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Some September days worth remembering
Twenty-five years ago this month, Spectacular Bid made his final appearance on the track - a rare walkover in the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park. He left the track and took his place among racing's immortals. The sport has not seen his like since.
Thirteen years earlier, September 1967, Damascus captured the same stakes, defeating Buckpasser and Dr. Fager in the only race ever to feature three horses who would be regularly ranked among the top 20 of the 20th century.
Three years earlier, on Labor Day 1964, mighty Kelso nailed Gun Bow to win the Aqueduct Handicap.
"Of all his races, this meant the most to me," his owner, Allaire du Pont, said.
September has always been an exciting time for Thoroughbred racing. With the Travers Stakes behind them, 3-year-old stakes stars often begin challenging their elders for the first time. And top 2-year-olds begin to show whether they are Derby material as they stretch out to a mile or more for the first time.
Test your knowledge of these Septembers to remember.
1. In "Racing in America, 1866-1921," Walter Vosburgh wrote of this 2-year-old colt that his great speed and marvelous build, along with the fact that he was a full brother to a Kentucky Derby winner, made him "a marked colt from the time he was broken to saddle."
The colt did not disappoint his supporters as he captured the Futurity at Belmont Park on Sept. 4, 1915, beating 15 of the best 2-year-olds in training. He finished the year undefeated. Name the colt and his Kentucky Derby-winning sibling.
2. The township of Binghamton in upstate New York is not exactly located in horse country. Back in 1917 and still today, it's more than 150 miles from the nearest major racetrack.
But 10,000 of the city's residents - more than half of its population - showed up at the train station and lined the streets on Sept. 4, 1917, in celebration of this colt who won five stakes and was being proclaimed one of the best 2-year-old Thoroughbreds ever.
A parade followed, with the horse, his owner, Willis Sharpe Kilmer, and jockey, Willie Knapp, the stars of the show. Name the horse.
3. The first race at Belmont Park on Sept. 6, 1921 would have been just another sprint for lowly claimers were it not for the presence of this 10-year-old gelding.
While the old warrior looked tired and was not a shadow of his former self, he beat eight other horses to the wire. Sadly, he pulled up lame.
In earlier years, he had been the country's top 2-year-old in 1913 and Horse of the Year in 1917. In later years, he would be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Name him.
4. Lou Smith, who owned Rockingham Park in Salem, N.H., went west in the 1950's to help raise $2 million to complete construction on this bankrupt racetrack.
When the track finally opened for its inaugural 67-day season on Friday, Sept. 4, 1954, it was one of the most lavish in the country with swank restaurants, escalators everywhere, and seating for 15,000.
Only 8,500 were on hand for the opener. In the following weeks, daily attendance dropped to less than 3,000 and a month after it opened, the track was shuttered. Name this racetrack.
5. In an era where a horse can win more than $2 million in one race, it may seem hard to believe that just 40 years ago, the number of equine millionaires could be counted on one hand. All had long careers on the track.
On Sept. 28, 1963, five horses showed up for the 10th running of the Woodward Stakes at Aqueduct. It marked the first time in racing history that two millionaires faced off in the same race. Name the two horses.
HISTORY CHALLENGE ANSWERS
1. There were many similarities between the colt Thunderer and his sister Regret.
Both were chestnuts by Broomstick out of the Hamburg mare Jersey Lightning.
Both were bred in New Jersey by their owner, Harry Payne Whitney, and conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer James Rowe Sr.
Both were undefeated in three starts at age 2. Regret beat colts in the Hopeful at Saratoga. Thunderer won the Futurity at Belmont Park.
Both made their first start at age 3 in the Kentucky Derby and both were favored to win the roses - Regret at 5-2 in 1915 and Thunderer at even money in 1916.
Regret became the first filly to capture the Kentucky Derby, winning from wire to wire. Thunderer broke in mid-pack in the Derby and never threatened, finishing fifth, 12 lengths behind the winner, George Smith.
Thunderer was raced sparingly after the Derby and at age 5 broke down in the Kings County Handicap and was retired.
2. The imported Sun Briar won the Albany Handicap, Saratoga Special, Great American, Grand Union, and Hopeful Stakes en route to being proclaimed the 2-year-old champion of 1917. He was the toast of the town when Willis Sharpe Kilmer returned the colt to the owner's hometown of Binghamton, N.Y.
A huge winter-book favorite for the 1918 Kentucky Derby, Sun Briar trained poorly and Kilmer was forced to withdraw him and instead enter a gelding whom he had bought only months earlier primarily as a workmate for Sun Briar.
Despite not having raced in 10 months, the workmate won the Derby at 29-1 and went on to win 50 races in all and more stakes than any horse in North American racing history. His name was Exterminator.
3. Old Rosebud was acclaimed champion juvenile of 1913, a year in which he set four track records in one 12-day period.
After winning his first start at age 3 at the Association Course in Lexington, Old Rosebud won the Kentucky Derby wire to wire, setting a track record. His margin of victory - eight lengths - has never been surpassed in the 131-year-history of the Louisville classic.
Away from the races for nearly three years, Old Rosebud returned at age 6 to win seven stakes races, including the Clark and Carter handicaps. He was acclaimed Horse of the Year.
The gallant gelding came back from one injury after another and raced until age 11. He broke down at Jamaica Racetrack in 1922 after completing the 80th and final race of his career. Five days later, he was euthanized.
4. The Las Vegas Jockey Club, located near the famous Strip, never had a chance with lush gambling parlors and dollar buffets nearby.
Top riders such as Bill Shoemaker were on hand for opening day in September 1954, but once the novelty wore off, the locals and tourists went away. Attempts to reopen the track in later years proved futile.
A half-century later, there are still some dreamers who think there is synergism between casino gamblers and racetrack gamblers.
5. Carry Back became the fourth horse to reach the $1 million mark in earnings when he won the Metropolitan Handicap on May 30, 1962. He joined Citation, Nashua, and Round Table in the exclusive club.
Later that year, on Dec. 1, Kelso won the Governor's Plate at Garden State Park in his last race of the season. The winner's share was enough to make him racing's fifth millionaire.
The two champions had met many times before, and they met again in the Woodward Stakes in 1963. Carry Back, having performed stud duties in Florida the past winter, was not himself. Kelso won in a breeze.