12/19/2013 10:15AM

History Challenge: Hollywood Park's stakes a success from start

Barbara D. Livingston
Hollywood Park opened for the first time on June 10, 1938, and will close on Sunday.

It is somewhat ironic that Hollywood Park – a track with some of the richest and most fabled stakes races of the past 75 years – will stage its final day of racing with a feature that had its inaugural running just one year ago. The King Glorious Stakes is the closing-day highlight Sunday.

Hollywood Park opened its doors on June 10, 1938, after battling for nearly two years with powerful naysayers – headed by Santa Anita Park officials and the chairman of the California Horse Racing Board – who said the Los Angeles area could not support another racetrack.

Not only was the track successful that first season, its new stakes program attracted some of the nation’s biggest names. The inaugural $50,000-added Hollywood Gold Cup was won by the popular champion Seabiscuit, who 15 weeks later would defeat War Admiral in their famous match race at Pimlico.

Earlier in the meeting, the winner of that year’s Kentucky Derby, Lawrin, agreed to meet the winner of the Preakness Stakes, Dauber, in the $50,000 American Championship Special. Dauber was declared out just hours before the race, leaving Lawrin a massive favorite to beat up on two hapless opponents.

As Hollywood Park gradually grew to be a national leader in both attendance and handle, its stakes regularly attracted champions and future Hall of Famers.

How many of the Inglewood, Calif., track’s more than three dozen graded stakes – many with storybook histories – will be picked up by Santa Anita, Del Mar, and Los Alamitos is yet to be determined. Test your knowledge of Hollywood stakes.

1. Few would question that, from the outset, the Hollywood Gold Cup has been the track’s premier event each year. Seventeen champions have won the race.

From Seabiscuit in season one to three Hall of Famers winning in consecutive years (Swaps in 1955, Round Table in ’56, and Gallant Man in ’57), each under Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker, to Cigar winning his ninth of 16 races in a row in 1995, the Gold Cup has featured the elite.

In 1951, Citation became racing’s first $1 million earner when he romped in the 12th Gold Cup. Twenty-eight years later, Affirmed became racing’s first $2 million earner with his win in the 40th renewal of the historic race.

Over the many years of the Gold Cup, only three females were victorious – the most recent being 45 years ago. Name them.

2. The Hollywood Derby was a top fixture during the 75-year-history of the Inglewood course, but unlike the Gold Cup, it underwent major changes during these years.

The race’s name was changed to the Westerner Stakes from 1948 to 1958. Thus, Swaps (1955) was not technically a Hollywood Derby winner.

The derby was moved to the grass in 1973, and when the regular November-December meeting was introduced in 1981, the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby became a permanent late-season grass event.

During one five-year period, Hollywood Park experimented with running its derby in April, between the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby. This proved a success when two of the five winners were victorious in at least one Triple Crown race. Name the two.

3. In late 1945, El Lobo became the first Thoroughbred to be flown for a stakes engagement when he traveled from Los Angeles to an airport at the north end of Bay Meadows Race Course in San Mateo. He won.

In 1946, transporting of horses by airplane became more commonplace, and that summer, the aptly named Historian made history by becoming the first top-class racehorse to make a long-distance flight for a major stakes engagement.

Historian flew from Chicago to Los Angeles, where he finished third just days later in the $100,000 Gold Cup, beaten two necks in a furious finish by Triplicate and Honeymoon.

The trip was not a total loss as Historian later equaled a world record in another important Hollywood stakes. Name the race.

4. In 63 lifetime starts, the immortal Kelso – five-time Horse of the Year – only once finished worse than first, second, or third in consecutive races. That occurred in his only two starts west of Chicago.

Despite problems that Eastern horses had historically experienced with what trainers called the “pasteboard hard” tracks in the West, trainer Carl Hanford sportingly shipped Kelso to Hollywood Park to begin the gelding’s 1964 season.

It was a disaster. Crowds approaching 60,000 showed up both days, but the real Kelso didn’t. The Hall of Famer finished eighth and sixth in the two stakes.

Name the two races in which Kelso competed and the winners.

5. In 1979, Hollywood Park changed the name of its Lakes and Flowers Handicap, an event first run in 1952, to honor this horse who set a world record for seven furlongs on dirt, 1:19.80, at the Inglewood track.

In its first decade, the Lakes and Flowers was won by such top horses as Intent, Porterhouse, Fleet Nasrullah, and Windy Sands.
Nine years ago, the race returned to major status when it was raised from a Grade 2 to a Grade 1.

Name this important sprint.

History Challenge answers

1. After being closed for the war the prior two years, Hollywood Park opened in November 1944 for a 34-day War Charities meeting.
The 4-year-old filly Happy Issue won the Vanity Handicap and then capped off that season becoming the first of her sex to win the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Eight years later, Calumet Farm’s two-time national champion mare Two Lea captured the Gold Cup at age 6. She was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.

Gamely, 1968 champion handicap mare owned by William Haggin Perry, was favored to win the Gold Cup that year, but she struggled home seventh. The winner was another filly – Gamely’s stablemate Princessnesian – who held off Racing Room by a neck.

In 1976, Hollywood Park changed the name of its Long Beach Handicap to the Gamely Handicap.

2. Only five of the 72 runnings of the Hollywood Derby have been contested before the Kentucky Derby. These occurred from 1976-1980.
In 1977, Steve’s Friend became the first Hollywood Derby winner to use the race as a prep for the Louisville classic, where he finished fifth.

The following year, Affirmed, who the prior season had traveled from New York to Hollywood Park in July to capture the Hollywood Juvenile Championship by seven lengths, won the Hollywood Derby in his final prep race for the Triple Crown series, of which he is the last horse to win all three.

In 1980, Codex turned back Kentucky Derby heroine Genuine Risk to win a controversial Preakness Stakes. Codex won the Hollywood Derby on April 13, but was not nominated to the Kentucky Derby. Codex was the first winner in a Triple Crown race trained by D. Wayne Lukas.

In 1981, with legislation adding additional dates to the racing calendar – including Hollywood Park’s new fall meeting – the Santa Anita season was expanded later into April, leaving no room for an early Hollywood Derby.

3. Following his third-place finish in the Hollywood Gold Cup, Historian, a son of Kentucky Derby winner Lawrin, scored a five-length victory in the 1 5/8-mile Sunset Handicap. The final time was 2:40.80, which equaled the world record set by Man o’ War 26 years earlier.

Originally called the Aloha Handicap, the Sunset has been the traditional closing-day fixture for Hollywood Park’s spring-summer meeting since the first season.

The race was moved to the grass in 1967, when Hollywood Park opened its turf course for the first time.

While the Sunset in recent decades has not always attracted the best handicap stars, winners of the event in earlier years included champions Kayak II, Hill Prince, Fort Marcy, Typecast, Cougar II, and John Henry.

And, in 1956, Swaps concluded his record-breaking season at Hollywood Park winning the Sunset Handicap in world-record time, 2:38.20 – still in 2013 the world record on dirt.

The 1956 Sunset produced a true racing rarity. Nine horses started, with Swaps going off at odds of 1-10 under high weight of 130 pounds. Not one jockey on the other eight horses could make his assigned weight. The remainder of the field went to post one to five pounds over.

4. On May 23, 1964, Kelso beat only one horse in the $50,000-added Los Angeles Handicap, a seven-furlong event won by Cyrano. Two weeks later, Kelso finished eight lengths back of Mustard Plaster in the $100,000-added Californian at 1 1/16 miles.

A Grade 3 event this year, the Los Angeles Handicap was for many years considered on par for sprinters with Aqueduct’s Carter Handicap, also run in the spring. Earlier winners of the Los Angeles included Porterhouse, T. V. Lark, Native Diver, Ack Ack, and Ancient Title.

First run in 1954, the Californian has been a popular fixture because it is run under allowance conditions. Winners in the first 40 years of the race included Hall of Famers Swaps, Dr. Fager, Cougar II, Ancient Title, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, Precisionist, and Sunday Silence.

Like Kelso, Dr. Fager made only one trip west of Chicago. He won the 1968 Californian in spectacular fashion in a season some historians consider the greatest ever by a Thoroughbred.

5. The Lakes and Flowers Handicap paid homage to the long-time nickname of the track known for its picturesque infield. In 1979, the race was renamed the Triple Bend Handicap to honor a horse who set the world record for seven furlongs in the 1972 Los Angeles Handicap.

Earlier that season, Triple Bend held off a furious finish by future Hall of Fame inductee Cougar II to win the 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita Handicap by a nose.

Later that season, Triple Bend returned to sprinting when he won the important Vosburgh Handicap at Aqueduct.

A year after the Triple Bend Handicap was christened, Rich Cream broke the world record in that same race, running seven furlongs in 1:19:40, a record that is still on the books today.