09/25/2008 11:00PM

History Challenge: Thoroughbred Club of America honorees


Keeneland Race Course will present eight graded stakes during the first three days of its fall meeting. Among them is next Saturday's 28th running of the Grade 3 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes, which carries a purse of $300,000.

The race honors an organization founded in 1932 by 15 prominent members of the Bluegrass racing and breeding community. Originally called just the Thoroughbred Club and open only to Kentucky residents, the "of America" was added a year later because of the instant popularity of the association and the desire by those in other states to join.

The primary goal of the club is to encourage and foster closer cooperation between those in the Thoroughbred industry.

Membership has grown from the original 15 to more than 1,200. Its headquarters is a 19th century colonial mansion located just a few hundred yards from Keeneland's far turn.

One of the highlights of the club's year is a testimonial dinner held annually in late fall since 1932 to honor a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution toward the betterment of racing and/or breeding. Sportscaster Tom Hammond is this year's honoree.

See how many of these honored guests you can identify.

1. The first TCA testimonial dinner was held in November 1932 at the famed Phoenix Hotel in downtown Lexington and was attended by more than 400 people.

The honored guest that year was a gentleman who was as well known in Kentucky for his kindness and generosity toward orphaned children as he was for his success nationally as a breeder, owner, racetrack operator, and gambler. He was introduced by one of his lifelong friends, Joseph E. Widener. Name him.

2. A man who was instrumental in the formation of the Kentucky State Racing Commission and was its first chairman in 1907 was the TCA honored guest in 1936. A native of West Virginia, he moved to Kentucky at age 27 in 1892. He represented the Bluegrass State in the United States Senate in 1914 and 1915.

At his Heartland Stud near Lexington, he bred and raced numerous top runners. When the Western Turf Association - comprising Kentucky and neighboring tracks - was formed in 1928, he was elected chairman of the board. Name him.

3. The TCA's guest of honor in 1937 may have been one of the sport's most successful owners and breeders, but no one ever described him as beloved.

Throughout the years, honored guests have often used the opportunity to speak their minds about what needed to be done to improve racing in America. This always-opinionated gentleman pleaded for a higher standard for racing officials and better living conditions in racetrack stable areas. He also used the opportunity to blast racing secretaries and handicappers, who he never liked. Name him.

4. The TCA's 10th honored guest in 1941 was one of the founders and the first president of Keeneland Race Course. On the outside, he was often rude, abrupt, and abrasive, but no one was more respected for his business skills.

At the testimonial dinner, this gruff gentleman surprised everyone by giving a highly emotional speech about how much the Thoroughbred had meant to his life. Sixty-four years later, at the 74th TCA testimonial dinner, his daughter was the honored guest. Name the two.

5. Until the mid-1950s, the TCA's honored guest each year was drawn from a list of influential and powerful owners, breeders, politicians, and racetrack officials. The first "blue collar" recipient was the legendary Hall of Fame trainer Jim Fitzsimmons in 1955. In later years, other trainers would be so honored, including Max Hirsch (1961), Preston Burch (1973), Horatio Luro (1980), Woody Stephens (1985), Charlie Whittingham (1988), and D. Wayne Lukas (1998), among others.

In more than 75 years, however, only one jockey has been chosen as the TCA's honored guest. Name him.