the second Man o' War. However, he bowed a tendon in the race and retired with a 10-for-13 record. He went on to a successful stallion career, including siring Bradley’s 1932 Derby winner Burgoo King. Watch a vintage clip from the race.
September 1, 1927, jockey Earl "Sandy" Graham was competing at the Polo Park Racetrack in Winnipeg, Canada. Sandy was running ahead of the field aboard a colt named "Vesper Lad," when the horse stumbled and threw him to the ground. Trampled by other oncoming horses, Graham's back broke and his chest crushed. With no ambulance service available, he lay on the track until several jockeys carried him to the tack room. Stablemate and close friend Tommy Luther pleaded with racetrack officials to take Graham to a hospital but to no avail. His fellow jockeys could not help, as they were under contract to race and were afraid of the consequences if they left the track to get him medical attention. February 24, 2001, Thoroughbred Times recounts the event, "Luther begged officials to take the stricken boy to a hospital, but no one would. The riders couldn't do it themselves, as each was obligated to ride in upcoming races, and to leave the jockey's room would probably have cost them their livelihoods. Desperate to do something to aide his injured friend, Tommy Luther took up a collection to pay for a taxi. However, at a time when most jockeys did not receive a share of the race purse, they did not have enough money among them to pay the cab fare. All afternoon Luther stayed with his suffering friend, unable to do anything more than drip water into his parched mouth. At the end of the day's race card, someone finally offered to drive Graham to the hospital, but by then, it made little difference and he died ten days later."
May 18, 1929, 21 went to the starting gate in the 55th running of the Kentucky Derby. After the race, Blue Larkspur's owner, Colonel Edward R. Bradley, called Clyde Van Dusen "the worst horse to win the Derby in twenty years." Clyde Van Dusen was the seventh gelding to win the Derby in the race's first 55 runnings. It was 74 years before another gelding (Funny Cide) won the race. Watch the race.
June 7, 1930, Gallant Fox wins the 62nd Belmont. He is the second horse to win the Derby, Preakness and Belmont. There were four entries in the Belmont. 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; it's most prestigious race. The legendary Phar Lap won as the shortest-priced favorite in history and the only favorite to win at "odds on," 8/11. He had placed 3rd the previous year. Due to his outstanding success, criminals tried to shoot Phar Lap three days earlier after completing 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 on a Saturday. From this day forward, the Preakness would always be run on Saturdays. The race has been run on everyday except Sunday. Mate wins the 5th race and earns $18,225.
Beginning in 1931, the modern schedule of the Derby run on the first Saturday in May, the Preakness two Saturdays later, and the Belmont three Saturdays after that, was set in stone, and but for interruptions during World War II, it has remained until 2020.
On January 14, 1932, Eddie Arcaro, on his 251st try, rode his first winner at Agua Caliente in Mexico. The next year he was the leading apprentice jockey at New Orleans, but he missed three months of riding that year with a fractured skull and punctured lung suffered during a fall in Chicago. Arcaro, known as “The Master,” rode a record 17 winners in Triple Crown races and became the only jockey aboard two Triple Crown champions. (Whirlaway and Citation)
On April 5, 1932, Phar Lap's groom, Tommy Woodcock, found his horse in severe pain and with a high temperature, Phar Lap hemorrhaged to death within a few hours. An autopsy revealed that the horse's stomach and intestines were inflamed. However, many believe someone poisoned the horse. Alternative theories include accidental poisoning from lead insecticide and a stomach condition. In 2000, equine specialists studying the two necropsies concluded that Phar Lap probably died of duodenitis-proximal jejunitis, an acute bacterial gastroenteritis. In 2006, Australian Synchrotron Research scientists said it was almost sure Phar Lap was poisoned with a large single arsenic dose in the hours before he died. The single-dose supports the theory that Phar Lap died on U.S. gangsters' orders, who feared the Melbourne Cup-winning champion would inflict hefty losses on their illegal bookmakers. No real evidence of involvement by a criminal element exists, however.
May 7, 1932, Col. E.R. Bradley’s Idle Hour Stock Farm, leader for all-time Derby starters at 28, won their third Derby with Burgoo King, a son of Bradley’s 1926 Derby winner Bubbling Over. The three Derby wins are second to Calumet Farm. Bradley named Burgoo King for James T. Looney, one of the men who popularized the peppery Kentucky-created stew known as burgoo.
In November 1933, the Kentucky Association disbanded, sold the track’s grandstand, clubhouse, and demolished the stables. Due to financial difficulties, the 65 acre Lexington club disbanded 107 years after it began, to make way for the construction of a federal low-cost housing project. Keeneland’s front gatehouses with initials K.A. are among the few known markers leftover from the historic track.
Horse Racing in Central Kentucky and Jefferson County; Marjorie Rieser University of Louisville
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.
May 2, 1936, Bold Venture wins the 62nd running of the Kentucky Derby. Abroad was Ira “Babe” Hanford, the first apprentice jockey to win the Derby. Bold Venture sired Middleground, winner of the 1950 Kentucky Derby. Bill Roland rode Middleground, the second and last apprentice jockey to win the Derby. Hall of Fame trainer Max Hirsch gave a leg up to both young jockeys. Granville threw his jockey, James Stout. Watch the Race.
May 9, 1936, Bold Venture wins the Preakness Stakes, earning $27,325. They went to post at 5:18 p.m. and went the 1 3/16 M went in 1:38. Granville finished second by a nose.
October 11, 1936, the Keeneland Association hosted an open house to introduce the public to the new Totalizator® tote board, first of such machines to be installed in Kentucky. More than 15,000 people attended.
Thursday, October 15, 1936, at 1:53 p.m., a spotted pony carrying outrider Joe Moran stepped into the plowed dirt and led eight prancing thoroughbreds in the first post parade at Keeneland Racecourse. Royal Raiment wins the $1,000 allowance for two-year-old fillies. The grey filly was owned by John Jay Whitney, trained by J.W. Healy and ridden by John Gilbert. Eight thousand people were in attendance for the seven races who wagered $74,639. The first meet lasted nine days. Paid attendance for that first nine-day Fall Meet totaled 25,337. The first year was a moderate success for the Keeneland Association. The financial statement for the year, however, revealed a net loss of $3.47.
January 28, 1937, due to economic reasons, Churchill Downs and Latonia formed a separate operating corporation titled, Churchill Downs-Latonia Incorporated. The two tracks were still owned by the parent corporation, American Turf Association.
1937, tunnels were constructed under the track at Churchill Downs to provide better patron access to the infield, also known as “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 that April day was $3,500 for a nine-year-old mare named Marmitina with a suckling colt. The small, initial thoroughbred sale started a new tradition like no other in the industry.
November 9, 1938, Keeneland made their first charitable contribution. Two years after the first race, the Keeneland had made a small profit. Therefore the Lexington Community Chest, a forerunner to the United Way, was gifted $500.
July 1, 1939, Clay Puett, standing above Lansdowne Park’s muddy track in Vancouver, took a deep breath. He then pressed a button that sprang open 12 steel doors simultaneously and thereby changed horse racing forever. This marked the first time Thoroughbred racing used an electric starting gate.
February 1, 1941, Golden Gate Fields held their inaugural meet to become 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 Corporation.
April 24, 1942, the Churchill Downs-Latonia Incorporated’s name was officially changed to Churchill Downs Incorporated. The American Turf Association continued its affiliation with Churchill Downs, but sold its last out-of-state holding, Lincoln Fields, in March 1947.
December 12, 1942, more than twenty thousand people turned out to watch Calumet Farm’s Whirlaway win the inaugural Louisiana Handicap at the Fair Grounds Race Course. The newly formed Thoroughbred Racing Association staged this event as a war-relief effort. It would be the last race of Whirlaway’s brilliant career. 1942 gave him his second straight American Horse of the Year title.
December 22, 1942, the Keeneland Association wrote check number 2591 for $35,000. It was presented to the Community War Chest during WWII. Service members received gifts and amenities through this foundation's work.
May 1, 1943, the 69th Kentucky Derby was also known as the "street car derby." Colonel Matt Winn lobbied for the Kentucky Derby to be held in 1943 despite many restrictions related to the war effort. Instead, he promised to organize a "street-car Derby", where out-of-state patrons were not allowed to travel to Louisville, and locals had to use the street-car rather than drive to the track. The shortest odds in Derby history, 2-5, Count Fleet wins. Watch the race.
May 6, 1944, Calumet Farm wins their second Kentucky Derby with Pensive. It was the largest Derby purse at $65,000.
June 16, 1945, the 70th running of the Preakness Stakes took place, the only Preakness run in June, in Baltimore. The Preakness was held five times in June while run in New York. Polynesian beats Hoop Jr.
January 3, 1946, George Monroe Woolf fell from “Please Me,” in the fourth race at Santa Anita, as they turned for home. He passed the next day in the hospital. Nicknamed the “The Iceman,” George was a Canadian born thoroughbred racehorse jockey. An annual jockey’s award given by the United States Jockeys’ Guild is named in his honor. He is known for riding the people’s champion, Seabiscuit, to victories in 1938.
November 1, 1947, Man o' War had a heart attack at 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 most 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. Many also went to 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 Roaring Twenties' first shining stars. 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 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 were fishing while sitting. 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 the auction after William Woodward, Jr., who was fatally shot by his wife in what was called the “shooting of the century.” A syndicate headed by Leslie Combs II bid a record $1,251,200 for Nashua.
May 3, 1952, the 78th running of the Kentucky Derby was telecast nationwide for the first time. Some feared that televising the race would reduce attendance, but it proved unfounded with subsequent broadcasts drawing tens of millions of viewers, further solidifying its popularity. Hill Gail won the purse which exceeded $100,000 for the first time.
It proved the final hurrah for the most successful trainer-jockey combination in Derby history. Trainer Ben Jones extended his record to six Derby victories from only 11 horses. He would never have another Derby starter, though son Jimmy Jones won have two more in only three runnings. Four of Ben Jones' Derby's came with Arcaro in the saddle. Arcaro, who won five Derbys, would ride eight more Derbys but never win again, coming closest with Nashua's head defeat in 1955. Hill Gail also gave Calumet Farm its record fifth Derby, with the fabled Lexington farm ultimately taking three more as owners. Hill Gail missed the Preakness and Belmont after an ankle problem flared up. He raced at ages four and five but never won another major race. Video
August 31, 1955, Swaps (West) and Nashua (East) met in a $100,000 winner take all match race. Touted as East versus West, Washington Park in Chicago welcomed 35,262 fans. 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, Nashua was the inexorable stalker. They never met again after this race. Still, their two-race rivalry is one of the most famous in American racing history. Watch the Race!
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 WWI, the Big Three had acquired most every major non-coastal horse race track in the country, except 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 bookmakers, and holding the first-ever recorded night racing.
October 18, 1956, Nashua, the world’s leading money-winning Thoroughbred, made his final public appearance at Keeneland Racecourse in front of 9,000 fans. Under Leslie Combs II’s silks, the handsome son of Nasrullah and Segula, was brought on to the track and strolled by the clubhouse and grandstand. Nashua was galloped once around by Eddie Arcaro before breezing a brisk quarter-mile. In the infield ceremonies, Shelby Kincaid, mayor of Lexington, presented the colt’s owners with a key to the city. Keeneland president Duval A. Headley then gave Combs, a member of the syndicate purchasing Nashua, a gold trophy. Trainer James Fitzsimmons and jockey Arcaro also received gold julep cups, suitably inscribed for the occasion. The following January at Keeneland’s breeding stock sale, Stavros Niarchos paid a record $126,000 for Nashua’s dam, Segula.
February 9, 1957, the colt 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.
Racelens by Philip von Borries
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 day's great thoroughbreds. In 1943, he captured the U.S. Triple Crown aboard Count Fleet. Longden's sculptured bust, along with busts of fellow jockeys William Shoemaker and Laffit Pincay, has been placed in the paddock area at Santa Anita Racetrack. Video
May 3, 1958, Calumet Farm wins their 7th and last Kentucky Derby by crossing the finish line first. Tim Tam didn't place in his only start as two-year-old. As a three-year-old, Tim Tam won the Everglades Stakes, the Flamingo Stakes, the Fountain of Youth Stakes, the Florida Derby, the Forerunner Stakes and the Derby Trial en route to the Derby. Calumet would win one more Kentucky Derby by disqualification.
On September 4, 1959, Kelso started his historic 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 the three Triple Crown races. 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 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. He also rode Windy Ship to victory over the Canadian Triple Crown champion.
March 22, 1962, Hal Price Headley, a Lexingtonian and owner of Beaumont Farm, passed away at the Keeneland Race Course of a heart attack. Returning from the track with his horses and his daughter to Barn Q, he passed at 11 a.m. 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 M, 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. Watch the race.
June 8, 1963, Aqueduct Racetrack hosted 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. The value of the race was $145,450.
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.
In 1968, U.S. Olympic equestrian Kusner became the first licensed female jockey, after she sued the Maryland Racing Commission for denying her application for a jockey’s license based on gender. She later rode on the east coast and in Canada and became the first licensed female jockey to ride races in Mexico, Germany, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Panama, and South Africa. Kusner earned a silver medal at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, to become the first woman to medal in an equestrian competition.
May 4, 1968, Richard Nixon as a candidate for the Presidency was in attendance to watch Dancers Image cross the finish line first in the 94th Kentucky Derby. However, Dancer's Image had bute in his system and was placed last. The second-place runner Forward Pass, was declared the winner. Nixon, the only President to resign from office, witnessed the first horse DQ’d from the Derby. The following year, Nixon returned to Churchill Downs, fulfilling a promise he made to attend the Derby if he won the Presidency. To this day, Nixon is the only sitting president to attend the Derby.*
June 29, 1968, Gamely, Princessnesian and Desert Law all owned by William Haggin Perry and trained by Jim Maloney finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd, in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park. The richest race ever run at Hollywood Park exclusively for fillies and mares, grossed $79,650, with the Perry powerhouse collecting $72,150 for the one-two-three finish.
September 10, 1968, Latonia Racetrack ushered in night racing for the first time in Kentucky. A crowd of 7,680 was on hand in the pouring rain to support the new venue. They bet $400,258, setting two new records. The previous opening-day record was 4,720 betting $350,347.
November 2, 1968, Dr. Fager made his final start in the Vosburgh Stakes, which he was assigned 139 pounds. This was the highest weight ever assigned by track handicapper, Tommy Trotter, in a regular stakes event. He completed the seven furlongs in 1:20 1⁄5, a new track record by a full second and just one-fifth of a second off the world record. Video.
Some would argue he was the greatest of all-time. Dr. Fager made 22 starts, winning 18 times with two second-place finishes and one show. The only time he was out of the money was due to a disqualification in the Jersey Derby, in which he finished first. Only three horses ever finished in front of Dr. Fager: Champion juvenile male Successor, Horse of the Year Damascus, and Horse of the Year Buckpasser.
February 7, 1969, Diane Crump became the first female jockey to ride in a pari-mutuel race when she rode “Bridle ’n Bit” at Hialeah Park. Crump wasn’t the first female to try however. Penny Ann Early had been granted a license in 1968, but she was denied three times when male jockeys boycotted the race to keep her from competing.
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. She rode 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 the first woman to win at Aqueduct and the 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 when she rode Fathom to a 15th place finish in a 17 horse field. Crump did win the first race on the underdcard that day. 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.
September 2, 1971, Cheryl White, at Waterford Park, earned her first win aboard Jetolara. After an accomplished riding career competing in Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Arabian, Paint, and Appaloosa races, White passed the California Horse Racing Board’s steward examination in 1991. She subsequently served as a racing official at multiple racetracks in several different capacities.
July 1, 1972, Riva Ridge turned back the best three-year-olds the west coast could offer at Hollywood Park, holding off Bicker by less than a length in the $109,000 Hollywood Derby. The winning margin in the photo finish was a neck. Riva Ridge upped his earnings to $862,150, making him the wealthiest active thoroughbred at the time. He picked up $59,000 for 1st place.
July 4, 1972, two-year-old Secretariat, ridden by Paul Feliciano, ran fourth to winner Herbull in his racing debut. He was blocked badly throughout the race at Aqueduct. It was his poorest placing ever.
June 30, 1973, three weeks after he won the Triple Crown, Secretariat scored another victory, a nine-length win in the Arlington Invitational Stakes at Arlington Park. He was sent off at the shortest odds in his career, 1-20. With no place or show wagering on the four-horse race, the track had a minus win pool of $17,941. More than 40,000 spectators turned out for the event. Watch the Stretch Run.
August 4, 1973, a record crowd of 30,119 gathered at Saratoga to watch Secretariat. The fans bet heavily and made him the 1-10 favorite with Onion as the 5-1 second choice, and the outcome is legendary. Watch the race.
May 22, 1974, Ruffian ran her first race in a 5.5F maiden special at Belmont Park, Jacinto Vasquez received the mount. Thanks to the efforts of Frank Y. Whiteley, Jr., her talent was kept a secret and she went off at 9-2. Under the guidance of Jacinto Vasquez, she quickly went to the front, easily extended her lead to 15 lengths and tied the track record of 1:03, something no other two-year-old had ever done while breaking their maiden race! Ruffian’s impressive debut was later called the “greatest race ever run by a first-time starter.” People laughed her off, but those were the ones who hadn’t seen her run yet. They said she was “just too fat,” with her girth measuring 75 1/2 inches, and that they “weren’t throwing away perfectly good money.” Video
June 12, 1974, Ruffian ran her second race in Belmont in the 5.5F Fashion Stakes (III), Jacinto Vasquez up. Copernica, a bay daughter of Nijinsky II should have been the favorite due to her previous wins, but the crowd sent Ruffian off as the first choice. Also in the field was the unbeaten Jan Verzal, who unlike Ruffian and Copernica was already a stakes winner. As in her maiden race, Ruffian gained the lead in the first few strides and easily held off Copernica’s game challenge. Winning by six and three-quarter lengths, Ruffian once again tied the track record. Copernica, finishing second, was thirteen lengths ahead of the rest of the field and gave everything she had to the race. Sadly, the brave little filly wasn’t the same horse after the Fashion Stakes. Ruffian had broken her heart. 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 ponyboy. The race itself held fewer surprises. Ruffian easily won by nine lengths, under wraps, in 1:02 4/5. Braulio Baeza later commented “I could have cut through the center field, and she still would have beaten me.” His mount, Laughing Bridge, beat the rest of the field by twelve lengths, but could not hold a candle to Ruffian. Video
July 27, 1974, Ruffian’s 4th race was the 6F Sorority (GI) at Monmouth with Jacinto Vasquez back in the reins. It was her most challenging race to date. Hot n Nasty had broken her maiden by 13 lengths and had scored two stakes wins. Hot n Nasty made her move after the first quarter and became the first horse to head Ruffian, even sticking with her for a furlong before Ruffian dug in and pulled away. Vasquez felt something not quite right with his mount, even as she pulled away from Hot n Nasty to set a new stakes record of 1:09. Back at the barn, he discovered his filly had won the race on a freshly popped splint, which, although not a serious injury, was enough to take the edge off a horse. Ruffian had proved she had heart. Video
August 23, 1974, after a little less than a month of rest, Ruffian ran in her 5th race, the 6F Spinaway (GI) at Saratoga. A reporter asked Ruffian's groom Minnor Massey by how much his filly would win by, without thinking, Massey answered thirteen lengths. He worried that his rash statement would make him appear foolish. Suspended again, Jacinto Vazquez would miss the mount and Vince Bracciale once got the call. Ruffian lead wire to wire to set a new stakes record of 1:08 3/5. The margin of victory was precisely thirteen lengths. 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 gate's steel frame. His family would suffer a similar loss just three years later when his younger brother Roberto, at Pimlico, was killed due to an accident during a race. Álvaro, the second leading rider of the Santa Anita meet, was aboard the lightly raced colt in an allowance for maidens. He made one appearance in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 13th in 1967. Pineda's best mount may have been the Argentina-bred colt Figonero which he rode to victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup and to a new world record for nine furlongs in the Del Mar Handicap. In 1974, Álvaro Pineda's peers voted him the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. The annual award is given to a jockey in American racing who demonstrates high personal and professional standards on and off the track.
April 14, 1975, with eight months rest, Ruffian made her 1975 debut in a 6F allowance test at Aqueduct, with Jacinto Vasquez up. Trainer Frank Y. Whiteley, Jr., had entered her in the race the day before. The other trainers with entries in the eighth race at Belmont probably would not have sent them to post, had they been given time to scratch, but Whiteley had done a masterful job of concealing his plans. Ruffian cantered effortlessly to an almost five-length win in 1:09 2/5, a fast time for any other horse, although Ruffian’s only race without setting or equaling a record. Video
April 30, 1975, Ruffian’s 6th race was the 7F Comely Stakes (GIII) in Aqueduct, Jacinto Vasquez up. Angel Cordero, Jr. took his best shot at beating the star, despite his inferior mount. Riding up behind Ruffian, he let out a shriek, hoping the filly would bolt and run out of steam before the wire. Cordero was successful in startling the filly, and Jacinto had to fight to hold her speed down, but Angel’s filly, Aunt Jin, was done by the top of the stretch. Ruffian set a stakes record of 1:21 1/5. She also achieved something that not even Secretariat, Kelso, or Citation had accomplished, the filly had created a minus win pool, both at the track and at off-track betting. Such universal confidence in a favorite was almost unheard of; occasionally, a top horse would create a minus pool to show, but Ruffian’s fans had bet enough money on the filly to win that a minus pool resulted. The track paid out more money than it had received. 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 been before, even allowing Ron Turcotte and Piece of Luck to stay within a length of her during the first half of the race. Finally, sensing the filly would not tolerate being held back much longer, Vasquez let his mount step up the pace. She bounded away from Turcotte's mount as if the other filly had stopped running and opening up a seven-length lead before her rider asked her to ease up again. In the end, she won by 8 ¼ lengths in stakes record time of 1:34 2/5. The race's real contest had been for second, with the game filly Somethingregal nosing out Gallant Trial, then pulling up lame after the wire with a horseshoe nail in her frog. Video
July 6, 1975, Ruffian and Foolish Pleasure broke from Belmont's starting gate, in front of more than 50,000 spectators, ready to run a mile and a quarter. As usual, Ruffian took the lead, but just before the half-mile mark, something went terribly wrong. Ruffian's head dropped and she swerved into the colt. It didn't take long for Vasquez or the spectators to realize that she had injured herself. 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, D.C. 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 and 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 both. The bill passed.
April 7, 1979, Steve Cauthen rode his first winner in England. He guided Marquee Universal to the winner's 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 typically compete at higher weights. He became a highly successful rider there and in Ireland, France, Germany, and Italy. Cauthen was British Champion Jockey three times and won ten classic European 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.
July 3, 1982, D. Wayne Lukas-trained Landaluce, ridden by Laffit Pincay Jr., won the first of her five consecutive victories at Hollywood Park. The daughter of Seattle Slew, owned by Barry Beal and Lloyd French, died of a viral infection in November of that year, but was posthumously voted champion two-year-old filly of 1982.
July 10, 1982, Landaluce, a two-year-old daughter of Seattle Slew, won the Hollywood Lassie Stakes by 21 lengths under the guidance of Laffit Pincay Jr. She ran the six furlong race in 1:08, just 3/5 of a second off the track record at Hollywood Park.
August 21, 1982, the Travers Stakes was notable from the start, as three winners of the 1982 Triple Crown met again on the racetrack; Gato Del Sol, Aloma’s Ruler, and Conquistador Cielo. Watch the race.
June 29, 1983, jockey Angel Cordero Jr. won his 5,000th career race, aboard Another Rodger, in the ninth race at Belmont Park. He was the fourth rider in history, behind John Longden, Bill Shoemaker and Laffit Pincay Jr., to hit that mark.
October 16, 1983, Kelso passed away of colic. The day before, the 26-year-old Kelso paraded prior to the start of the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park along with champion horse Forego in front of a crowd of over 32,000 spectators. As a gelding, Kelso went on to a second career as a hunter and show jumper. In 1967, he was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. He is buried in the equine cemetery at Allaire du Pont’s Woodstock Farm in Chesapeake City, Maryland.
October 11, 1984, the inaugural running of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup took place, with Queen Elizabeth II in attendance to present the winning trophy. Keeneland didn’t have an actual Winner’s Circle before the 1984 visit. For regular races, a chalk circle drawn on the track served as the Winner’s Circle; for stake races, the trophy presentations were held in the infield grass. Per the wishes of the Queen’s security team, Keeneland built a Winner’s Circle. Cherry Valley Farm’s Sintra won the inaugural running.
November 10, 1984, the inaugural Breeders’ Cup arrived at Hollywood Park in Los Angeles. Seven races, featuring the world’s greatest horses, jockeys and trainers competing on one stage for $10 million in purses, with an unprecedented live four-hour national broadcast. The $3 million Breeders’ Cup Classic hype lived up to its billing. The favorite, Slew o’Gold, Preakness winner Gate Dancer and 31-1 longshot Wild Again drove and banged together down Hollywood Park stretch to the wire. Attendance: 64,254 Handle: $19,476,050. Watch the Race.
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. It happened when he rode Lord at War to a 1 3/4-length victory in the $500,600 Santa Anita Handicap before a record crowd at Santa Anita Park. Shoemaker, 53 years old, went into the day needing $82,977 to top $100 million. Video
May 2, 1986, Ferdinand had to break from the rail, getting bothered at the start and sucked back to last to win the Kentucky Derby. But Bill Shoemaker made the most of a bad hand by saving ground, his winning move coming by launching Ferdinand between horses in upper stretch to beat British invader Bold Arrangement by 21/4 lengths. Ferdinand made four-time Derby winner Shoemaker, 54, the oldest jockey to win the race and Charlie Whittingham, then 73, the oldest trainer. Ferdinand paid $37.40 to win. He was second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont, but blossomed at four, including a nose victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic over ’87 Derby winner Alysheba to clinch Horse of the Year. Perhaps Ferdinand’s most important contribution came in death: rallying the sport to find retirement homes for ex-racehorses and stallions. The 1986 Derby hero is believed to have been killed in a slaughterhouse in Japan after an unsuccessful stud career. — Jennie Rees Watch the race.
November 21, 1987, the Breeders' Cup returned to the site of its inaugural running, Hollywood Park. It was one of the most exciting Classics ever when winners of the past two Kentucky Derby's, 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 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 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 $1 million Distaff. (fillies & mares) 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 Championship. 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 he died in 2000, he won 3,480 races with documented purse earnings of $92,261,894. He won 127 graded stakes races, 293 overall stakes and led North American riders with 469 wins in 1985.
July 2, 1989, jockey Steve Cauthen became the first rider in history to sweep the world's four major derbies after winning the Irish Derby with Old Vic. He had previously won the Kentucky Derby with Affirmed (1978), the Epsom Derby twice with Slip Anchor (1985), Reference Point (1987) and the French Derby with Old Vic (1989).
October 4, 1989, at 11:45 a.m., Secretariat, affectionately known as "Big Red," was given a lethal injection at Claiborne Farm in Paris. He was 19 years of age and suffered from laminitis, a painful and usually incurable degenerative disease of the hoofs' sensitive inner tissues. Dr. Thomas Swerczek, a professor of veterinary science at the U.K., performed the necropsy. All of the horse's vital organs were normal in size except for the heart." We were all shocked," Swerczek said. "I've seen and done thousands of autopsies on horses, and nothing I'd ever seen compared to it. The heart of the average horse weighs about nine pounds. This was almost twice the average size, and a third larger than any equine heart I'd ever seen. And it wasn't pathologically enlarged. All the chambers and the valves were normal. It was just larger. I think it told us why he was able to do what he did."
August 11, 1990, Go for Wand wins the Alabama Stakes in Saratoga. “She’s amazing… She can sprint; she can go a distance… She’s getting better every race… She’s the best filly in the country right now.” Those were the words of praise bestowed on Go for Wand by jockey Randy Romero. What was supposed to be a two-horse showdown turned into something entirely different: a one-horse procession that remains unequaled to this day. Watch the race.
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's 760 acres and their horses and became the owner of Kentucky's and America's most famous horse farm. The bidding started at $10 million between Henryk, and Issam Fares, who owned the adjacent farm about half the size of Calumet. They bid against each other for about 20 minutes. "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."
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. He was the leading rider in the Los Angeles County Fair meets four consecutive years. He rode six winners on a card at Golden Gate in 1990, 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 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.
March 27, 1996, the inaugural running of the Dubai World Cup occurred. At the time it was the world’s richest race with a purse of $4 Million. The six year-old bay colt, Cigar, traveled 6,000 for his 14th straight victory. It was also his most competitive race making Jerry Bailey 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. Watch the race.
May 30, 1996, Holly Bull won the Met Mile by 5 ½ widening lengths in 1:33.98. Jimmy Croll made an inspired decision and 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 as he earned 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 too predictable as favorites won five of the seven races. Patrick Byrne won the Juvenile Fillies with Countess Diana and the Juvenile with Favorite Trick. Trainer Jenine Sahadi and rider Corey Nakatani combined again to win the Sprint, this time with the 7-year-old gelding Elmhurst. Foreign horses won the turf races. The Classic was all Skip Away. A 4-year-old colt trained by Sonny Hine and ridden by Mike Smith, who dominated by six lengths, the largest Classic-winning margin to date. In a close vote, Favorite Trick was later named Horse of the Year. 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. 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. Kan was racing in midfield on Happy King, trained by Alex Wong, about halfway in a seven-furlong race when the seven-year-old clipped the heels of Big Fortune. She would die 2½ hours later in the hospital.
September 9, 1999, Jose Carlos Gonzalez, the defending 1989 Fairplex riding champion, was defending his title on opening day when the horse he was riding suffered a fatal injury on the final turn and took his rider with him. Gonzalez was aboard Wolfhunt, a four-year-old English-bred colt leading the 1 1/16M race for $5,000 claimers when he broke down on the final turn. Gonzalez, 23, was pronounced dead of massive head trauma at the track's first-aid station shortly after the accident. The rest of the day's seven-race program was canceled, but no announcement was made to the crowd about Gonzalez's death. The crowd, estimated at 6,000, was shielded from seeing the spill's aftermath by a three-foot hedge between the grandstand and the track.
J.C. Gonzalez would have been 24 years old on Oct. 5. It was the first racing fatality in the 61-year history of the Los Angeles County Fair and the first in Southern California since Alvaro Pineda was killed at Santa Anita in 1975. Jockey Burleigh Turetski died during a workout at Fairplex in a 1982 mishap.
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.