11/20/2009 12:00AM

History Challenge: Clark Handicap


When Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, founder of the Louisville Jockey Club and Driving Park Association (later named Churchill Downs), opened his track in 1875, he envisioned the six-day meeting building to a climax on the final afternoon.

As Clark planned, the season would begin on Monday with the Derby. The Oaks would follow on Wednesday, then the much-ballyhooed Louisville Cup on Thursday, and the grand finale would be the Clark Stakes on Saturday.

The events went off as scheduled, and when the meeting was over, 22 races had been run with a total purse distribution of $17,200. But it was the Kentucky Derby on opening day that drew the largest crowd and the most enthusiastic reception - not the Cup or Clark Stakes.

The Louisville Cup is no more, but the Clark Stakes, originally for 3-year-olds only, became the Clark Handicap in 1902 when it was opened to older horses.

Today, the Derby, Oaks, and Clark are the three oldest continually run sporting events in the United States. The Clark was moved to Churchill's fall meeting in 1953.

As Churchill Downs prepares to present the Clark Handicap for the 135th time on Friday, test your knowledge of Col. Clark and the race named for him.

1. The long name of Col. M. L. Clark's new track - Louisville Jockey Club and Driving Park Association - was in recognition of the fact that when the track was not racing, local residents were free to use it for picnic grounds and a place to drive their carriages for pleasure.

A decade after the track opened, with Clark still president and general manager, the press began referring to the facility as Churchill Downs. How come?

2. Col. Clark, who had a reputation for being impeccably honest, could also be curt and quick-tempered. On numerous occasions - many reported in the press - a gun was involved in settling his turf battles.

In 1879, Clark accused a prominent breeder of being behind in his entry fees. The enraged breeder asked for an apology, and when he did not get it, he fired his gun through the glass in Clark's office door, striking the colonel near the armpit.

On another occasion, at a meeting of the Turf Congress in Cincinnati, Clark pointed his gun at an important horseman and made him apologize for insulting him.

Clark's life would end with a bullet from a gun. What happened?

3. With the first 27 runnings of the Clark Stakes limited to 3-year-olds, and transportation being what it was in the late 1800s, it is not surprising that 10 of these 27 runnings were won by a horse who also had captured the Kentucky Derby.

The first was Hindoo in 1881. The Derby and Clark were the second and third of 18 consecutive wins by Hindoo, considered by many the greatest racehorse of the 19th century.

Since the Clark was open to older horses in 1902, only four Kentucky Derby winners have gone on to capture the event, but all reside today in the Hall of Fame. Name them.

4. Rachel Alexandra is considered one of the leading candidates for 2009 Horse of the Year. In what was later announced as her final start of the year, she beat older males in the Woodward Handicap - a feat rarely even attempted in modern times by 3-year-old fillies.

Yet, it was less than 10 years ago when another 3-year-old filly on her way to an Eclipse Award not only took on older males, but defeated them, in the Clark Handicap. Name her.

5. An event even more unusual than a 3-year-old filly defeating older males is a 2-year-old defeating older horses.

This brown colt, owned by legendary breeder and Hall of Fame trainer John E. Madden, won both the Kentucky Derby and Clark Stakes in 1898. A year earlier - as a juvenile - this colt not only defeated older horses, but among the horses that he defeated was one who had previously won the Kentucky Derby. Name the two horses.