12/22/2011 6:46PM

History Challenge: Gallant Fox a vestige of yesteryear


Before the Civil War, American racing often involved horses competing in heats of three to four miles, meaning it was not unusual for a champion of that era to race up to 12 miles in a single afternoon.

So-called "dash" racing, where only a single trial decided the winner, gradually came into vogue in the post-Civil War era, but races of two miles and longer remained common.

Fifty-one years ago, the immortal Kelso won the first of his five consecutive runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup in New York, a race that was contested at two miles from 1921 through 1975. Today the Gold Cup is run at 1 1/4 miles.

For its current meeting, Gulfstream Park has added a second finish line to address complaints from trainers who prefer that their horses race 1 1/16 miles rather than 1 1/8 miles.

Saturday, Aqueduct will present the 72nd running of the Gallant Fox Handicap. At a distance of 1 5/8 miles, it is the longest dirt race on the annual New York stakes calendar. First run in 1939, the Gallant Fox was canceled last year when it drew only two entrants.

Test your knowledge of famous long-distance races that are now only a memory.

1. From its first running in 1865 and for nearly a century, this New York race was arguably the most prestigious and most prized cup (marathon) race in America.

More than a dozen Hall of Fame Thoroughbreds and numerous champions from the
19th and 20th centuries are among the winners of this race, which was contested at 2 1/4 miles until 1886 and at 1 3/4 miles after 1902. This race run under marathon conditions was abandoned in 1955 and resurrected for one year in 1963. In later years, variations of this race were run but never at marathon distances. Name it.

2. The condition book for the inaugural meeting of the Louisville Jockey Club and Driving Park Association (later named Churchill Downs) in 1875 contained 18 races over a six-day season (four more races were eventually contested). Six of the races were run from two to three miles each. The Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks both were contested at 1 1/2 miles.

The race with the most advance publicity, the most nominations (42), and only one of two that provided the winner with a trophy (the Derby did not include a trophy) was this race on the fourth day contested at 2 1/4 miles.  Name the race.

3. After its 112th running in 2005, this race - once considered one of the most prestigious races in the country for 3-year-olds - faded from the scene.

First run at Sheepshead Bay, near Coney Island, N.Y., in 1889, it was at that time the richest race in the world for 3-year-olds.

The list of winners of this event, contested at 1 5/8 miles for most of it history, reads like a Who's Who in Racing. Included are Hall of Famers Salvator, Sysonby, Man o' War, Gallant Fox, Whirlaway, Kelso, and Buckpasser, among many others. Name the race.

4. A quarter-century later, racing fans would be astonished by Secretariat's incredible 31-length win in the Belmont Stakes.

But in November of 1947, everyone was talking about Miss Grillo's stunning come-from-behind victory when she made up 20 lengths to catch the field at the top of the stretch and went on to win this 2 1/2-mile handicap by 40 lengths.

A year later, the Argentine-bred mare came back to win the same race - this time by only 1 1/2 lengths - but she set a world record for the distance that has never been broken. Name the famous race.

5. This 1926 Preakness Stakes winner was a notoriously bad actor on the track, but grew to be known as an "iron horse." He started 103 times, with a record of 23-25-27.

In 1955, Jamaica Race Track honored this marathon specialist with a race in his name, run at 2 1/16 miles.  When Jamaica was shuttered and the race moved to the new Aqueduct in 1959, the distance was shortened to two miles.  The race later was increased to 2 1/4 miles and for years was the traditional final stakes run each year in New York. Name the race.

Get the answers HERE