08/04/2006 12:00AM

Rise of stakes purses, from rich to richer

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In 1929, John D. Hertz knew Arlington Park needed a signature race to draw national attention to his new Chicago track. He introduced the Arlington Classic, which soon rivaled the Travers Stakes and American Derby as the premier 3-year-old race of the summer.

A half-century later, Arlington again was seeking a major race to help restore the track to its glory days. In 1981, recognizing the growing influence of foreign horses and foreign buyers in America, President Joseph Joyce unveiled the Arlington Million. The grass race was designed to attract the best horses in the world, and the purse - the first $1 million Thoroughbred race in North American history - gave it the boost it needed. That year, John Henry beat The Bart by a nose in the inaugural running of the Million. The race attracted entrants from England, France, Ireland, Canada, and the U.S.

With the Arlington Million scheduled for Saturday, test your knowledge of how purses have changed over the years.

1. In 1885, the Coney Island Jockey Club at Sheepshead Bay Race Course in New York announced a race for2-year-olds to be inaugurated in 1888.

The not-yet-born foals of 752 broodmares were made eligible for the race with a subscription of $25 (live foal). An additional $50 was charged when the offspring became yearlings, and a starting fee of $250 was assessed to compete in the race.

On Sept. 3, 1888, a field of 14 faced the starter for what was the richest race ever run in North America to that date. Name the race and the winner.

2. The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes did not become $100,000-added races until 1946, the same year the Santa Anita Derby was first run with that purse.

The first six-figure race exclusively for 3-year-olds was contested 20 years earlier when Boot to Boot, owned by the Idle Hour Stock Farm of Col. Edward R. Bradley, beat future Hall of Famer Display by two lengths. Name the race and the racetrack.

3. While the Santa Anita Handicap was from its beginning in 1935 the signature race at the Arcadia, Calif., track, the Santa Anita Maturity for 4-year-olds - first run in 1948 - frequently eclipsed that race in purse value.

In 1951, the Santa Anita Maturity (run today as the Strub Stakes) became the first race with a gross purse of more than $200,000. The winner's share that year was at the time the biggest first-place prize in racing history. Name the winner of the 1951 Maturity.

4. In the years following World War II, 2-year-old racing soared in popularity, and by the early 1950's, many 2-year-old stakes purses were skyrocketing because of early nominations and the fees required to keep horses eligible.

From 1953 through 1969, two juvenile races dominated the record books for biggest purses each year. Any owner in search of a 2-year-old championship was almost required to run in at least one of these races.

Today, one of the races is no longer run and the other rarely attracts the top juveniles. Name the two races.

5. When Arlington Park announced the first million-dollar race, there was speculation that other racetracks would be quick to follow with seven-figure races of their own. After all, the annual double-digit inflation rates of the 1970's and early 1980's were rapidly cutting the value of the dollar.

But such was not the case. It would be more than two years before the next million-dollar race was run. This race was the first on dirt in North America to carry that purse. Name the race.

History Challenge Answers

1. The inaugural "Great Futurity," as the press dubbed the race, at Sheepshead Bay in 1888 carried a gross purse of $45,375, an enormous sum for that period.

Proctor Knott, who would the following year lose the Kentucky Derby by a nose when his jockey was unable to keep him from bearing out, won a furious stretch battle from future Hall of Famer Salvator in the first Futurity.

The split for purse was $40,625 to the winner, $3,050 to second, and $1,700 to third.

The "produce" system used for horses nominated to this race never worked well, because all payments were not due until the day of the race. All original nominees (live foals) were required to make all eligibility payments. Owners scattered around the country often refused to pay.

The system gradually gave way to the modern one, where nomination and other fees are due and payable on specific dates, or a horse is dropped from eligibility.

The Futurity Stakes will be run for the 117th time Sept. 23.

2. With the exception of an occasional meeting where no betting was conducted, racing in Chicago was shut down from 1905 until 1926.

The American Derby, first run at old Washington Park in 1884, quickly became the most prestigious race for 3-year-olds in the country. Between 1905 and 1925, the race was run only once, at a betless meeting at Hawthorne Park in 1916.

When betting was again legalized in 1926, the American Derby was resurrected and run at the new Washington Park in Homewood, a suburb of Chicago. The purse was $100,000-added, the richest race ever run exclusively for 3-year-olds.

3. Future Hall of Fame member Bed o' Roses looked like the winner turning into the stretch of the 1951 Santa Anita Maturity until she suddenly went lame and pulled up in third place.

The California-bred Great Circle went on to win the $205,700 race and collect $144,325, the richest winner's share in racing history.

4. From its first running in 1953, the Garden State Stakes became the country's richest race.

In 1956, the race was the first to surpass $300,000 in gross purse money. Barbizon collected a record $168,430 (from a total purse of $319,210) for winning that race. It was the only stakes race in which he ran that year, but it was enough to win him a majority of the votes for 2-year-old male champion in every poll.

In 1962, Washington Park closed, and its meetings were moved to Arlington Park, which owned both tracks. The combined Arlington-Washington Futurity became the richest race in the country.

Six years later, Strong Strong became the first horse in history to collect more than $200,000 for winning a race when he won the $385,350 Arlington-Washington Futurity of 1968. The winner's share was $212,850.

5. When a new state law allowed for expanded racing dates in California in 1981, Hollywood Park added a regular fall meeting to its calendar for the first time.

Marje Everett saw an opportunity for her Inglewood, Calif., track to play a more important role in deciding the Eclipse Awards for juveniles. She introduced the Hollywood Futurity and Hollywood Starlet Stakes to be run in December, just weeks before voters cast ballots for year-end champions.

Hollywood Park raised the purse for the third running of its Futurity to $1 million in 1983. With supplementary nominations, the gross purse totaled $1,049,275. Fali Time scored a 10-1 upset in the first million-dollar race on dirt, while the favored Precisionist finished off the board.

Unfortunately for Hollywood Park, its Futurity rarely attracted the country's top juveniles, and the birth of the Breeders' Cup in 1984 further diminished its role. The purse for the Hollywood Futurity was slashed in 1991.