04/27/2007 12:00AM

History Challenge answers


1. The victory by Donerail in the 1913 Kentucky Derby "bought us more publicity than all the other winners before," Matt Winn said. Because Donerail paid $184.90 for a $2 win ticket, the colt's victory generated headlines and buzz for weeks in newspapers across the land.

A year later, after the popular gelding Old Rosebud crushed the Derby field, winning by a record eight lengths and setting a track record, Winn said, "The race across the Ohio River was moving slowly, but very surely, into the American spotlight."

The final race that Winn said made the Derby "an American institution," was the 1915 victory by the filly Regret. After the race, Regret's owner, Harry Payne Whitney, a prominent member of the Eastern racing establishment, told reporters, "I don't care if she never wins another race . . . she has won the greatest race in America - and I am satisfied."

2. Parimutuel wagering had been tried in the early years of racing at Churchill Downs and in New York, but never caught on.

In 1908, Winn resurrected four old machines from storage and had two more shipped down from storage in New York. The rusty machines were repaired and in service for the 34th Kentucky Derby. (While Winn said in later years that there were only six machines in operation, some reports put the figure as high as 11.)

The parimutuel handle that day was $67,570, with $18,300 bet on the Derby alone. (By contrast, in 2006, Churchill had more than 1,250 mutuel machines operating on Derby Day and total ontrack handle topped $25 million, about half of which was bet on the Derby.)

3. Winn partnered with New York grocer James Butler in 1907 in a successful effort to gain recognition from The Jockey Club for Empire City Race Course in Yonkers, N.Y.

In 1909, with state after state outlawing betting on horses, Winn and Butler again teamed to buy land and build a track in Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas. Initially called Terrazas Park, the track became known as Jockey Club Juarez, or simply Juarez.

To keep the track open and out of the hands of military or rebel forces, Winn had to make a pact with the outlaw and Mexican folk hero Pancho Villa. Their sometimes confrontational, yet warm, relationship held until 1917, when the Mexican government confiscated the racetrack.

4. "Exterminator was the greatest all-around American Thoroughbred I ever saw," Winn wrote in 1945. "When greatness is reckoned, the factors entering into it are speed, courage, stamina, intelligence, and perhaps more important, durability," he added.

Exterminator won the 1918 Kentucky Derby and 50 of his 100 lifetime starts from 1917 to 1924.

It should be noted that Winn's comments came before he saw Citation. Further, Samuel D. Riddle, owner of Man o' War - the horse generally considered the century's greatest - twice snubbed Winn. Riddle skipped the 1920 Kentucky Derby, and Man o' War made his first start that season in the Preakness Stakes. Later that year, Winn was given only token attention when he wanted the famous match race involving Sir Barton and Man o' War to take place at Churchill Downs.

5. "Churchill Downs is my first love . . . but Lincoln Fields is the one in which I take the greatest pride," Winn wrote.

Lincoln Fields was designed and built under Winn's direction just outside of Chicago in Crete, Ill. It was one of the most beautiful, state-of-the art tracks in the country when it opened on Aug. 9, 1926. Whirlaway won the first start of his career at Lincoln Fields in 1940.

The track remains to this day. The stands have been rebuilt and it has been renamed Balmoral Park. Thoroughbreds raced there sporadically after 1942. It has been exclusively a harness track since 1991.