26th of December to Remember: San Gabriel Mount Rushmore

December 26 promises to be one of the most important days in the history of 1/ST Racing. It’s opening day of the Classic Meet at Santa Anita, opening day of the Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park and host date of the Christmastide Day stakes card at Laurel Park. All month, 1/ST BET will prepare you for a 26th of December to Remember with special content.

Santa Anita’s Grade 2 $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes has a storied history, run at a mile and one-eighth on turf since 1960. It’s a stark contrast to the 1935 unveiling of the race for 2-year-olds at 3 furlongs on the dirt. But its modern form boasts a Who’s Who of winners.

Who makes our Mount Rushmore of San Gabriel-winning greats?

John Henry (1980): With 39 wins and nearly $6.6 million earned, the venerable John Henry makes for an easy first-call on most any Mount Rushmore of racing. From a trivia standpoint, the San Gabriel of 1980 was John Henry’s first graded stakes win in California (and the second of his career, having taken the 1978 Round Table at Arlington). The San Gabriel started a 6-race win streak for John Henry that included a trio of Grade 1s. He registered the San Gabriel in typical, hard-fought John Henry style over game pacemaker Smasher. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.

Cougar II (1971): One of the game’s all-time turf titans, Cougar II earned $1.1 million over a 50-race career that saw him win 20 times and finish in the money in 44 of those outings. The Chilean superstar came to the US in 1970 and opened the ’71 season on New Year’s Day victorious in the San Gabriel. Cougar II would go on to win the Santa Anita Handicap on dirt and place in the Woodward and Marlboro Cup on dirt at Belmont. The 2006 Hall of Fame inductee was trained by the legendary Charlie Whittingham.

Star of Cozzene (1993): His 5-year-old season in 1993 got off to a flying start New Year’s Day in the San Gabriel with a 3-length romp. Star of Cozzene went on that year to add the San Marcos, Manhattan, Arlington Million and Man o’ War, rounding out the campaign fifth in the prestigious Japan Cup. His 14 career wins and $2.3 million earned made him one of America’s best turf horses of the 1990s. He was campaigned by Clover Racing (which eventually became Team Valor), whose co-founder and co-manager was none other than current 1/ST racing analyst Jeff Siegel.

In Excess (1990): Remembered far more on dirt than turf as it would turn out, the Irish-bred export delivered his best US grass performance in winning the 1990 San Gabriel. Interestingly, he’d win the San Fernando on dirt in his next start (his first try on dirt) and embark on a main track season that would see him win the Met Mile, Suburban, Whitney and Woodward in succession. He wound up 11 for 25 for $1.7 million in his career. At stud, In Excess was best known as sire of Indian Charlie, a Santa Anita Derby winner and formidable sire in his own right of Uncle Mo et al.

Honorable Mention | The Bart (1981): It’s only fitting that The Bart should join John Henry on this list. The two are forever linked in a memorable Arlington Million photo that was immortalized in bronze and welcomed fans to Chicago for decades to come. But The Bart didn’t have to worry about John Henry four months post-Arlington in the 1981 San Gabriel. The defending champ was not back to defend his San Gabriel title. Instead, it became 1 of 11 career victories for The Bart, and the only at Santa Anita for the Hollywood Park specialist. He earned more than $900,000 as a premier SoCal grass player from 1980-’82.


The 26th of December to Remember Stakes Lineup

Gulfstream Park | Championship Meet | Opening Day
$100K Tropical Park Derby
$100K Tropical Park Oaks

Santa Anita | Classic Meet | Opening Day
$300K G1 Malibu
$300K G1 American Oaks
$300K G1 La Brea
$200K G2 Mathis Mile
$200K G2 San Antonio
$200K G2 San Gabriel

Laurel Park | Christmastide Day Stakes
$100K Carousel
$100K Dave’s Friend
$100K Gin Talking
$100K Heft
$100K Robert Manfuso
$100K Willa On the Move

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