Dec. 6, 2001: Jockey Russell Baze gained his 400th victory of the year aboard Golden Peace at Golden Gate Fields, marking the ninth time in his career he had reached the 400-win plateau in a single year. No other rider has recorded 400 victories in a year more than three times. Baze, whose best total was 448 in 1995, won 400 races for seven straight years from 1992-98. A broken bone in his back limited his victory count to 373 in 1999. Baze then bounced back with 412 victories in 2000.
Dec. 7, 1957: A two-year-old colt named Silky Sullivan won the one-mile Golden Gate Futurity after making up 27 lengths, establishing a running style that became legendary. Horsemen still invoke the name of Silky Sullivan when referring to a horse that runs from far off the pace.
Dec. 7, 2001: The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders’ Cup Limited announced that John Deere will have entitlement rights to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) and to the series of races that makes up the World Thoroughbred Championships Turf Division. As part of the agreement, John Deere will also be the presenting sponsor of the newly created Great State Challenge, an annual event featuring the top state-bred horses from around the country.
Dec. 7, 2002: The inaugural NTRA Great State Challenge was contested at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston. Team Kentucky, led by Take Charge Lady in the Great State Challenge Distaff, won the state competition with 36 points, finishing just ahead of second-place Florida (34). The day’s betting handle of $5,083,692, including on-track and simulcast wagering, shattered the previous Sam Houston all-sources record of $4,070,715.
Dec. 8, 1989: Power to Geaux paid a record $2,922 for a $2 wager made at AK-sar-ben on the simulcast of the 11th race from Fair Grounds. The previous record for a payoff on a $2 wager was set June 17, 1912, when Wishing Ring paid $1,885.50.
Dec. 9, 1999: Jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr., tied Bill Shoemaker’s all-time record by registering his 8,833rd lifetime win aboard I Be Casual in the 4th race at Hollywood Park.
Dec. 10, 1977: In his second year of riding, Steve Cauthen became the first jockey to win $6 million in a single season when he rode a three-year-old filly, Little Happiness, to victory in the sixth race at Aqueduct. Cauthen was dubbed “The Six Million Dollar Man,” and “Stevie Wonder” by his admirers and was named 1977 Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated, the Associated Press, ABC’s Wide World of Sports and The Sporting News. He also received three Eclipse Awards, being voted an award of merit in addition to earning top honors as both a journeyman and apprentice jockey.
Dec. 10, 1999: Laffit Pincay Jr. became the world’s winningest jockey when he registered his 8,834th career victory aboard Irish Nip in the 6th race at Hollywood Park. The victory eclipsed the previous mark of 8,833 wins held by Bill Shoemaker.
Dec. 11, 1983: John Henry became the first racehorse to surpass $4 million in career earnings when he won the Hollywood Turf Cup with jockey Chris McCarron at Hollywood Park.
Dec. 12, 1942: More than 20,000 racegoers turned out to watch 1941 Triple Crown winner Whirlaway win the inaugural Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds, staged in part as a war relief effort by the newly formed Thoroughbred Racing Associations.
Dec. 12, 1997: Jockey Russell Baze, the only jockey to win 400 or more races in a year more than three times, accomplished the feat for a sixth straight season at Golden Gate Fields.
Dec. 13, 1986: Jockey Kent Desormeaux had his first career stakes win, aboard Godbey, in the Maryland City Handicap at Laurel.
Dec. 14, 1997: Maybe Jack drew off and won a match race against Pro on Ice at Suffolk Downs, making him the winningest horse of 1997 with 13 victories.
Dec. 15, 1973: Sandy Hawley became the first jockey in history to win 500 races in a single year when he rode Charlie Jr. to victory in the third race at Laurel.
Dec. 15, 2000: Congress passed a package of appropriations bills that included a clarification to the Interstate Horseracing Act (IHA). The amendment to IHA confirms that interstate simulcasting, commingling of pools and account wagering are, indeed, permitted under the IHA in all states that authorize these activities.
Dec. 17, 1936: Crooner Bing Crosby announced plans to construct a new racetrack, to be called the Del Mar Turf Club.
Dec. 17, 1993: Fire destroyed the grandstand of Fair Grounds, the nation’s third-oldest racetrack.