07/05/2005 11:00PM

History Challenge

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Hollywood Gold Cup: Where West's best have met

The success of Santa Anita Park's first season in 1934-35 convinced investors that race fans would support another track in Los Angeles County.

Santa Anita sent lobbyists and poured money into Sacramento to convince the newly formed California Horse Racing Board that another track was a bad idea, but in the end was unsuccessful in stopping racing at a new track in Inglewood - Hollywood Park.

The facility, which was known for years as "the track of the lakes and flowers," opened its doors on June 10, 1938, and immediately attracted the nation's best horses.

The winner of the first Hollywood Gold Cup was the rags-to-riches colt Seabiscuit, who four months later defeated Triple Crown winner War Admiral in one of the most-watched sporting events of the 20th century.

With the 66th edition of Hollywood Park's richest race this Saturday, test your knowledge of Hollywood Gold Cups of the past.

1. Five-time Horse of the Year Kelso campaigned unsuccessfully at Hollywood Park in 1964, but the gallant gelding did little else wrong during his career. When he retired in early 1966, his earnings were $1,977,896 - the most ever won by a Thoroughbred up till then.

Kelso's earnings record stood for more than a decade after his retirement before another champion eclipsed his mark in the Hollywood Gold Cup. This colt became the first horse to surpass the $2 million mark in earnings. Name him.

2. After struggling home eighth as the favorite in the Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park in 1964, Kelso was again favored in the $115,000 Californian Stakes two weeks later. He could do no better than finish sixth.

While all the attention was on Kelso in the Californian, another lesser-known gelding set a blistering pace in the race, only to fade to eighth at the finish. In future years, this horse would rewrite Hollywood Gold Cup history. Name him.

3. While more than three dozen have tried, no filly or mare has ever come home first in the Santa Anita Handicap, the premier event of the Santa Anita season. (Next Move in 1951, Gamely in 1969, and Island Fashion in 2004 each finished second.)

Females have been more successful in Hollywood Park's premier event, with three of them winning the Hollywood Gold Cup. Name them.

4. From its inception in 1938 until 1996, the Hollywood Gold Cup was run under handicap conditions. After eight years of being run under allowance conditions, it returns to a handicap this year. Racing secretary Martin Panza said, "The race has a rich tradition and we're hoping reverting to its roots as a handicap will make it more appealing nationally."

The names of horses who have won the Gold Cup carrying 130 pounds or more reads like a Who's Who in racing: Seabiscuit (133), Challedon (133), Noor (130), Swaps (130), Gallant Man (130), and Affirmed (132).

The horse who carried the highest weight to victory in Gold Cup history - 134 pounds - was arguably not quite in the same league as the six mentioned above. Name him.

5. When racing dates were increased in California in 1981, Hollywood Park added a late fall meeting to its traditional spring-summer meet. Some established stakes like the Hollywood Derby were moved to the fall.

While never a part of this newer second meeting, the Hollywood Gold Cup has been run late in the year three times - once in October and twice in December. What were the reasons?

HISTORY CHALLENGE ANSWERS

1. Citation became racing's first millionaire when he won the 1951 Hollywood Gold Cup in the final race of his career. In the same race, his Calumet Farm stablemate Bewitch earned enough money by finishing second to become the richest female in racing history.

Twenty-eight years later, Triple Crown winner Affirmed became racing's first $2 million earner when he romped home first in the 1979 Hollywood Gold Cup.

To lure Affirmed to the Gold Cup, Hollywood Park officials bumped the purse from $350,000 to $500,000, assuring the Harbor View Farm ace of $275,000 if he won - enough to put him over the $2 million mark.

Affirmed is one of five Kentucky Derby winners who went on to win the Hollywood Gold Cup. The others were Citation (1951), Swaps (1956), Ferdinand (1987), and Real Quiet (1999).

2. Trainer Michael "Buster" Millerick was still trying to figure out how to harness the brilliant speed of the 5-year-old Native Diver when the gelding quit badly in the Californian Stakes in 1964.

The almost-black horse put it all together the next three seasons, and before his career and life ended in the fall of 1967, he had become arguably the most popular California-bred racehorse ever.

The Diver won the Hollywood Gold Cup three consecutive seasons (1965-1967) at ages when most horses today have long since retired. His final Gold Cup win - at age 8 - made him the first Cal-bred to surpass the $1 million mark in earnings.

Native Diver captured a record 33 stakes races in California, winning at every major track, including Tanforan.

3. The filly Happy Issue made her debut at Ak-Sar-Ben in Omaha, Neb., and won a maiden race at Washington Park near Chicago for a $1,500 claiming tag in 1942. She improved to become a handicap star by 1944, and became the first of her sex to win the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Future Hall of Fame member Two Lea, by Calumet Farm's foundation sire Bull Lea, captured the Hollywood Gold Cup in 1952 as a 6-year-old. She had been champion female in both 1949 and 1950.

William Haggin Perry's filly Princessnesian spent the first half of 1968 finishing second to her more famous stablemate, future Hall of Famer Gamely. But when the two fillies were the 4-5 favored entry in the Hollywood Gold Cup, Gamely was nowhere, while Princessnesian saved the day, becoming the third and most recent female winner of the rich handicap.

4. Despite the fact that he never left California in 1971, Fork Lightning Ranch's Ack Ack was the first recipient of the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

Ack Ack rattled off seven stakes in a row, including the Santa Anita Handicap, under 130 pounds, and the Hollywood Gold Cup, under the staggering impost of 134 pounds. His Gold Cup weight was the highest ever assigned to a starter in the race and remains to this day the highest weight ever carried to victory in a stakes race at Hollywood Park.

5. Due to World War II, there was no racing at Hollywood Park in 1942 and 1943. The War Department gave permission for a 34-day charity meeting at the end of 1944. Happy Issue won the Gold Cup on Dec. 16.

In 1945, racing was shut down throughout the country from January to May. The Hollywood Park meeting was run in the fall, with Challenge Me winning the Gold Cup on Oct. 20.

Twelve days before its meeting was scheduled to open in May 1949, Hollywood Park's stands burned to the ground. The 1949 meeting was moved to Santa Anita. A new track was not ready until June of 1950, so a split meeting was run in the summer and late fall. Noor won the Gold Cup on Dec. 9.