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History challenge: Pre-Breeders' Cup era had different landscape
By Ron Hale
Forty years ago this weekend, on Nov. 18, 1972, the remarkable Secretariat completed his juvenile season winning the richest Thoroughbred race that year, the $298,665 Garden State Stakes. Five years later, the race’s home, Garden State Park in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, burned down. The track was rebuilt and reopened with great fanfare in 1985, but it, too, did not survive. Racing ceased in 2001, and the stands were torn down in 2003.
The Garden State Stakes reappeared briefly at Monmouth Park but has all but disappeared.
In his next-to-last juvenile race, Secretariat won the Laurel Futurity. A Grade 1 race for nearly two decades, the Laurel Futurity is today an ungraded grass sprint.
The advent of the Breeders’ Cup series in 1984 changed the landscape of racing forever. Famous late-season stakes that once were championship deciders have disappeared or become merely prep races.
Adding to this is the rise of new events at racinos such as Parx Racing (founded as Keystone Race Course and later called Philadelphia Park) – a track that did not even exist when Secretariat was racing. Parx this year offered two $1 million stakes on the same afternoon in September.
Test your knowledge of historic races that were once important in deciding year-end championships.
1. The Garden State Stakes began as the Walt Whitman Stakes in 1942. Run under futurity conditions for the first time in 1953, nomination, eligibility, and starting fees boosted the purse to $269,395 – the richest race ever run in America up to that time.
For the next 20 years, the Garden State was at or near the top of the list for total gross purse. From 1962 to 1969, however, it was surpassed by a race that consisted of two futurities that were combined into one in 1962.
From 1962 to 1972, nine of the 11 male juvenile champions competed in this new futurity and/or the Garden State Stakes. Name the futurity that was created in 1962 whose first gross purse was $357,250 – the richest race in history to that point.
2. Few stakes that were around for such a short period attracted as many famous Thoroughbreds as this New York race named for a colt many horsemen considered the greatest to compete in the 20th century before Man o’ War. First run in 1946, the race attracted four Horses of the Year and four future Hall of Fame members in its first four runnings. Before it was discontinued for the first time after 1959, it added other big names to this list. Name the race.
3. While horses were running on grass when they first arrived in America, when formal racetracks began to be built, so-called “skinned,” or dirt racing, became the vogue.
In the early 1900’s, Sheepshead Bay on Coney Island, N.Y., and Saratoga staged occasional turf racing. Hialeah Park in Florida built a turf course in 1933 and at the end of that decade was presenting the country’s only two grass stakes races.
By the early 1960’s, there were turf courses at tracks all over the country, and more were being built each year. There were also more than 60 stakes on the grass, but none was more prestigious or important than this late-season event in Maryland. Name it.
4. When Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, the entire racing world wanted to see him. Arlington Park was the first to offer a special $125,000 invitational June 30. Owner Penny Tweedy accepted, and the big red horse toyed with the field, winning by nine lengths.
In August, a corporate executive offered a $250,000 purse for a Sept. 15 match race at Belmont between Secretariat and his stablemate, 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Riva Ridge. The match race idea died, but it did develop into what for more than a decade would be one of the most important handicaps in the country. Name the race.
5. On Sept. 6, 1977, the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., opened its doors for the first time and attracted an announced crowd of 25,158. Its fall Thoroughbred meetings, which soon grew to 100 days in length, included from the outset this stakes for 2-year-olds that, in its first 10 runnings, attracted the future winners of three Kentucky Derbys, two Preakness Stakes, and three Belmont Stakes.
Before the 1990’s were over, the race was gone and by 2012, Thoroughbred racing at the Meadowlands was down to fewer than 10 days of all-grass racing.
Name the track’s once-famous race for 2-year-olds.
See the answers HERE.
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