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History answers: Santa Anita still a gateway to Louisville
By Ron Hale
See the questions HERE.
1. The 1938 Santa Anita Derby was filled with stories from top to bottom.
The winner, Stagehand, became the first and only horse to capture the Santa Anita Derby and Handicap in the same year. The conditions of the Big Cap were changed to 4-year-olds and up in 1970, making Stagehand’s record one likely to remain.
Stagehand was trained by future Hall of Famer Earl Sande, who was the most famous and perhaps greatest jockey of the early 20th century. Sande had been unsuccessful as a trainer up to that point.
Stagehand’s Santa Anita wins made the colt the future book favorite for the Kentucky Derby, but following a disappointing third in the Derby Trial, he came down with a cold that sidelined him for a month.
Meanwhile, Dauber, who had finished a game second to Stagehand in the Santa Anita Derby, closed strongly to be second by a length to Lawrin in the 64th Kentucky Derby. One week later, Dauber captured the Preakness Stakes in a sea of slop by five lengths, becoming the first Santa Anita Derby starter to win a Triple Crown race. Three weeks later, Dauber finished a troubled second in the Belmont Stakes.
2. The Santa Anita Derby, which was run March 8, 1947, was won by On Trust, a son of imported Alibhai.
The race was switched to 1 1/4 miles, the only year in the 75 runnings of the Santa Anita Derby that it was contested at that distance. The race was 1 1/16 miles for its first three runnings and 1 1/8 miles for all others.
Under Johnny Longden, On Trust won the Derby by three-quarters of a length as the second choice in the wagering. The final time was 2:03.20.
Earlier in the meeting, On Trust had been a strong-closing third in the San Felipe Stakes. Behind him at the finish of that race was an East Coast shipper, Jet Pilot, owned by the powerful Maine Chance Farm. Not liking the Santa Anita racing surface, Jet Pilot was promptly returned to New York.
At Churchill Downs, On Trust was the 9-2 second choice to Phalanx (2-1) in the 73rd Kentucky Derby. Close to the pace all the way, the Santa Anita Derby winner finished fourth but was beaten by a little more than a length. The winner, at odds of 5-1, was Jet Pilot.
3. Olympia was bred and owned by Fred W. Hooper, who won the Kentucky Derby with the first horse he owned, Hoop Jr., in 1945.
Blessed with brilliant speed, Olympia’s ability to go a distance was often questioned by the media. At Santa Anita in 1949, Olympia scored a five-length triumph in the San Felipe Stakes, then run at seven furlongs. Two weeks later, on Feb. 19, Olympia went to post favored in the Santa Anita Derby. The bay colt opened up a four-length lead but began to tire entering the stretch. When Old Rockport ran at the Hooper colt on the inside, Olympia swerved toward the rail, forcing jockey Gordon Glisson to take up abruptly and go around. Old Rockport overcame the change of course and won by 1 1/2 lengths.
The stewards asked the state racing board to suspend Olympia’s jockey, Willie Garner, for the rest of the year. The board settled on a three-month suspension.
In the Kentucky Derby, Olympia was sent off at odds-on under Eddie Arcaro. But questions about his distance limitations were well founded. He set the pace but dropped back to finish sixth to Ponder (16-1).
Meanwhile, Old Rockport, sent off at 9-2, closed strongly to finish fourth, once again beating Olympia to the wire.
4. Following victories in the San Vicente Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, and Derby Trial, Hill Gail won the 1952 Kentucky Derby as the 6-5 favorite for famed owner Calumet Farm.
Two years later, Determine followed wins in the San Felipe Handicap and Santa Anita Derby with a 1 1/2-length score in the 80th Kentucky Derby.
In the Santa Anita Maturity (now the Strub Stakes) the following season – the richest race that year in America – Determine lost a long stretch battle with Miz Clementine, Calumet Farm’s crack 4-year-old filly. The filly had drifted into the colt in the stretch run, and the stewards promptly put up the inquiry sign. Miz Clementine was disqualified and placed second.
Calumet owner Lucille Wright Markey was so incensed that, soon after, she removed all her horses from California and never raced there again. She died in 1982.
5. The headline of Barney Nagler’s column read, “This is Silky’s Derby; Win or Lose; He’s the One They’ll Long Remember,” referring to the beloved California-bred Silky Sullivan.
So popular was the colt’s phenomenal come-from-behind-style, a record opening-day crowd showed up at Churchill Downs for the Stepping Stone Purse at seven furlongs in 1958.
At Santa Anita, Silky Sullivan had come from 30 lengths back and was beaten a neck in the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes, from 41 lengths back to win a 6 1/2-furlong Derby prep, and from 28 lengths back to win the Santa Anita Derby.
At post time for the 84th Kentucky Derby, more $2 win tickets (many likely for souvenirs) had been sold on Silky Sullivan than on any horse in the history of the race. His odds were 2.10 to 1.
Silky failed to fire, finishing 20 lengths behind the winner, Tim Tam, and he was never the same again.
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