12/12/2013 4:57PM

Hollywood Park: A top-25 list from 75 years

Hollywood Park Photo
Seabiscuit, carrying 133 pounds, wins the first running of the Hollywood Gold Cup in 1938.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Beginning in 1938, Hollywood Park has been the site for scores of great horses and dozens of great races during its 75-year lifespan.

Distilling all those races into a top-25 list is nigh impossible, for while there are several races that are obvious to include, the line between which races just make the cut and which ones barely miss is no wider than the margin by which Ferdinand beat Alysheba in the 1987 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Does one include a race simply because a great horse ran in it? Do you include a race that had a great finish even if the horses weren’t among the all-time best? So many decisions, so little space.

That said, here goes:

1938 Hollywood Gold Cup: Seabiscuit, carrying 133 pounds, wins the inaugural running of what would become the track’s signature race during a year in which he also captured the Pimlico Special match race against War Admiral and the Del Mar match race against Ligaroti en route to titles as Horse of the Year and champion older horse.

1950 Vanity: Perhaps the greatest field of females ever assembled in California, with four champions. Next Move won it, defeating Bewitch, Wistful, and Bed o’ Roses. Seven days later, Next Move took on males in the star-studded ...

1950 Gold Cup: Noor, carrying 130 pounds, sets a 1 1/4-mile track record while beating the 3-year-old Hill Prince, the Preakness winner, as well as 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault, Next Move, On Trust, and Ponder, the 1949 Kentucky Derby winner. It was the final career start for both Noor and Assault.

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1951 Gold Cup: Citation, the 1948 Triple Crown winner, prevails in the 45th and final start of his career, becoming the first horse to earn $1 million with his 32nd career victory.

1955 Californian: Swaps, in his first start against older horses and his second start since winning that year’s Kentucky Derby, sets a world record for 1 1/16 miles. He also won the Westerner (the precursor to the Hollywood Derby) that summer.

The following summer at Hollywood Park, Swaps sets a world record for one mile in the Argonaut, a world record for 1 1/16 miles in the Inglewood, equals the track record for 1 1/8 miles in the American, sets a track record for 1 1/4 miles in the Gold Cup, and sets a world record for 1 5/8 miles in the Sunset.

His brilliance at Hollywood Park led to him being cast in bronze at the entrance to the clubhouse, the image affixed to a marble slab on whose backside are engraved the names of every Gold Cup winner.

[Jay Hovdey: Hollywood Park's rich history can never be torn down]

1957 Gold Cup: In only his second start against older horses, the 3-year-old Round Table beats elders such as Porterhouse and Find, then returns seven days later and carries 129 pounds to victory in the Westerner. He won five straight races that summer at Hollywood Park.

1958 Gold Cup: Gallant Man, who began his career at Hollywood Park in May 1956, returns and carries 130 pounds while spotting 20 pounds to runner-up Eddie Schmidt. Ten days later, he won the Sunset.

1967 Gold Cup: Native Diver, who ran in the race five times, wins it for the third straight year, a feat equaled by Lava Man in 2007. Native Diver died later in 1967. He won 10 stakes at Hollywood Park, including the 1965 Los Angeles, in which he and the crack sprinter Viking Spirit ran together for nearly the entire seven furlongs, with Native Diver prevailing by a neck while equaling the world record for the distance. Native Diver is buried in the paddock.

1968 Californian: Dr. Fager, in the midst of one of the greatest seasons in American racing and in his only start in California, carries 130 pounds to a three-length victory over 13 rivals. He set fractions of 45 seconds for a half-mile and 1:08 3/5 for six furlongs en route to a final time of 1:40 4/5 for 1 1/16 miles.

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1971 Gold Cup: Ack Ack, carrying 134 pounds, leads from start to finish in what would be the final start of his career. In addition to that 1 1/4-mile race, that summer Ack Ack won the Hollywood Express at 5 1/2 furlongs and set a course record for 1 1/8 miles on turf in the American, victories that propelled him to Eclipse Awards that year for champion sprinter, handicap horse, and Horse of the Year.

1972 match race: Convenience defeats Typecast by a head after 1 1/8 miles. The race came about after Convenience beat Typecast by a half-length in the Vanity, which followed Typecast defeating Convenience in the Milady. That was a precursor to another match race in 1974 between 3-year-old fillies Chris Evert – who had won the Acorn, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks – and Hollywood Oaks winner Miss Musket. It was no contest. Chris Evert’s official margin of victory was 50 lengths, but the race was so lopsided that Miss Musket was eased.

1973 Gold Cup: Just days after being sacked by Cougar II owner Mary Jones Bradley, prompting the clever headline “Florsheim Heir Gives Shoe the Boot” in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Bill Shoemaker guides Kennedy Road to an upset over Quack and Cougar II, a race in which trainer Charlie Whittingham swept the first three spots.

1975 Vanity: This field came closest to equaling the 1950 Vanity lineup, with Dulcia prevailing over Susan’s Girl, La Zanzara, and Tizna. Dulcia later that year beat males in the National Thoroughbred Championship race at Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meeting, a forerunner to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This Vanity was somewhat lost to history, though, because of what happened the same day at Belmont Park, where Ruffian broke down in her match race against Foolish Pleasure.

1977 Swaps: J. O. Tobin sends Seattle Slew to his shocking first defeat following Seattle Slew’s sweep of the Triple Crown.

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1978 Invitational Turf Handicap: This was one of the finest grass fields ever assembled, and the race went to Exceller, who defeated 11 rivals, including Eastern invaders Bowl Game and Noble Dancer. Later that summer, Exceller won the Gold Cup on dirt, then returned to turf to take the Sunset.

That fall, he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Oak Tree Invitational. Earlier that year, Exceller won the Arcadia and the San Juan Capistrano. He won six Grade 1 races that year, on turf and dirt, on the West Coast and East Coast. It was one of the greatest seasons ever, but voters denied him an Eclipse Award.

1979 Gold Cup: Affirmed, the 1978 Triple Crown winner, carries 132 pounds to defeat Sirlad and become the first horse to earn $2 million en route to securing Horse of the Year for the second straight year.

1980 Californian: Spectacular Bid, carrying 130 pounds, sets a track record of 1:45 4/5 for 1 1/8 miles, the last of his six starts that year in California, all victories. He also won the Mervyn Leroy at Hollywood Park. He won all nine of his starts that year and was named Horse of the Year.

1982 Lassie: Landaluce, a 2-year-old filly making her second start, wins the six-furlong race by a breathtaking 21 lengths in 1:08 flat. She died Nov. 28 that year and was buried in the infield at Hollywood Park. The Lassie was subsequently renamed in her memory.

1982 Futurity: In only the second season of the fall meeting, and in the pre-Breeders’ Cup era, Copelan ships west to take on Roving Boy and decide the male 2-year-old championship. Roving Boy wins the race and the Eclipse Award, with the favored Copelan fifth. With a purse of $811,400, this was at the time the richest race ever run for 2-year-old Thoroughbreds.

1983 Turf Cup: John Henry re-rallies after losing the lead in midstretch to beat the French mare Zalataia. That summer, he made his first start since the 1982 Japan Cup when winning the American. In 1984, at age 9, John Henry won the Hollywood Invitational Turf Handicap – a race he also won in 1980 and 1981 – and the Sunset en route to Horse of the Year honors. He won five times at Hollywood Park.

1984 Breeders’ Cup Classic: The inaugural Breeders’ Cup concludes with a thriller, in which Wild Again outlasts Gate Dancer and Slew o’ Gold, completing a day that also saw brilliant performances by Princess Rooney in the Distaff, Royal Heroine in the Mile, and Chief’s Crown defeating subsequent Triple Crown race winners Spend a Buck (Derby) and Tanks Prospect (Preakness) in the Juvenile, the first BC race ever run.

1986 Silver Screen: In a dazzling, overpowering performance, the filly Melair blows away the likes of Preakness winner Snow Chief and 10 other 3-year-old males en route to a 6 1/2-length romp in the one-turn mile. Melair was timed in a sizzling 1:32 4/5 after setting fractions of 22 1/5, 44 3/5, and 1:08. She ran five times and never lost in a brief, brilliant career.

1987 BC Classic: Kentucky Derby winners Ferdinand and Alysheba hit the wire together, with Ferdinand winning by a nose and thus the title as Horse of the Year.

1993 Matriarch: Flawlessly scores her third straight win in this race, but it’s not easy, as she has to hold off the mercurial Toussaud in the late stages to earn her second straight Eclipse Award as champion female turf horse. Toussaud that summer had won the Gamely and Wilshire and beat the boys in the American. She went on to further acclaim as the dam of four Grade 1 winners, including Empire Maker and Chester House.

2010 Vanity: Racing at her home track, Zenyatta wins the Vanity for the third straight year and the second time carrying 129 pounds. That fall, she won the Lady’s Secret, run temporarily at Hollywood Park. She won all eight of her starts at Hollywood Park.