02/01/2008 12:00AM

History Challenge: Bay Meadows becoming the stuff of memory


Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of the inaugural meeting at Bay Meadows in San Mateo, Calif. Sadly, the track which has played host to many of racing's greats, including Seabiscuit and Citation, may not be around to celebrate. It has a tentative appointment with the wrecking ball later this year.

What may be the final regular season at Bay Meadows will open Wednesday for 70 racing days through May 11. The track will reopen in August for two weeks for the San Mateo County Fair meeting, then its fate will be in the hands of developers.

The brainchild of William Patrick Kyne, known as the father of modern racing in California, Bay Meadows opened its doors on Nov. 3, 1934, one year after Kyne led a successful statewide effort to legalize parimutuel wagering on horses. Betting had been illegal in the Golden State since 1910.

Following World War II until the early 1960s, Bay Meadows, Tanforan, and Golden Gate Fields formed the Northern California racing circuit. Historic Tanforan, first opened in 1899, was torn down in 1964.

Test your knowledge of Bay Meadows as it prepares to join other fabled American courses that have disappeared from the scene.

1. Following the legalization of betting, Bill Kyne's California Jockey Club was one of 10 applicants to the new California Horse Racing Board for a racetrack license. The Tanforan Co., which already had a racetrack in existence, was a no-brainer.

Kyne was confident that he would get the second Northern California license, but was stunned when it was awarded to a group called the St. Francis Jockey Club. He then set his sights on locales in Southern California. What brought Kyne back north?

2. During the early years of the track, the signature race each year was the Bay Meadows Handicap. The purse for the inaugural running in 1934 was $25,000-added. While this figure paled in comparison to the first $100,000-added Santa Anita Handicap run three months later, it was still a huge sum in the Depression era.

The immortal Seabiscuit won the Bay Meadows Handicap in 1937 and 1938, carrying 133 pounds the second time. The first Bay Meadows Handicap was won by one of the gutsiest performers of the decade. Name him.

3. Bay Meadows was the home of many firsts. Among them, it was the first track in America to use the enclosed electronic starting gate (1939), the first major racetrack to stage regular parimutuel Quarter Horse racing (1949), and the first to race at night in California (1968).

An event that was little noticed outside of California, but one that signaled a revolution in racing, occurred in October 1945, one day before the fall meeting opened at Bay Meadows. Two horses were flown from Los Angeles to San Mateo, one for a stakes appearance on opening day. It was the first time in history that a horse was transported by air for a racing engagement. Name the stakes horse.

4. With million-dollar purses common in racing today, it may seem hard to believe that from the 1920s, when the first $100,000 race was staged, that figure remained the top purse at almost every major racetrack until the 1970s.

On May 1, 1954, owner Andy Crevolin and future Hall of Fame trainer William Molter became the first owner and trainer to win two $100,000 races on the same day. Name the races and horses involved.

5. The Tanforan Handicap, first run in 1899 and won by the mighty Citation in the final appearance of his incredible 1948 season, was moved to Bay Meadows in 1964. This was one year following a fire that closed Tanforan forever.

Throughout its history, Bay Meadows was not known as a lightning-fast strip like nearby Golden Gate Fields across the bay or Hollywood Park in the south. But in the 1968 Tanforan Handicap, this 5-year-old colt equaled the world record on dirt for 1 1/8 miles (1:46.40). It was the only stakes race he would ever win, but he went on to sire one of the century's most celebrated racehorses. Name the horse and his famous offspring.