03/29/2012 12:30PM

History Challenge: Santa Anita Oaks a track institution

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Art Kunkel
Owned and bred by Fred Hooper, this Hall of Famer won 23 stakes, including the 1972 Oaks, known then as the Santa Susana. Can you name her?

The Santa Anita Oaks, scheduled to be run for the 73rd time Saturday, is one of the original stakes from the inaugural 1934-35 meeting of the Arcadia, Calif., track.

For its first 50 years, the Oaks was known as the Santa Susana Stakes − and for seven years in the 1950s as the Santa Susana Handicap − after the mountain range directly to the west of the San Gabriel Mountains that form the famed backdrop for Santa Anita Park.

Almost from the outset, the race attracted some of the most outstanding 3-year-old fillies in the country. The seventh running of the Santa Susana was won by the great Busher, who went on to be voted 1945 Horse of the Year and later was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame.

Winning Colors captured the race in 1988, the third year it was known as the Santa Anita Oaks. She went on to beat colts in the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby. Giving trainer D. Wayne Lukas the first of his four Kentucky Derby winners to date, Winning Colors was the third and most recent member of her sex to win the Louisville classic in its 137-year history.

Test your knowledge of the Santa Susana/Santa Anita Oaks.

1. As the Santa Anita Oaks, the race has always been run at 1 1/16 miles, but in its first half-century, the Santa Susana was run at three, six, and seven furlongs and at one mile.

The inaugural running of the Santa Susana in 1935 was the only one contested at three furlongs and the only time the race was run for 2-year-olds.

Three-furlong “baby” races were popular at Santa Anita for nearly four decades. Why did they disappear?

2. Despite being considered among the greatest horses of all time, 1948 Triple Crown winner Citation was generally a disappointment at stud.

Perhaps his best offspring was this big chestnut filly who captured the Santa Susana Stakes and then became one of only three females in history to win the Santa Anita Derby. She also finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby.

Remarkably, this filly began her racing career running in an $8,000 maiden claiming event. Name her.

3. When this William Haggin Perry-owned filly began her 3-year-old season by winning the La Centinela and Santa Susana stakes at Santa Anita, few people took note.

But by the time she won her final three starts of the year by a combined 25 lengths in the Spinster and Jersey Belle stakes and Firenze Handicap, some turf writers were calling her one of the truly great fillies.

In midseason, she had also captured the Comely Stakes, CCA Oaks, Monmouth Oaks, and Gazelle Handicap. Name this champion.

4. With most of the nation’s racetracks and the majority of the racing media located east of the Mississippi River, it has long been argued – before and after the Eclipse Awards began – that there is an Eastern bias in voting for national champions.

In 1971, when the Eclipse Awards were first handed out, Ack Ack was named Horse of the Year, champion handicap horse, and sprinter. Ack Ack never left Southern California that year. Also that year, this filly who won the Santa Susana never left Southern California in her entire career and was voted champion 3-year-old filly. Name her.

5. Fred W. Hooper was one of the most popular and successful owners and breeders in the sport’s history. He won the Kentucky Derby with the first Thoroughbred he bought at auction, Hoop Jr., in 1945.

Hooper lived to be 102 and won more than 100 stakes races, almost entirely with horses he bred. Two of his homebreds are in racing’s Hall of Fame, including 1985 champion Precisionist and this Santa Susana Stakes winner whom he considered his personal favorite among his fillies. Name her.

Get the answers HERE.