10/25/2002 12:00AM

History Challenge: They were in it for the long haul


The 23rd running of the Miss Grillo Stakes is next Sunday at Aqueduct. The race honors an Argentine champion filly imported to the United States in 1946 by legendary trainer Horatio Luro.

Miss Grillo campaigned for four years in the United States. She won 10 stakes and placed in 10 others, but was never voted a champion in North America.

When her career was over, however, she was widely acclaimed as one of the greatest long-distance runners of the 20th century.

In 1947, she won the Pimlico Cup, a 2 1/2-mile race, by 40 lengths, with jockey Conn McCreary standing up for the last sixteenth of a mile.

A year later, she won the same race, establishing a world record for the distance (4:14.60) which still stands more than a half-century later.

In 1949, Miss Grillo collected her biggest paycheck when she won Santa Anita's marathon San Juan Capistrano Handicap.

Test your knowledge of other stars of yesteryear who could run all day.

1. Matt Winn, who ran Churchill Downs from 1902-1949, was also an executive at racetracks in New York, Maryland, and Illinois, among others.

He saw all of the great runners of the era, including Man o' War, but he wrote in his 1945 autobiography, "Down the Stretch," that in his opinion this horse was the greatest.

This horse could sprint and route, but he was most comfortable over long distances of ground.

He started 22 times in races from 1 1/2 miles to 2 1/4 miles and won half of them, often carrying tremendous weight assignments.

Name him.

2. His sire, Your Host, broke down so badly at Santa Anita in 1951 that the insurance company paid the mortality policy. The crippled Your Host was saved through the valiant efforts of veterinarians.

His owner was so impressed with the courage of Your Host that she bred her mare Maid of Flight to him. The pregnant mare was shipped from her home in Maryland to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky to have her foal.

The result was a spindly colt who was nothing to look at. In fact, the farm manager was embarrassed when the owner traveled from Maryland to Kentucky to see her new foal for the first time.

He need not have been. The horse went on to be one of the greats of all time.

Name him.

3. Trainers today generally like to have three to four weeks between starts for their top


In the late summer of his 3-year-old season, this son of the English cup horse St. Germans rattled off four wins in a period of 28 days - Aug. 22 to Sept. 19, 1931.

The wins included the Travers at 1 1/4 miles, the Saratoga Cup at 1 3/4 miles, the Lawrence Realization at 1 5/8 miles, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup at 2 miles.

Name him.

4. At age 4 in 1929, this Wheatley Stable colt was acclaimed co-champion older horse.

"As a distance horse, he loomed a whale among minnows," wrote the Daily Racing Form columnist and historian John Hervey.

The colt's victories included the three great cup races of the day - the Saratoga Cup, Pimlico Cup, and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Name him.

5. His lifetime record of 14 wins in 69 starts may not seem impressive, but one noted sportswriter called him "a distance performer, such has been seldom seen on the American turf in recent times."

He was from the first full crop of the sensational and ill-fated Equipoise.

He campaigned from coast to coast and was still winning such marathons as the Saratoga Cup (for the second time) and Jockey Club Gold Cup at age 7 in 1944.

Name him.

Answers - Check the headlines links above.