Ten Things You Should Know: Washington Park Handicap
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
1) The Washington Park is run at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Illinois, near Chicago.
2) The race is currently run at a 1 1/8 miles over the synthetic surface and is open to 3-year-olds and up. The race has been run at five different distances from 6-furlongs to 1 1/4 miles. It has also been run on dirt, turf, and synthetic, with dirt being the predominate surface over its history.
3) The race was run for the first time in 1935 as the Washington Park Championship Stakes.
4) The race is named for its original host, Washington Park, which was a track then located in Homewood, Illinois. The race moved to Arlington Park in 1958.
5) It is currently run as a Grade 3 and has been graded since 1973, the first year of the American graded stakes program. The race was downgraded from a Grade 2 in 2008 and was not run that year. The race returned with its Grade 3 status in 2009.
6) In 1956, a year after being beaten in a well-publicized match race with Nashua, Swaps won the Washington Park Handicap in the final race of his career.
7) Jockey Willie Shoemaker won three straight editions of the race from 1955 to 1957. He won the race a total of six times; the first came in 1955 with Jet Action and the last aboard the great Spectacular Bid in 1980.
8) In 1945, Busher, the three-year-old filly who would be named Horse of the Year, beat the great gelding Armed. Armed would return to win the race in 1946 and 1947 during back-to-back championship campaigns. In 1949, Armed finished second to Coaltown — both were bred and owned by the legendary Calumet Farm. Calumet also won the race in 1948 with Fervent.
9) In 1958, the Hall of Famer Round Table was beaten by a horse named Clem. (Clem beat Round Table three times in 1958, all while carrying considerably less weight.) Round Table returned to win the Washington Park Handicap in 1959.
10) Dr. Fager — during one of the most remarkable campaigns in racing history — set the world record for a mile on the dirt while winning the 1968 Washington Park Handicap. Dr. Fager stopped the Arlington Park clock at 1:32 1/5, a speed record that went untouched for nearly 30 years (pdf).