Racing History Highlights - December 23-January 6

What happened in Thoroughbred racing the past 80 years? The NTRA compiles a sample of historic events that took place from Dec. 23-January 6.
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What happened in Thoroughbred racing the past 80 years? The NTRA compiles a sample of historic events that took place from Dec. 23-January 6.

Dec. 23, 1944: James F. Byrnes, Director of War Mobilization and Reconversion, urged that all racing in the United States cease by Jan. 3 as a means of furthering the war effort.

Dec. 25, 1934: Santa Anita Park opened in Arcadia, Calif. A five-year-old mare, Las Palmas, won the inaugural race, the California-Bred Handicap, before a crowd of 30,777.

Dec. 26: 2002: Julie Krone became the first woman to ride the winner of a Grade I stakes race in the state of California when she piloted the reformed claimer Debonair Joe to victory in the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.

Dec. 27, 1982: English trainer Michael Dickinson saddled 12 winners, a record.

Dec. 27, 1987: D. Wayne Lukas set a single-season record for stakes wins by a trainer, 92, when he saddled High Brite to win the Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita Park.

Dec. 31, 1966: Ogden Phipps' Buckpasser, trained by Eddie Neloy, won the 13th consecutive race of his three-year-old season after taking the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Park. He was voted Horse of the Year and also took top three-year-old and handicap horse honors for 1966.

Dec. 31, 1982: After a year-long battle for leading rider honors, Pat Day edged Angel Cordero Jr. by two races, which he won after chartering a plane to fly to Vinton, La., where he rode Dana's Woof Woof and Miltons Magic to victory during the evening program at Delta Downs. Day won the title--his first--with 399 wins to Cordero's 397.

Dec. 31, 1989: Jockey Kent Desormeaux set the world record for most number of wins in a single season, 598, when he rode two-year-old East Royalty, trained by Phil Thomas Jr., to victory in the tenth race, the Inner Harbor Stakes, at Laurel. He surpassed the old record, set by Chris McCarron, by 52.

Jan. 1, 1942: Racing in California was officially canceled. On Dec. 16, the West Coast military authorities had requested that Santa Anita Park postpone its meeting indefinitely due to war conditions.

Jan. 1, 1975: Secretariat was represented by his first Thoroughbred foal, a filly named Miss Secretariat, born in Kentucky to the mare My Card.

Jan. 2, 1945: As the end of World War II approached, racing throughout the U.S. was banned indefinitely at the request of James F. Byrnes, War Mobilization Director. While Thoroughbreds could not be transported in the U.S. for racing purposes, the Office of Defense Transportation subsequently approved the shipment of racehorses to tracks that were more than 300 miles beyond U.S. borders. The ban was not lifted until May, causing the rescheduling of the Triple Crown races.

Jan. 2, 1997: Jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. posted his 8,500th career victory aboard Tacomolly during the seventh race at Santa Anita Park.

Jan. 4, 1946: Canadian-born jockey George Woolf, known as "The Iceman" for his coolness in the saddle, died after falling head first from his mount, Please Me, during a race at Santa Anita Park the previous day. He was 35. During his career (1928-1946) Woolf had 3,784 mounts, 721 wins, 589 seconds and 468 thirds, with earnings of $2,856,125. Since 1950, Santa Anita Park has annually presented the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award to a rider who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct, on and off the racetrack.

Jan. 5, 1944: A bill permitting off-track betting was introduced in the New York State Assembly. Over the next several decades, a series of bills would be introduced in favor of OTB, which finally gained legal sanction in New York in 1970.

Jan. 5, 1980: Spectacular Bid began his undefeated four-year-old season, winning the Malibu Stakes by five lengths at Santa Anita. The gray colt finished his 1980 campaign a perfect nine-for-nine.

Jan. 6, 1998: Bill Mott was named to take over 1997 undefeated two-year-old Favorite Trick, replacing trainer Patrick Byrne, who accepted a job as a private trainer for owner Frank Stronach.