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History Challenge: San Vicente rich with Derby connections
Eighty years ago, Santa Anita Park was in the middle of its inaugural 1934-35 season, the first official race meeting in Southern California in a quarter-century. It consisted of 11 weeks and 65 days, racing every day of the week except Sunday.
The original Santa Anita, located one mile to the southeast, opened its gates on Dec. 7, 1907, and ran its last card on April 17, 1909. Later that same year, the state legislature passed the Walker-Otis Law that banned gambling on horses. The law was not repealed until 1933, by which time the original Santa Anita had long been destroyed by fire.
The featured race on the last Saturday of January 1935 was the $5,000-added San Vicente Handicap, a six-furlong event for 3-year-olds and up.
The name derives from Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica, a 33,000-acre Mexican land grant given by Gov. Juan Alvarado to Francisco Sepulveda in 1839. The land today includes the upscale areas of West Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Brentwood, and Santa Monica and is the location of the major thoroughfare San Vicente Boulevard.
The inaugural 1934-35 Santa Anita meeting attracted most of the country’s top stables. Trumpery, a 4-year-old from the powerful Whitney Stable, captured the first San Vicente Handicap.
In 1937, the San Vicente became an event for 3-year-olds only, and since that time, it has served as a prep for nine colts who went on to capture the Kentucky Derby.
With the 74th running of the San Vicente Stakes (the “handicap” condition was last used in 1966) set for Sunday, test your knowledge of horses who have competed in this event.
1. The second and last running of the San Vicente Handicap open to older horses in 1936 was won by a Virginia-bred 5-year-old colt who had an extensive career on the track, running 50 times from ages 2 through 7.
In the San Vicente, he defeated Rosemont, who would come back the following year to nose out the acclaimed Seabiscuit in the third running of the Santa Anita Handicap.
After winning the San Vicente, the colt captured the San Antonio Handicap before finishing second to Top Row in the second Big Cap.
A year earlier, he had finished third in the first Santa Anita Handicap, won by Azucar. The 20-horse field in the first Big Cap included future Hall of Fame inductees Equipoise and Twenty Grand, both 7-year-olds with their best racing years behind them. They finished seventh and 10th.
The 1936 San Vicente winner was not through, however. Before his career was over, he had competed in the first four editions of the Santa Anita Handicap. Name him.
2. Col. Edward R. Bradley bred and owned four winners of the Kentucky Derby. He also finished second four times, including in 1940 with a horse he considered the best he ever started in the Derby – Bimelech.
A champion at age 2 and undefeated in eight lifetime starts prior to the Derby, Bimelech entered the starting gate at 2-5, equaling to this day the lowest odds ever offered on a Derby starter in the 140-year history of the race.
But Ethel V. Mars, who inherited Mars Candy Inc. from her late husband, Frank, upon his death in 1934, as well as his Milky Way Farm racing stable, had other ideas.
The nation’s leading owner in 1936, and second the following year, Mars sent out a 35-1 shot in the 66th running of the Louisville classic who sailed past Bimelech in the stretch to win going away.
Prior to the Derby, this colt had won only one stakes race – the San Vicente – and after the Derby, he never won another stakes. Name him.
3. While the winner of the Santa Anita Derby has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby 10 times, I’ll Have Another in 2012 was the first Santa Anita Derby winner since Sunday Silence in 1989 to capture the Louisville classic. California Chrome became No. 10 last year.
In 1952, this Santa Anita Derby winner was the first to wear the roses in Kentucky. He also was the second winner of the San Vicente Stakes to go on to victory on the first Saturday in May.
Owned by the powerful Calumet Farm, which bred a record nine Kentucky Derby winners and owned a record eight, this colt was the heavy favorite in the 78th Derby. Name him.
4. In the previous 73 runnings of the San Vicente Stakes, two winners’ names are likely to stand out. The first is Busher in 1945, ranked in The Blood-Horse magazine poll as the second-greatest female racehorse of the 20th century.
Next is the remarkable Swaps in 1955, who also won the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby and was voted Horse of the Year in 1956. Swaps is considered by many the greatest California-bred of all time.
Swaps, by Khaled, was owned by former cowboy Rex Ellsworth, who also campaigned another son of Khaled who won the 1956 San Vicente Handicap and Santa Anita Derby. After his 3-year-old season, this colt was sold. By the time his career was over, he had won more stakes races at Santa Anita than any horse in history. Name him.
5. While records from the 19th century are incomplete, at least 24 horses who started in the Kentucky Derby were undefeated at the time. The first was the filly Regret, who won the 1915 Derby in her fourth career start. The third was Morvich, whose win in the 1922 Kentucky Derby was his 12th straight without a loss.
Two undefeated Kentucky Derby starters came to Louisville after having won the San Vicente Stakes and Santa Anita Derby.
The first had a record of nine wins in nine starts after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. The second came to Louisville having won an incredible 16 straight races. Sent off as the 9-5 favorite, he faded to midpack at the wire. Name the two horses.
HISTORY CHALLENGE ANSWERS
1. Time Supply earned almost $145,000, a handsome sum during the Depression era. He had a record of 18 wins, 6 seconds, and 7 thirds from 50 starts.
At age 3 in 1934, he won the Bahamas Handicap and Hialeah Stakes. He passed on the Kentucky Derby but was sent off as the second choice in the Preakness, where he pressed the pace of winner High Quest and faded to sixth.
Later that year, he captured the inaugural running of the rich Narragansett Special and the Sacramento and Bay Meadows handicaps. Time Supply had considerable success in 1935-36 but remained a cut below the best of his era.
During most of his career, “Time Supply and jockey Tommy Luther were inseparable,” according to Daily Racing Form columnist John Hervey. When his close friend, 16-year-old jockey Sandy Graham, died following a spill in 1927, Luther began a crusade to urge racetracks to provide better care for jockeys.
Luther’s efforts gained momentum in the late 1930s, when he and fellow jockeys began meeting to discuss a community fund for riders. Fearing the jockeys were going to unionize, Santa Anita stewards denied Luther a license for the 1939-40 meeting for what they called “a defiant and threatening attitude.”
That didn’t stop Luther, and later that year, what would become the Jockeys’ Guild was formally organized in New England. Fifty years later, in 1990, Luther was recognized for his founding role in the guild. At the ceremony, riding great Jerry Bailey said, “Jockeys across America owe Tommy ... a debt of gratitude.” Luther died in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 2001 at the age of 92.
2. When Gallahadion entered the San Vicente Handicap on Feb. 10, 1940, he had already made five starts at the Santa Anita meeting, all in allowance races.
The San Vicente was lengthened that year to one mile, and 19 horses passed the entry box. With the clubhouse turn in one-mile races coming so soon, this made for major concerns. Also, the starting gate accommodated only 14 horses.
Santa Anita officials considered abandoning the starting gate and reverting to the old standing start but decided against it. As it was, five of the horses broke from a standing start outside of the gate.
Gallahadion, a son of the marvelous imported stallion Sir Gallahad III, broke from the rail and had a comfortable trip, winning by one length. As a result, he was favored in the $50,000 Santa Anita Derby but had a rough trip in the rich race and finished 13th.
Gallahadion rested until the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs, four days before the Kentucky Derby. He finished second, easily bested by the unbeaten sensation and future Hall of Famer Bimelech.
In the Kentucky Derby, Gallahadion reversed the order, defeating Bimelech in what one reporter called “one of the most astounding upsets in the history of the American turf.”
A week later, Gallahadion finished third to Bimelech in the Preakness and a month later struggled home fifth behind Bimelech in the Belmont Stakes.
3. During his seven starts at age 2, Hill Gail won the Arlington Futurity and was second in the Washington Park Futurity.
The dark bay son of Bull Lea made his 3-year-old debut on Jan. 5, 1952, in the San Vicente Stakes, that year run under allowance conditions at seven furlongs. He won by nearly four lengths.
Hill Gail was then defeated in both the San Gabriel Stakes and the San Felipe Handicap before showing up for the Santa Anita Derby. Sent off as the second choice at 9-2, Hill Gail won the western classic going away by four lengths when the favored Windy City II went lame.
Shipped to Kentucky, Hill Gail beat older horses in the historic Phoenix Handicap, the nation’s oldest stakes race. In the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs, Hill Gail, with Eddie Arcaro now in the saddle, was six lengths to the good in the end. The time for one mile was 1:35 2/5, a track record.
Four days later, Hill Gail took the lead turning for home in the Kentucky Derby and never looked back, winning by two lengths. He came out of the race with a small osselet on his left front ankle and did not race again that year.
4. Terrang raced 31 times at ages 2 and 3 for Rex Ellsworth before being sold at the beginning of his 4-year-old season.
After victories in the 1956 San Vicente Handicap and Santa Anita Derby, Terrang was third in the opening-day Steppingstone Purse at Churchill Downs before stalking the leaders and fading to 12th in the Kentucky Derby.
Terrang got new life under his new owners, beginning in 1957, but he was always a horse for the course, and that was Santa Anita. He raced 66 times in his career, winning 15 races. Ten of those wins were stakes races at Santa Anita, including the 1957 San Antonio Handicap in track-record time and the 1959 Santa Anita Handicap.
Terrang’s 10 stakes wins at the winter Santa Anita meeting is a record that has never been broken. Even when including the fall Oak Tree season that began in 1969, only one horse has more stakes wins at Santa Anita than Terrang. That was the popular John Henry, with 12.
5. John Longden is the only person to win the Kentucky Derby as a jockey (Count Fleet in 1943) and trainer (Majestic Prince in 1969).
Majestic Prince rattled off seven wins in a row, including the San Vicente Stakes, before winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He finished second in the Belmont Stakes, a race Longden never wanted the horse to enter but was overruled by the owner. Majestic Prince never raced again.
Mister Frisky had won 13 races without defeat in Puerto Rico when trainer Laz Barrera brought him to the states in 1990. The horse proceeded to win the San Vicente, San Rafael, and Santa Anita Derby before being the 9-5 favorite in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished eighth. He never won again.
Thyroid problems killed Mister Frisky's career.