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.
Jan. 8, 2000: Steven Walker of Lincoln, Neb., captured the inaugural $200,000 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Walker would be presented with the first-ever “DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year” award on Jan. 17 during the Eclipse Award ceremonies in California.
Jan. 11, 1950: Five-year-old Citation returned to racing at Santa Anita Park, having been sidelined by injury since December 1948. Sent off at odds of 3-20, he won easily over a sloppy surface to log his sixteenth consecutive victory. His winning margins for those races totaled 59 1/2 lengths.
Jan. 12, 2001: Affirmed, the 1978 Triple Crown winner, Affirmed was euthanized at age 26 due to chronic musculo-skeletal problems. Affirmed is the eleventh and most recent horse to capture the Triple Crown and will always be remembered for the many stretch duels he engaged in against his frequent rival Alydar.
Jan. 13, 1978: Seattle Slew, in training for his four-year-old seasonal debut at Hialeah, first displayed symptoms of the deadly virus Colitis X. The colt was sidelined until May 14, when he won an allowance race at Aqueduct Racetrack as the 1-10 favorite.
Jan. 13, 1989: Jockey Brian Peck was injured when his horse, Top Booking, collided with a deer in the fourth race at Turfway Park. The deer jumped onto the track from the infield, where it gone to drink from a man-made lake. Top Booking was unharmed, but Peck suffered a broken arm.
Jan. 13, 1997: The National Steeplechase Association became the first horse racing organization in the U.S. to require jockeys to wear “certified” safety helmets, beginning with the 1997 NSA season.
Jan. 13, 2001: Judy Wagner, a grandmother from New Orleans, captured the second annual $212,000 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Wagner received a check for $100,000 and was presented with the “DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year” award on Jan. 30 during the Eclipse Award ceremonies.
Jan. 14, 1932: Jockey Eddie Arcaro rode his first career winner, at Agua Caliente.
Jan. 14, 1953: Pimlico’s Preakness Stakes, originally slated for May 16, was put back to May 23, allowing a three-week layover after the Kentucky Derby for the first time.
Jan. 14, 1989: Jockey Kent Desormeaux scored his 1,000th career win in the tenth race at Laurel Racecourse, aboard Eesee’s Taw, in the Francis Scott Key Handicap.
Jan. 14, 1998: Jockey Patricia Cooksey became the second female rider to win 2,000 races when she guided Noble Annie to a five-length victory in the second race at Turfway Park.
Jan. 14, 2001: Jockey Kent Desormeaux gained his 4000th career win aboard Temporary Appeal in the first race at Santa Anita Park.
Jan. 15, 1932: Australian champion Phar Lap arrived in San Francisco. He was shipped by steamship to the U.S., en route to Agua Caliente in Mexico, where he was to make his North American racing debut in the March 20 Agua Caliente Handicap, the continent’s then-richest race.
Jan. 15, 1969: Barbara Jo Rubin was named to ride in a race at Tropical Park. Thirteen male riders subsequently boycotted the race rather than compete against a female, and were fined $100 each.