09/23/2009 12:00AM

History challenge

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Founded at Annapolis in 1743, the Maryland Jockey Club is the oldest sporting association in America. Among its early members was George Washington. The future president wrote extensively in his diaries about his breeding and racing operations.

The club operated mostly as a social organization until it was officially incorporated on June 3, 1830. Its charter is housed today in the Library of Congress.

One of the first members of the newly incorporated MJC was President Andrew Jackson, a lifelong horseman and former saddle maker.

At a dinner meeting in Saratoga, N.Y., in 1868, Maryland Gov. Oden Bowie and others devised a plan to build a racetrack for the MJC in Baltimore and stage a race honoring that evening.

On Oct. 25, 1870, Pimlico Race Course opened under the auspices of the MJC. The third race was the $18,000 Dinner Party Stakes, won by Preakness. Three years later, Pimlico added a major race for 3-year-olds, naming it for the first winner of the Dinner Party Stakes.

As the MJC prepares to stage its biggest fall event, the 24th running of the Maryland Million at Laurel on Saturday, test your knowledge of racing in that state.

1. The Maryland Jockey Club today finds itself facing an uncertain future. Magna Entertainment Corp., which purchased the MJC in 2002, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and there has been speculation that its biggest prize, the Preakness Stakes, may be sold and moved to another state.

This is not the first time the MJC has faced insolvency. On Aug. 7, 1889, after operating at Pimlico for nearly two decades and facing mounting losses, the MJC board of directors voted to disband.

What happened to the Preakness Stakes after 1889?

2. When Pimlico opened its doors on Oct. 25, 1870, the New York Times reported that "the track was in the best condition, and the day was bright. Over 10,000 persons were on the grounds, one-fourth of whom included the most fashionable ladies of Baltimore."

The richest race on the card was the Dinner Party Stakes, run at two miles. The following season, the name of the race was changed to the Reunion Stakes, and a year later its name was changed again. What was the new name?

3. One by one, beginning in the 1890s, states began outlawing betting on horses. By the time New York finally shut down racing in the summer of 1910, Maryland and Kentucky were the only states still conducting major race meetings with legal betting. Canadian racing was flourishing.

Taking advantage of its new position as the leader of racing in the East, Maryland opened three new racetracks over the following four years. Name them.

4. With Maryland's long history with the racehorse, one would assume that numerous horses produced in that state captured the fabled Kentucky Derby. In fact, only one Derby winner - Kauai King in 1966 - was a Maryland-bred.

But it was this bay colt who finished second in the 1939 Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness, and was twice voted Horse of the Year, who was arguably the most famous and adored Maryland-bred of the 20th century. Name him.

5. The late, distinguished broadcaster Jim McKay, a native of Maryland, was the first to conceive the idea of the Maryland Million - fashioned after the Breeders' Cup. Since Maryland introduced this event in 1986, nearly two dozen other states have launched their own statebred stakes days.

In the past 23 years of the Maryland Million, there have been many repeat winners, including this Eclipse Award champion and winner of the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Name the horse.

Answers

1. Faced with increasing competition from racetracks in New York and New Jersey, and with gate receipts and betting plummeting, the Maryland Jockey Club closed its doors in 1889.

While some outlaw meetings were conducted in the following years, the MJC did not reopen for business at Pimlico until 1904 and the Preakness did not return there until 1909.

In 1890, a race called the Preakness was run at New York's Morris Park for 3-year-olds and up on the same card as the Belmont Stakes. An 8-year-old named Ten Booker finished last in that Preakness. In 1885, Ten Booker had run third in the Kentucky Derby, making him the first Derby starter in history to also start in the Preakness - albeit five years later.

No Preakness Stakes can be found between 1891 and 1893, but the race resurfaced as a 3-year-old maiden stakes at Gravesend Racecourse in New York in 1894 and was run there under various conditions until 1908.

In 1909, the Preakness returned to Pimlico where it has been run uninterrupted ever since.

2. For its third running in 1872, the Dinner Party Stakes, run as the Reunion Stakes in 1871, was renamed the Dixie Stakes - honoring not the South, but a mare of the same name owned by Major Barak G. Thomas.

The Dixie Stakes, run on Preakness Day for the past two decades, is the eighth oldest stakes race in America. The race was run for the 108th time this past May.

The Dixie has been interrupted several times in the past 139 years. It was not run from 1889-1901 and from 1905 to 1923. From 1902-1904, the Dixie was run as the Benning Course, a popular track at the time located outside of Washington, D.C.

The Dixie became a grass race in 1955, at a time when Pimlico was one of fewer than a dozen tracks in the country with a turf course.

3. On Oct. 2, 1911, Laurel Park (renamed Laurel Race Course in 1952) opened its doors, with Kentucky's Col. Matt Winn as its general manager. With its original name returned, it operates today under the Maryland Jockey Club.

Havre de Grace (affectionately called "Dah Graw" by fans) opened for business on Aug. 24, 1912. Great horses like Exterminator, Sir Barton, Man o' War, and Citation campaigned at the course near the Chesapeake Bay until competition from Delaware Park and others forced it to close in 1950.

Bowie Racecourse joined the other Maryland tracks on Oct. 1, 1914. From the late 1950s to the early 1970s, the track gained prominence for conducting the only winter racing in the Northeast. Bowie ceased running in 1985 but is still used as a training center.

4. In 1939, "Maryland, My Maryland" was adopted by the legislature as the official state song. Some sportswriters were calling for the words of that song to be changed to "Challedon, My Challedon."

A Maryland-bred owned by William L. Brann, Challedon finished second in the 1939 Kentucky Derby to Johnstown, but reversed that order in the Preakness.

Renowned Daily Racing Form columnist John Hervey wrote of Challedon, "The impression of greatness that this Maryland-bred has stamped on the consciousness of all classes of race-goers is so deep and so clearly etched that it cannot be minimized."

Challedon, a winner of 20 of 44 starts, was voted Horse of the Year in 1939 and 1940. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1977.

5. Safely Kept, one of the top female sprinting stars of the past century, captured the Maryland Million Distaff Handicap in 1989, 1990, and 1991.

She finished second to Dancing Spree in the 1989 Breeders' Cup Sprint, but it was her only loss in nine starts that year and she was voted champion sprinter.

The following year, Safely Kept won the Breeders' Cup Sprint when the leader and apparent winner, Dayjur, jumped a shadow near the finish line at Belmont Park. She was unable to repeat as champion sprinter that year when Housebuster was voted the Eclipse Award.

Safely Kept retired after 1991, with 24 wins in 31 starts and nearly $2.2 million in earnings.