09/29/2005 11:00PM

History Challenge


Stakes from 1800's are still rolling

When the Grade 3 Phoenix Breeders' Cup Stakes is run Saturday at Keeneland, it will mark the 153rd running of North America's oldest stakes race still in existence.

The first running of the race, known then as the Phoenix Hotel Stakes, took place in 1831 at the Association Course in Lexington, Ky.

The race was named in honor of the Phoenix Hotel, a landmark on Main Street in Lexington for more than 150 years.

A 3-year-old named McDonough won the inaugural Phoenix, earning $150. The race was run in heats from 1831 to 1877 and at times under the name of the Brennan Stakes, Chiles Stakes, and Association Stakes, in addition to the variations on Phoenix.

The final running of the Phoenix at the Association Course came in 1930, the last year of racing at the storied track. When Keeneland opened in 1937, it resurrected several Association stakes, including the Phoenix Handicap and Blue Grass Stakes.

Test your knowledge of other stakes races from the 19th century still being run at racetracks in the United States.

1. On Monday, May 17, 1875, the first race ever run at the track that would later be known as Churchill Downs was won by a 4-year-old filly, Bonaventure, owned by Capt. William Cottrill.

Cottrill derived his title from service in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, but he never let sectionalism interfere with his love of racing. His Magnolia Farm bred and raced some of the top horses of the time - both in the North and the South.

Cottrill was responsible for one of the country's oldest stakes races. Name it.

2. Washington Park in Chicago was greeted by a magnificent sunny afternoon for its inaugural day of racing on Saturday, June 28, 1884.

All roads leading to the new track at 61st and Cottage Grove avenues were jammed with four-in-hands, jog carts, tallyhos, sulkies, and the like.

The 40,000-plus fans were entertained by the music of Johnny Hand's band, featuring trombone solos. And 10 gaily attired buglers sounded "Boots and Saddles" in unison before each race.

The third race that day featured an event that would quickly become one of the biggest in the country. Name it.

3. Inaugurated in 1868, this is the sixth-oldest stakes race in America and the oldest race exclusively for females.

The race was run at Jerome Park in New York from 1868 to 1889 and at Morris Park from 1890 to 1904, before moving to the new Belmont Park the following year.

Hall of Famer Miss Woodford, the first American-raced horse to reach $100,000 in lifetime earnings, won the race in 1883.

Countless winners of this race have gone on to have stakes races named for them, including Firenze, Beldame, Maskette, Top Flight, Vagrancy, and Next Move. Name the race.

4. Milton Sanford, a prominent racehorse owner and breeder, gave a lavish dinner party during the 1866 Saratoga meeting. In attendance was Oden Bowie, governor of Maryland. It was decided at that dinner that Bowie would build a track near Baltimore and a race called the Dinner Party Stakes would be run there for 3-year-olds.

Under Bowie's leadership, Pimlico Race Course was born, and on Oct. 20, 1870, racing returned to Maryland and the Dinner Party Stakes offered a purse of $19,000 - one of the richest races ever run to that time.

By what name do we know the Dinner Party Stakes today?

5. Buoyed by the success of racing in New York, New Jersey businessmen built Monmouth Park near Long Branch. The track opened on July 30, 1870, and over the next two decades had the highest attendance and purses of any track in the country.

So successful was racing that a new Monmouth Park was built several miles away. It opened in 1890 with the largest all-iron grandstand ever built. The track was 1 3/4 miles around with a 1 3/8-mile straightaway.

This race, first run at Monmouth Park in 1871, is the oldest race New Jersey. Name it.

History Answers

1. Born in Worcester, England, in 1817, William Cottrill moved to the United States in 1841 and settled near Mobile, Ala.

Following the Civil War, Cottrill was one of the owners and breeders who played a major role in the revival of racing in both the North and South.

His support for racing at Saratoga earned him the respect and admiration of the leadership of the Saratoga Association, which offered to name a race the Cottrill Stakes in his honor in 1872.

Modest as always, the Southern gentleman respectively declined and asked instead that the race be called the Alabama Stakes after his home state.

The Grade 1 Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies was run at Saratoga this past summer for the 125th time.

2. Civil War hero Gen. Phil H. Sheridan headed a group that built Washington Park in 1884. It was he who insisted that the feature on opening day be called the American Derby.

In the years that followed, the American Derby rivaled the Travers Stakes as the premier event in America for 3-year-olds - both races at the time viewed as far more important than the Kentucky Derby.

The 10th running of the American Derby in 1893 was one of the most infamous. There was a new starter in Chicago, Charles H. Pettingill, and his methods were very controversial. The field for the American Derby that year was at the post for 90 minutes. There were 25 false starts, with many in the field often running up to one-eighth of a mile each time.

Twenty-six years later, Pettingill was involved in another infamous event. He was brought in at the last minute to start the field in the 1919 Sanford Memorial Stakes at Saratoga. Man o' War broke awkwardly and the Sanford was the only race he ever lost.

The 91st American Derby was run at Arlington Park this past July.

3. The Ladies Handicap is scheduled to be run at Aqueduct on Dec. 17 for the 135th time.

From its inception in 1868 through 1913, the race was restricted to

3-year-old fillies. In 1914, it became one of only a handful of stakes races in the country for older females. It was another 30 years before racing associations began to significantly expand stakes opportunities for older fillies and mares.

As late as the 1950's, female stakes stars age 4 and up were forced regularly to compete against males. Many did so with a degree of success.

4. The inaugural Dinner Party Stakes on opening day of the first Pimlico meeting in 1870 drew 30 nominations, but only seven starters.

On a beautiful fall afternoon, Preakness, a maiden and one of the outsiders in the field, scored a two-length victory for Milton Sanford.

The next year, the name of the Dinner Party Stakes was changed to the Reunion Stakes. One year later, it was renamed the Dixie Handicap. The Dixie was run for the 104th time on Preakness Day this year.

In 1873, members of the Maryland Jockey Club voted to hold a spring meeting in addition to the fall meeting. The Dixie was the premier event of the fall. A new event for 3-year-olds was introduced for the spring meeting. It was named for Preakness, who was becoming a local folk hero.

5. The Grade 2 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks was run for only the 81st time this past August, but its roots trace back to 1871 at the original Monmouth Park.

Monmouth Park officials, who built a new, lavish racecourse and grandstand in 1890, had badly misread the mood of New Jersey politicians. Anti-gambling legislation shut down racing in the state after 1893, and it did not return for more than 50 years.

On July 19, 1946, a new Monmouth Park opened in Oceanport. The Monmouth Oaks, not contested since 1893, returned for the inaugural season. Monmouth Park will be the site of the Breeders' Cup in 2007.