04/23/2009 11:00PM

History Challenge: Kentucky Oaks classics


After more than a year of studying racing in England and France during his second trip to Europe, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. returned to Kentucky in 1873 and joined with investors in building the Louisville Jockey Club and Driving Park Association - to be dubbed Churchill Downs a decade later.

Two fixtures at the inaugural meeting in 1875 were the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, modeled after the Epsom Derby and Oaks - long-established classics in England.

The first Kentucky Derby drew 42 nominations, but little advance publicity because some of the horses were still unraced and some had not yet been named. Nonetheless, when the six-day meeting opened on Monday, May 17, fans were enthralled by the 3-year-olds in the second race, and the Derby was an instant success. Two days later, the first race of the day was the Kentucky Oaks.

The Derby, Oaks, and Clark Handicap (run on the final day of the first meeting) have been contested every year since and are the oldest continually run races in the United States.

Test your knowledge of the Kentucky Oaks, a race that frequently gets lost in the hoopla over the Derby.

1. For the past 70 years, the Kentucky Oaks has been run on Friday, the day before the Kentucky Derby. But before then, the Oaks was run several days, and sometimes weeks, after the Derby.

As a result, it was not uncommon for a filly to run in both races. No filly has ever won the two, but in 1906, Lady Navarre came the closest in each, finishing second, beaten two lengths by Sir Huon, in the 32nd Derby. She returned six days later to run second to King's Daughter in the 32nd Oaks.

Name the first Derby contestant to win the Kentucky Oaks.

2. While no horse has ever been disqualified from winning the Kentucky Derby for an infraction during the running of the race (In 1968, Dancer's Image was disqualified 11 days after the race for a medication violation), such is not the case for the Kentucky Oaks.

Glide, under future Hall of Famer Mack Garner, was disqualified from first and placed out of the money in the 1924 Oaks. She interfered with several horses inside the sixteenth pole. The filly declared the winner was arguably the first really important horse to win the 50-year-old race. Name her.

3. The Kentucky Derby grew to national prominence in the years 1913-1915, but the Kentucky Oaks took much longer to gain such acceptance. By contrast, the list of winners of the Pimlico Oaks - first run in 1919 - reads in its early years like a who's who of remarkable fillies. (The name of the race was changed in 1952 to the Black-Eyed Susan.)

Since formal polling for national championships began in 1936, who was the first Kentucky Oaks winner to be voted champion 3-year-old filly?

4. When this Calumet Farm filly was born in 1953, one of her front forelegs was so twisted that trainer Jimmy Jones was doubtful she would ever make it to the races.

Even with the filly being given months of therapy and corrective plates, Jones said he still didn't see how she could stand. When she finally got to the track, however, the foot seemed to give her no problems.

At age 3, she beat the two-time champion Doubledogdare by a nose in the Kentucky Oaks and became the third foal out of the broodmare Blue Delight to win the Oaks. Name the three half-sisters.

5. Owners of top 3-year-old fillies today can be faced with the question of whether to run in the Kentucky Oaks or to gamble at beating males in the Derby. In 134 years, 39 fillies have tried. Only three have succeeded. The most recent to try was the ill-fated Eight Belles, who finished a remarkable second last year.

Some prominent sportswriters and horsemen thought this three-time champion filly, who won the 1962 Oaks, would have become the second filly to win the Derby if she had opted for that race instead. Name her.