Ten Things You Should Know: Santa Anita Handicap
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
Originally published on March 3, 2011
1) The Santa Anita Handicap is held at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, CA. It is raced at 1 1/4 miles and is open to horses 4-years-old and up.
2) The race, run for the first time in 1935, was the first horse race in the world with a guaranteed purse exceeding $100,000. For many years, it was simply referred to as the “Hundred-Grander.” The current purse is $750,000.
3) The “Big ‘Cap” (another common nickname for the race, still in use today) is one of the most prestigious races for older horses in the United States. It has maintained its glorified status since its inaugural running over 75 years ago.
4) The race was not run from 1942 to 1944 because of the Second World War. During that period, Santa Anita Park was closed and used as a Japanese-American internment camp.
5) Three horses have won the Big ‘Cap twice: Lava Man (2006 and 2007) Milwaukee Brew (2002 and 2003) and the Hall of Famer John Henry (1981 and 1982). In 2014 Game on Dude became the first three-time winner (2011, 2013, 2014).
6) The most memorable Santa Anita Handicap came in 1940, when the beloved Seabiscuit returned from an injury to win the race that had eluded him since his first try in 1937 (he finished second in 1937 and 1938). It was the last race of his career and served as the climax of the 2003 film based on Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend.
7) The most weight ever assigned in the Santa Anita Handicap was 132 lbs, assigned in 1950 to the great Citation, who conceded 22 pounds to the eventual winner. Citation finished second to Noor, who carried only 110 pounds. Noor was owned by Charles S. Howard, who also owned Seabiscuit.
8) The 1977 Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, won the 1978 Big ‘Cap and set a stakes record time (1:58.60) that stood until 2014 when Game on Dude crossed the finish line in 1:58.17.
9) The great jockey Willie Shoemaker won eleven editions of the Big ‘Cap. His first victory came in 1954 aboard Reject; the last came 31 years later, in 1985 with Lord of War. in 2011 Chantal Sutherland became the first female jockey to win the Big ‘Cap aboard Game on Dude.
10) The Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham won eight editions of the race. He won his first in 1957 with Corn Husker and his last in the 1993 edition with Sir Beaufort. Whittingham also won eight editions of the Hollywood Gold Cup, the other major stakes race for older horses in California.