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These were exceptional sprinters
Sprinters will take center stage next Saturday when Calder Race Course presents its ninth annual Summit of Speed Day.
With six stakes - four of them
graded - worth nearly $1.4 million, the Summit of Speed is one of the richest days of Thoroughbred sprint racing in America. Each race is run at six furlongs.
The brainchild of Ken Dunn, Calder's former vice president of operations, the series was begun in 2000 over the objections of local horsemen who felt there would not be enough interest.
Their concern proved unfounded, as the Summit of Speed has grown in popularity and now attracts many of the nation's top sprinters.
The two richest races on the card, the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap for fillies and mares and the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap, each offers a guaranteed purse of $400,000 and is part of the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In program.
Despite the trend over the past half-century toward shorter races and horses bred more for speed than stamina, top sprinters still are rarely seen in the same light as their counterparts who win at longer distances.
Test your knowledge of celebrated sprinters from the past.
1. When Daily Racing Form began formal polling for national championships for the first time in 1936, Myrtlewood, perhaps the most popular filly or mare of her time, was voted champion sprinter.
With limited stakes opportunities available for sprinters, no award was presented in this category for the next decade. Finally, in 1947, the sprint award was revived and this 5-year-old, who two years earlier had captured the Preakness Stakes, was voted champion. Name him.
2. Swaps and Bold Ruler, named Horse of the Year in 1956 and 1957, respectively, were two of the fastest horses alive and dominated the racing headlines, but a bay colt by the talented Olympia won 15 sprint stakes during those two seasons, set or equaled six track records, and was easily voted champion sprinter each year.
When he won the final race of his career at Garden State Park on Oct. 30, 1957, he received a prolonged standing ovation that lasted until he left the winner's circle. Name him.
3. Since the advent of formal polling, five sprint champions have come back to repeat the following year, the most recent being Housebuster in 1990 and 1991.
Two of those repeat championships were back to back and both horses were produced by the same broodmare. Thus, one dam was responsible for dropping the national champion sprinter in four straight years. Name the broodmare and her two champion foals who are today enshrined in racing's Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
4. When Breeders' Cup officials announced last year that they were adding a sprint for fillies and mares to the series, some in racing bemoaned the decision. They pointed out that over the years females have been very exciting and competitive in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
While it has been a while since one has won the BC Sprint, three of the first 12 runnings were won by females - one of whom had run
second in the race the previous
season. Name the three.
5. In the weeks leading up to the Breeders' Cup Sprint in 2005, some racing writers were suggesting that Lost in the Fog might be named Horse of the Year, as well as
champion sprinter. He lost the Sprint and had to settle for just the divisional title.
Had Lost in the Fog been able to turn the trick, he would have been the first champion sprinter in more than 30 years also to be voted Horse of the Year. Name the most recent.
1. As an outsider in the 1945 Preakness Stakes, Polynesian took the lead a few strides out of the gate and coasted to the wire in the 1 3/16- mile classic. Kentucky Derby winner Hoop Jr. was 2 1/2 lengths back in second.
In his prior race, Polynesian had handed Pavot his first lifetime loss in the one-mile Withers Stakes. A month later, Pavot won the Belmont Stakes.
During a career that spanned four seasons, Polynesian won other stakes races around two turns, but always seemed most comfortable sprinting.
Of Polynesian's performance in 1947, renowned racing writer Joe Palmer penned, "Whatever other disputes were left . . . there was none about the leading sprinter."
Polynesian won stakes at seven different tracks up and down the Eastern seaboard during 1947. Eight times he carried from 130 to 134 pounds and he established track records in three races.
At stud, Polynesian sired one of racing's immortals Native Dancer - whose names appears in the bloodlines of nearly every modern-day stakes runner.
2. Decathlon was owned by the River Divide Farm of Robert Dienst, president of River Downs Race Track in Cincinnati. Dienst was likely one of the only people who maintained his stallions and mares at his own racetrack.
Decathlon won his first five starts (three stakes) as a juvenile in 1955 and set three track records, before tapering off.
At age 3, Decathlon won 10 times and finished second five times in 17 starts. He equaled four track records and was easily voted champion sprinter.
His signature season came in 1957 when he won 8 of 9 starts, carried 130 to 135 pounds on all but one occasion, set one track record, and equaled another. He was the odds-on favorite in every start that year, his highest win payoff being $3.50.
Decathlon was again voted champion sprinter, joining Sheila's Reward (1950-51) as the only repeat winners to that time in the sprint category.
3. The remarkable broodmare Aspidistra produced both Dr. Fager, the champion sprinter of 1967 and 1968, and Ta Wee, champion sprinter of 1969 and 1970. Both horses were bred in Florida and owned by William McKnight's Tartan Stable.
Dr. Fager remains to this day the only horse to be voted Horse of the Year, and champion handicap horse, sprinter, and grass horse in one year (1968). In the final race of his career, he broke the Aqueduct track record for seven furlongs in the Vosburgh Handicap under a staggering 139 pounds.
Ta Wee won the final race of her remarkable career in the six-furlong Interborough Handicap at Belmont Park under an astounding 142 pounds.
4. Patrick Valenzuela guided the 3-year-old filly Very Subtle to a wire-to-wire upset win in the fourth Breeders' Cup Sprint at Hollywood Park in 1987.
Two years later, the 3-year-old filly Safely Kept finished second in the Sprint. The following year, 1990, she returned to capture the event at Belmont Park. Safely Kept was voted the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter that year, the most recent female to be so honored.
In 1995, the 5-year-old mare Desert Stormer won the Breeders' Cup Sprint, the last female to win the race.
5. When the Eclipse Awards were presented for the first time in 1970 and Ack Ack was named Horse of the Year, champion older horse, and sprinter, some might have thought a trend was in the making.
But in the 38 years since, only one other Horse of the Year has been able to claim the sprint title.
Forego was voted Horse of the Year in three straight years, 1974 to 1976. That first year, he also won the Eclipse Award for champion sprinter.
Forego started in only two sprints in his first championship season. He won the Carter Handicap in May under 129 pounds and the Vosburgh Handicap in October under 131 pounds, enough to convince voters that he was also the year's best sprinter.