08/21/2008 11:00PM

History challenge

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Forty years ago Sunday, the racing world witnessed one of the most brilliant performances by a Thoroughbred in the long annals of the sport.

On Aug. 24, 1968, the immortal Dr. Fager, carrying 134 pounds, established a world record for one mile on dirt - a mark that four decades later has yet to be surpassed.

On a sweltering, humid afternoon at Arlington Park near Chicago, Dr. Fager cruised to the wire 10 lengths in front of the field in the Washington Park Handicap. The final time was 1:32.20, eclipsing the previous world record by .40 of a second.

It was a signature race in a signature year that saw Dr. Fager voted Horse of the Year, and champion handicap horse, grass horse, and sprinter - a feat no Thoroughbred has accomplished before or since.

Over the years, the term "world record" has fallen out of favor, and several horses have run faster than Dr. Fager on turf. Grass racing has greatly expanded, and some courses have uphill and downhill portions. And synthetic surfaces have sprung up everywhere, made up of a variety of materials.

Test your knowledge of other storied time records.

1. In 2003, Najran ran one mile on dirt at Belmont Park in 1:32.24. Since races in Dr. Fager's era were timed only in fifths of a second, no one will ever know if his record was broken. Dr. Fager's final time - recorded as 1:32 1/5 - would have been between 1:32.20 and 1:32.39. Nonetheless, his one-mile record has remained longer than any other for that distance since official record keeping began.

From the time organized racing was launched in the 1860s, who previously held the one-mile world record the longest?

2. In a career that spanned three seasons, Dr. Fager finished first in 19 of 22 starts (he was disqualified once). In his final start, he crushed a top field of sprinters carrying 139 pounds in the Vosburgh Handicap, taking 1.20 seconds off the Aqueduct track record for seven furlongs. His final time of 1:20.20 missed the world record by only .20 of a second.

Only three horses ever finished a race in front of Dr. Fager - two of whom also are today enshrined in racing's Hall of Fame. And one had held the one-mile world record that Dr. Fager beat. Name the three horses.

3. One world record on dirt that may never be broken is the two-mile mark (3:19.20) set by five-time Horse of the Year Kelso in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Aqueduct in 1964. No American graded stakes are run at that distance any more.

At the same time, it has been 35 years since Secretariat blazed to a world record of 2:24 for 1 1/2 miles on dirt in the 1973 Belmont Stakes. His time on dirt has never been equaled.

In setting the record, Secretariat broke the Belmont Park track and stakes record held by what horse?

4. Despite the shortening of the distance of many stakes and handicaps in recent years, the classic American distance on dirt remains 1 1/4 miles. And the measure for greatness usually means running the distance in less than two minutes.

Only five of the 24 Breeders' Cup Classic winners, two Kentucky Derby winners, and no Travers Stakes winners have broken the two-minute barrier in those respective races.

Name the Thoroughbred who ran the fastest 1 1/4 miles on dirt in history.

5. When the 3-year-old Bob Black Jack completed six furlongs in 1:06:53 on a packed synthetic track at Santa Anita in January, sportswriters appeared to be confused as to what to call it. Some reported it simply as a Cushion Track record. Others said, and correctly so, it was a world record.

The previous fastest six furlongs - America's most common distance - on any surface was the 1:06.60 run by G Malleah on the dirt at Turf Paradise in 1995.

Name the horse who held the six-furlong world record the longest.

Answers

1. On June 30, 1932, future Hall of Famer Equipoise broke the world record for one mile in an overnight handicap at Arlington Park. His final time of 1:34.40 eclipsed by .40 of a second the previous record set 14 years earlier by Roamer at Saratoga.

Known affectionately as "The Chocolate Soldier," Equipoise was no stranger to speed. He set or equaled six track records in a career that spanned six seasons. His final appearance on the track came in the inaugural Santa Anita Handicap in 1935 where he finished off the board as the 8-5 favorite.

Equipoise's one-mile world record was not broken for 17 years. It was equaled in 1948, but was not surpassed until Calumet Farm's brilliant Coaltown ran one mile in 1:34 flat at Washington Park in 1949.

Roamer's 14-year stint as the world record holder for one mile is the third longest after Dr. Fager and Equipoise. It eclipses by one year the 13 years in which Ten Broeck held the one-mile record from 1877 to 1890.

(Note: Future Hall of Famer Salvator's record of 1:35.20, established with the aid of special pacesetters on the Monmouth Park straight course in 1890, was not generally recognized.)

2. In 1966, the remarkable Buckpasser established a world record for one mile on dirt in the Arlington Classic while in the midst of a 15-race winning streak. His final time of 1:32.60 broke by .60 of a second the previous record co-held by Hedevar, Pia Star, Intentionally, and Swaps.

Buckpasser finished second in the only race in which Dr. Fager ran third (the 1967 Woodward Stakes won by Damascus). Damascus also beat Dr. Fager in the 1968 Brooklyn Handicap.

At age 2, Dr. Fager finished second to juvenile champion Successor in Aqueduct's Champagne Stakes.

3. Gallant Man will long be remembered as the horse on whom Bill Shoemaker momentarily misjudged the finish line - perhaps costing the colt the victory in the 1957 Kentucky Derby. Iron Liege won by a nose.

Six weeks later (in a year when the Preakness and Belmont stakes were contested four weeks apart), Gallant Man won the Belmont. His final time was 2:26.60, a world record for the distance. It eclipsed Bolingbroke's track record by a full second.

Gallant Man's time remained the track and stakes record for 16 years until Secretariat obliterated it by 2.60 seconds.

In the 35 years since, the closest any Belmont Stakes winner has come to Secretariat's record is two full seconds off. Easy Goer in 1989 and A.P. Indy in 1992 each won the third leg of the Triple Crown in 2:26 flat.

4. Spectacular Bid had the misfortune of coming along at the end of a decade that had featured the likes of Secretariat, Forego, Ruffian, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed.

It took some time before his resume could be fully appreciated. It arguably may have been the best of that decade.

In three seasons, Spectacular Bid won 26 of 30 races, set seven track records, and equaled another. In the Charles H. Strub Stakes at Santa Anita in 1980, he ran 1 1/4 miles in 1:57.80, a world record on dirt that has stood unchallenged for more than 28 years.

5. In 1914, Iron Mask, a 6-year-old gelded son of Disguise bred and later sold by the legendary James R. Keene, beat the hard-hitting mare and future Hall of Fame member Pan Zareta at Juarez in Mexico. Iron Mask's time for the six furlongs was 1:09.60, making him the first horse in history to break the 1:10 barrier for that distance.

It wasn't until 1935, more than 21 years later, that Iron Mask's mark was bested by another gelding, Clang, who completed the distance in 1:09.20 at Coney Island (later renamed River Downs) near Cincinnati.

As an encore, three months after setting the six-furlong record in 1914, Iron Mask carried 150 pounds and set a world record for 5 1/2 furlongs (1:03.40).