10/30/2008 11:00PM

History Challenge: Red Smith, master of his craft


Next Saturday's 49th running of the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct honors one of the most gifted and widely read sports columnist of the 20th century and the first to receive the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

From 1945 until his death in 1982, Smith wrote for New York newspapers, first the New York Herald Tribune and then the New York Times. He covered all sports, but always considered Thoroughbred racing his favorite.

There are more great stories on the backstretch of a racetrack than in any other sport, Smith once wrote.

Racing was at the zenith of its popularity in America during the early years of Smith's career in the 1920s and 1930s. The sports sections of daily newspapers across the country regularly covered the horses and their human handlers. Jockeys like Earl Sande and Eddie Arcaro were as well known to most Americans as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Smith died in an era where his like were more and more being replaced by younger sportswriters and columnists with little appreciation for, or understanding of, Thoroughbred racing and its long, storied history in America.

Test your knowledge of other noteworthy sports writers of the 20th century who helped bring the sport of kings to the masses.

1. For years, historians have written that renowned Daily Racing Form columnist Charles Hatton was the first to use the term "triple crown" to refer to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. But extensive research in the past few years has discovered that Hatton first used the term on June 25, 1930.

More than two weeks earlier, on June 8, 1930, the day after the Belmont Stakes, this New York Times turf columnist reported that "These two horses are the only ones to win the triple crown," referring to Sir Barton and Gallant Fox. Name the turf writer.

2. Earl Sande was, almost without argument, the best jockey of the 1920s. His accomplishments on the track were enough to make him famous. But a series of poems published during that time by an illustrious sportswriter, third-generation journalist, humorist, and short-story writer created an aura about Sande that made him an American legend.

Name this reporter whose tales of gambling, horse racing, and the criminal world made him known the world over.

3. This graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism joined the New York Times in 1920 and moved to the New York Journal (later renamed the Journal-American) five years later.

He is credited with coining the phrase, "Run for the Roses," to refer to the Kentucky Derby. In 1949, he succeeded the legendary Matt Winn as president of Churchill Downs - a position that he held until his death in 1958. Name this sportswriter and racetrack executive.

4. He was just months shy of receiving his doctorate from the University of Michigan when he decided to devote his life to writing about racing. In 1937, he returned to the city of his birth, Lexington, Ky, joined the staff of The Blood-Horse, and never looked back.

He was hired by the New York Herald Tribune in 1946 and for six years wrote columns about the sport he loved. A massive heart attack claimed his life at age 48 in 1952. Red Smith called him "America's best-known racing writer." Name him.

5. When criticizing a jockey for setting too slow a pace in the Belmont Stakes, this longtime sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times said a stopwatch wasn't needed to time the race. A "grandfather clock" could have been used, he penned.

In 1988, he wrote, "The Kentucky Derby isn't just a horse race, any more than Elizabeth Taylor is just a woman, the Taj Mahal a building, or Mt. Everest a hill." Name this multi-award-winning journalist.